A row of young workers in T-shirts and jeans lounged in comfy seating sipping coffee and looking at their laptops as a tour group stepped off the elevator into a spacious, calmly lit open area on the second floor of the Halter Building on Oak Street on Tuesday.
The developers, or “devs,” looked slightly amused by the sight of a U.S. senator and others being led through their way cool facilities by company president Dave McAllister and vice president and chief revenue officer Josh Smith.
“How would you advise people to prepare for a career at Metova?” Sen. Tom Cotton asked McAllister and Smith.
Minecraft and Legos. “All those guys out there played with Legos as a child,” McAllister said.
But really, how?
Well, McAllister recently hired 12 “great” interns after making them crack a code in order to be able to continue the application process.
Both the toys and the application demand someone who loves to think critically about the way things are put together, someone who’s able to work on her own, someone with determination to achieve mastery.
Those, and good communication skills — as well as being a nice person — are the qualities McAllister said he’s looking for in his devs, wherever they come from. “We want smart people. We don’t care what their background is,” he told the senator.
“We can teach people from all walks of life to write code.”
For parents considering instituting daily mandatory Lego and Minecraft hour at home — maybe not so much. But if your child likes Legos and can’t get enough Minecraft, you might have a budding dev on your hands.
And that can mean a high-paying job with a fast-growing company such as Metova, which recently announced it intends to increase its Arkansas workforce to 160.
In downtown Conway, where the marriage of historic building and cutting-edge company is the going thing, it can mean working on projects for the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department, or creating technology that helps deaf and non-verbal children communicate. “Build software and hardware prototypes to prove bleeding-edge ideas,” the company invites recruits on its website’s jobs page. “Give life to startups that were nothing more than a good idea before you came along.”
McAllister said he likes to have a mix of people, including those who’ve been working in other professions. He’s had everyone from a lawyer to a zoologist writing code for him.
“I had to learn, in Franklin [Tenn., the company’s headquarters], that we can’t hire a bunch of devs right out of college,” McAllister said. Younger employees need mentors and leaders. “We call them primes,” he said – people who are interested in helping and giving back to new devs.
The best way to learn what developers know is to get acquainted with some, McAllister advised, and just start talking about the work they do. Another good resource is an online site for dev communities, such as Stack Overflow.
As part of its push to find more developers to fill expanding need, Metova is working hard to recruit women developers, McAllister said. Of around 1,000 recent applications, only 8 percent were from women.
“That’s dismal,” he told Cotton.
The company welcomes summer interns as soon as they’re legally able to work. A 16-year-old spent this summer as a paid intern.
“We don’t care if you can’t code,” McAllister said. “If you’re interested, we can help.”