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According to a recent survey by Red Hat, mobility hiring trends are shifting. Cathal McGloin of Red Hat comments on what those statistics indicate about mobile development today.

Red Hat recently published a report that indicates 50% of organizations are looking to hire an app developer or manager that can help boost mobile development. Of those companies looking to hire, 32% are looking for front-end skills, 27% for back-end skills, and 17% for DevOps skills.

What exactly does this say about the mobile development landscape? In this Q&A, Cathal McGloin, vice president of mobile at Red Hat, shares his thoughts on the meaning behind these numbers.

What do you think these statistics say about the state of mobile development and the enterprise today, overall?

Cathal McGloin, vice president of mobile, Red HatCathal McGloin,
vice president of mobile,
Red Hat

Cathal McGloin: Well, I think organizations are maturing their approach and understand that, for all the hype of mobile development, they need to focus as much attention on back-end integration [as they do on front end] for mobile projects to succeed.

We hear constantly that the two biggest concerns about mobile initiatives within enterprise are security and back-end integration. And we're seeing that reflected in hiring priorities -- compared to if you go back two years when there was a lot of hype around being able to get iOS skills, Android skills, etc.

Now we're seeing much more on what mobility requires: front end, back end, analytics, etc. And that's what we're seeing: a more mature approach to how organizations are tackling it.

Do any of these numbers surprise or concern you?

McGloin: To me, the more surprising one was that only 32% of folks want front-end development -- it's become less of an issue to actually have and get those front-end skills. And again, I refer back to the hype that went on around, 'Oh my, I can't get any iOS skills.'

I think now organizations have understood that there are alternative ways of building mobile solutions, and that the hybrid, cross-platform approach is a mainstream approach now. In fact, if anything, I think it's probably the approach that we see the majority of organizations using to develop apps.

So they're absolutely on the PhoneGap, Xamarin, and HTML5 approach to building the client side. So there's less of a panic about being able to get various iOS or specific Android skills.

[They are] no longer panicked about finding skills. They understand that there are toolkits out there to enable them to build for the different channels. So, to me, that was the bigger surprise:  less of a concern about front end and seeing the back end come up in importance.

The survey also says that one in seven businesses is looking for DevOps skills, including Agile project management. Do you think that's the right approach -- to look for more DevOps skills and work on your group organization?

McGloin: Yeah, I think we're seeing two things come together here. One is just the importance of the emergence of cloud and PaaS in particular. And so, organizations are beginning to play around with new ways of working in order to increase productivity and increase speed.

And, it just happens that it goes hand in hand with the mobile ethos: 'Build fast, build repeatedly.' So, don't try and build the mother of all solutions. Rather, build something, get it out there, figure out what's working -- or what's not -- and iterate on it. So, it goes hand in hand with DevOps, and we're seeing mobile as one of the drivers of PaaS adoption since mobile-centered workloads are being powered by these new paradigms.

I know every company has different goals, but would you define success in mobile in a particular way?

McGloin: Yes, I would. I think success in mobile is [being one of] those organizations who have taken a part of their business that they want to use the advantages of mobile to reinvent ... They now truly have understood what it means to orient around mobile and connected devices.

It's knowing that the mobile experience has to be different, has to reinvent, and has to be smooth and frictionless.
Cathal McGloinvice president of mobile, Red Hat

So when we look at the really successful companies, it's companies that understand the power that moving something to mobile can do. Not just to take what's on the Web and make it smaller, but actually to reinvent the process, to improve the customer experience, shorten the process.

It's knowing that the mobile experience has to be different, has to reinvent, and has to be smooth and frictionless. Whether it's using location or putting a product catalog on a tablet, it's that kind of smart application of technology that really sets [apart] the people who've got this from the people who are still sort of dabbling in mobile app.

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This was last published in August 2015

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What skills do you look for when you hire an app developer?
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#1 - can they think logically. I run them through something like FizzBuzz (google it) in their favorite language. If the contract is short, I'll ask for some demonstration that they can do that particular work, some portfolio. After that I might ask about process and work styles, to see if they'll fit in on the team personality-wise, and if they fill in skill gaps of the existing team.
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Real experience with the technologies, of course.


However, it's the mindset that sets great developers apart. They think in terms of solving problems while mediocre ones think in terms of writing code.

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Two important soft skills that are really important in our culture are: 
  • The tendency/comfort to ask questions when they don’t understand the problem, the context, the reasoning. A lot of people are worried that they will come off as unknowledgeable by doing so, but this is a complex domain and system, and so we need some fearless question-askers.
  • Intellectual curiosity is a good marker skill for us. People who display intellectual curiosity are likely to be able to make technology transitions more easily, and people who are curious about how things work (or are supposed to work) and why make good developers.
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It's important to understand that phone / tablet app is just a front-end. The back-end is huge. Along with the focus on front-end functionality and UX, more consideration must be given to security and performance.
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