Jerry Bartlett, vice president of application development for Ameritrade Holding Corp., a $900 million online brokerage firm in Bellevue, Neb., recently spent two years leading not only his own group but quality assurance as well. He was charged with fixing a flawed relationship between them, and it became his greatest lesson in staffing.
"Once you've got an understanding of how many staff you need, make an assessment as to the seniority level you need. What percentage of that staff should be junior, [with] one to three years' experience; what percentage midlevel, three to six; and what should be senior," he says. "There can be too much of a focus on keeping your most senior people. Your mindset is 'I may have to do a little bit more with a little bit less. ... [So], don't I want my very best people?' The obvious answer if you ask it that way is, of course.
"In fact, there's some work that is better off performed by junior folks who are just now learning things that just aren't complex enough to challenge your senior folks.
And you need your most senior folks focused on your hardest problems. A huge morale breaker for senior technologists is to ask them to work on the most simple, mundane work over and over again.
"So we recognized that reasonably quickly and have since then created a model that looks like 20% junior, 60% mid and 20% senior. And through attrition and hiring and recruiting, we're very close to that model now."