When I was single, one of the key things I learned was to NOT buy my groceries at Sam’s Club. I used to go to Sam’s and buy 4 pounds of Salami. It always went to waste. The bread went bad. The enormous jar of mayo didn’t fit in my Mini Fridge. A single guy does not need to shop at Sam’s.

Now if you’re thinking “What does this have to do with hiring junior developers?” — just stay with me for a minute and we’ll get there.

New startups are actually a lot like single guys. They don’t need all that much. A minimum viable product is all it takes to get off the ground. And it doesn’t take all that much technical know-how to get to that point.

Yet I frequently see new startups say “I need a CTO / Senior developer to start my project/write my MVP.” This is like starting your startup at Sam’s club. If you start by buying too much developer, you’ll waste most of your new hire’s talent, they’ll be frustrated, and the whole thing will go bad. You’ll also way overpay for what you need. And who wants to do that?

Junior Developers Might Have Just The Skills You Need

A junior developer probably has the skills to build the data collection and processing software you need. They should be able to help you automate a manual process you’ve already documented. You can bring a senior developer on part-time as a consultant. That will allow you the freedom to hire a developer from a boot camp or someone without a lot of experience. This will allow you to have dedicated technical staff without costing a fortune.

When you hire a junior developer, there are other advantages as well. They may have recently been trained on new technologies that could better meet your needs, and be excited to implement them. Eventually, they will become specialized in your stack.

To be sure, there are some risks in going this route: What if your hire is in over their head? How do you pick a junior who can actually execute for your organization? If you’re not technical, how do you judge if your new hire is doing a good job? That’s where that senior consultant comes in.

At some point, when you have a growing company and a viable product, you’ll need more experienced developers to help you scale. Until that point, I’d argue most startups can get up and running with someone much less experienced.

In the end I solved my Sam’s Club problem. It turns out, that you can eat just as cheaply as a single person by going to Chipotle. Actually cheaper. You might not want to do this forever. But there are times when Chipotle works well enough to keep you productive and satisfied. For a while, that might be all you need.

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