Stop Looking for ColdFusion Developers

One of the biggest complains I hear from management types about ColdFusion is that they can’t hire good ColdFusion developers. I think that this occurs because people often overlook one of ColdFusion most accepted benefits. ColdFusion is exceedingly easy to learn. Which leads me to my biggest piece of ColdFusion hiring advice – don’t look for good ColdFusion developers, look for good web developers, if they know ColdFusion, great, if not, teach them, or let them learn it.

The argument I hear back on this point is “we don’t have the time of resources to train someone; we need them to hit the ground running.” I think this is penny wise pound foolish. Based on anecdotal evidence only, I would contend that it takes an average web programmer about 1 or 2 months to learn ColdFusion. (This assumes they know HTML, CSS, SQL and another server side language.) I’ve seen some ColdFusion job hunts take upwards of 9 months. You can’t afford the month to train an employee, but you can be without them for 9 months? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Add to it that for the cost of 1 or 2 months, you get a ColdFusion developer who knows another language. Developers who know more languages tend to be better. ColdFusion programmers that know Ruby for example are usually better Object Oriented ColdFusion developers through the knowledge they picked up in Ruby.

Now, I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t hire a ColdFusion developer if you can find one. I happen to know a few that are looking for work. I also don’t mean to suggest that finding a good web developer is necessarily that much easier than finding a good ColdFusion developer. Finding “good” people is never easy, but I am arguing that you need to increase your chances of finding someone to fill your position. You can do this by opening up your search criteria, and letting one of the major selling points of ColdFusion actually work for you.

What do you think, does this agree with what you’ve seen in the job market of late?

16 thoughts on “Stop Looking for ColdFusion Developers

  1. I think you’ll find that most people are in agreement with you. Nonetheless, its far easier said than done. First of all, getting a Ruby person (to continue your example) to respond to a ColdFusion position opening or even want to necessarily accept said position once they learn it is mostly CF is difficult. Second, having been in on a lot of searches, I think we forget that 90% of developers don’t study regularly, read blogs, subscribe to journals (I made that number up…but I’d be willing to bet its not far from true). I would bet that goes for almost any language. To me what makes a good developer great is a curiosity that is lacking in many CF developers (if not in developers in general).

    I would argue that some other languages offer more opportunities for continued learning than CF and few places teach it. It’s even hard to find anyplace running the training regularly in a lot of places. The lousy job market seems to have put a lot of talented people on the market and if you are lucky to have the ability to hire right now, you might find it not so difficult to find great talent at lower rates…but I doubt it is easy still.

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  2. I think that this is just a symptom of a larger disease, a disease that is actually being treated and getting better – lack of mainstream CF market penetration. You won’t find .NETters arguing this point on their blogs because there are tons of them out there in a job market that’s way bigger than the market for CF developers.
    There is hope as Adobe seems to be doing what it needs to do to get back in the mainstream game. For one thing they’re going after new blood by hiring folks like you to hit colleges and universities to get CF and FLEX out there.
    Cleaning up the whole certification process and eradicating some of the misinformation that’s out there will help too.
    What is the CF market share and what is the direction for making it grow? Are we going to start seeing mainstream advertising for CF in 2009 or is Adobe happy to sell a lot of copies of Enterprise Edition to the same old reliable customer base?
    I’ve been doing my part. I’ve personally gotten CF into 7 new companies in the last 2 years while continuing to provide great (I hope) new CFAJAX solutions to existing clients.

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  3. my sentiments in a way. I find hiring a developer with OO and design patten experience better. Yes CF is easy to learn but its also very easy to learn "badly". I am sure any web designer can learn any other language in a short time but its kinda hard to say that any developer will be coding like a pro in months of learning CF. 3+ years and I am still learning new things. I think its only fair to say the learning curve is shorter than perhaps ASP .NET etc but there is much more deeper under that JAVA hood that most companies will need a developer to get to grips with, some concepts that only take practical experience to become proficient.

    no another note: JAVA and .NET developers seem to take to CF more easily than PHP, I dont know why thats just been my own experience at work.

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  4. I can barely contain myself at the sight of this post, but I’ll try to stay focused.

    As a long timer with ColdFusion as developer / tech supp / QA for Adobe itself and now looking for employment, I can testify that its a cold out there. Its an employer’s market flooded with job seekers.

    Employers are being very picky by splitting hairs about requirements and previous experience. In a better economy I would imagine that related skill silos would be viewed as easily transferable, but now the prevailing opinion seems to be that they won’t choose someone who can "grow into it". In my experience employers want to see that you have done *precisely* the task they are looking to hire.

    I’m fortunate to have had some friends reach out to me, but I haven’t found a match for my own criteria, but with every week that passes I throw another criterion out.

    Now compare today with the dotcom bubble. I remember when companies were seeking warm bodies anywhere they could find’em. I was self trained in some Linux and ColdFusion and had never worked in IT when I landed a job at Allaire nine years ago.

    Its a complete reversal today even though I consider myself to qualify as "good people". Having a broad skill set is viewed as not being focused, even if those skill sets run deep.

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  5. I agree with your view on hiring quality web developers, but I also agree with a few of Brian’s points. ColdFusion appears to be a very high-level language that is easy to learn (relative to other server-side languages), but I do not believe there are many good language X developers that are open to the idea of learning ColdFusion. In my experience, I typically find quality developers pursuing open languages — where the cost of setting up a server in the basement is next to nothing.

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  6. For what it’s worth: I had one six-month gig as a ColdFusion developer, in which I was thrown into the deep end of the pool as the sole developer when my manager left two weeks after my arrival. By my own standards, I wouldn’t have called myself anything higher than "proficient" at the end of my stint, but I was able to ramp up sufficiently quickly to keep my internal and external clients happy throughout.

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  7. I’ll sign that. I would much rather hire an expert programmer and get them to pick up a new language rather than spending ages hunting around for somebody who’s experienced in my particular language or environment. Syntax is just syntax after all, it’s analytical skills, design patterns, algorithm derivation and willingness to learn that marks a successful developer from the rest of the crowd.

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  8. To demonstrate how narrow and rigid employers are being right now, I just received a reply to a letter I wrote to a local startup, where the reply started off "We’re looking for a Developer, your QA experience is kind of throwing me off track".

    My experience in QA was developing tests written in the very language being tested, i.e. CF, Flex, and AS3.

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  9. @Steven I guess I’m saying as someone who has been hiring in the ColdFusion market: Stop being focused on specific skills, start focusing on quality of worker, don’t be hung up on getting the exact skill set you want, hire the most quality person, and train the rest.

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  10. @Terry – I think our wires got crossed somewhere. I not hiring, but I am seeking employment. I understand what your saying about being a good web application developer in general, regardless of specific technology, and I’m trying to say that the employers out there right now don’t care about that, at least not around here. They seem to want a precise fit, not a generalist and not someone that’s really good in a similar technology. Sorry to derail your blog entry, but I nearly blew a gasket when I saw the blog title. 🙂

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  11. Speaking from personal experience, i support Terry’s statement. I was hired into my current CF position with zero experience in CF. I had graduated from the Univ. of Penn with a Comp Sci degree and had been doing some web application development with C# 1.1 when i had applied. Luckily, my to be boss was willing to take a chance and provide me with anything that i needed to learn. It took me about 3 months to convert our enterprise application to CF 7 utilizing the new application cfc architecture and to learn a large percentage of the language. 3+ years later I am still with my employer, still programming in CF and learning something new with CF almost every week, and loving every minute of it. The great thing about CF is that it is really easy to learn and just having a good programming background is really the key when trying to hire someone and if they have CF experience it can only be a bonus.

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  12. I couldn’t agree more Terrence. I’ve hired every member of the development team at Dealerskins except for two people. One of the best hires on the team was an entry level programmer right out of college. Not only was he incredibly teachable but he had more passion for programming than just about everyone else on the team.

    He was able to learn the basics of ColdFusion in the first few weeks and has now been with Dealerskins for over two years. He has become an incredible asset to my team and our entire organization. We took the time to not look for someone especially interested in ColdFusion, but someone really interested in being part of a great team doing great things.

    Attitude and passion are the top two things I look for in candidates. Skill can be honed or taught.

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  13. I am looking for a CF developer for a medium size (adult oriented) project, and stumbled across this blog. I’d be willing to take on someone who is proficient in another language but would like to learn. We are already working with an expert level cf developer and have more work that he can handle! If there is anyone out there reading this who is interested, please feel free to contact me.

    industry_pro at yahoo dot com

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  14. I know I’m 2 years late to the conversation, but we are looking to hire a CF developer. One of our questions is “Do you have at least 2 years of ColdFusion experience?”. I’m swamped and would definitely prefer someone that can hit the ground running, but if the right passionate, qualified (in programming in general) came along, we might be willing to entertain them. If you’re interested, my name should link to our careers page. Apply and put somewhere in your application that you saw this post.

    Thanks!
    Jenny

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  15. The difference between CF guys and all other developers is that most CF guys do it all – GUI, OOP, SQL, GIS, multi-media, reports, security, administration, you name it we do it. You may find PHP, ASP.NET, JSP guy to do all that but there will be huge variation in their toolset when it comes to anything beyond the actual code. CF guys do most of it in CF, so they all use pretty much the same tools, on any
    platform, so there is less of learning curve from job to job, tighter integration, less training, less money on various tools, etc. So, hiring a non CF developer and expecting them to understand all that ColdFusion offers is not reasonable. Get a CF guy who has an Adobe Certification or somebody with 2 years experience.

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