First Factory is uniquely designed to foster a culture of continuous learning with its talented developers in Costa Rica. The market may not be as tough as Silicon Valley in San Francisco or Silicon Alley in New York, but it is competitive, nonetheless. There are dozens of outsourcing software development companies with bases in Costa Rica, and many major companies have large footprints here.
So, why is Costa Rica such a hub for software development?
A Bit of History
Good education, stable government and a great trade partner. In 1948, Costa Rica disbanded their military and redirected its funds toward education. With an education-first philosophy, the younger generation of Costa Rica began learning English very early on and have been using it for most of their lives.
Costa Rica has enjoyed strong and stable economic growth. Costa Rica and The United States have a long, formal diplomatic relationship, and trade between both countries is strong. High-quality agriculture exports such as coffee, bananas and sugar make Costa Rica a strong trading partner, and the country’s political stability and relatively high education levels make foreign investment in Costa Rica very attractive. Costa Rica secures one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America.
The combination of outside investment, strong education systems, and high levels of English proficiency yields an environment that produces a talented workforce and provides an excellent source of recent graduates that are looking for work.
First Factory is well connected in the development community and is able to attract and retain great talent. In addition to targeted recruitment ads on job sites, we leverage a growing social and professional network of over 20 thousand people. This community follows our team through our Facebook posts, and other channels, celebrating our culture and highlighting our developers. We work directly with developers and recruiters on a regular basis to identify candidates with whom we can directly communicate when the right role becomes available, thus reducing the time to hire. Once our network is energized about our open positions, we begin a thorough screening process to ensure that only the best candidates make it through.
After an initial resume screening, applicants must pass a recorded spoken English assessment that places them at or above a professionally-acceptable level of proficiency. The second assessment is a coding challenge on the HackerRank platform which times, records and assesses basic conceptual understanding and working skills specific to the role and language for which we are hiring. Everything about their assessment is evaluated and the entire session can be played back to review even the smallest details, including the edits the applicant made to their own code. Candidates that successfully pass the English and Skills-based screening process are invited to a technical assessment video call with two of our senior developers. Only those candidates who show strong skills or great promise (depending on the level we are hiring for) are invited to an in-person interview which seeks to further evaluate technical skill (sometimes including a paired programming session), evaluate a cultural fit, and establish expectations for internal and client relations. It is a tough process, but a necessary one. Only those with the right chemistry and the unique combination of skill, will, and a strong desire for self-improvement will make the team.
Our efforts to provide our clients with the best developers don’t stop at the point of hire. We actively coach and support our developers through their entire careers at First Factory. Perhaps this is why we have significantly lower turnover rates than others in the industry. We are hands-on with each developer and establish training programs for each based on their current skill level, from entry-level to senior developer.
Entry-Level Developers are placed into a customized training program to reinforce foundational knowledge of object-oriented programming, test-driven development, and to refine soft skills needed for successful client relations. Training programs last up to six months, with the first half of our Academy focused on technical skill building and the soft skills required to effectively communicate with our clients and within the team. The second half of our Academy is spent building actual internal products using the latest technologies and design patterns.
Junior Developers are indoctrinated to the common Agile practices, internal standards, and tasks geared toward exceeding client expectations. Junior Developers are assigned mentors (senior developers with an average of 5 years experience) who provide ongoing coaching, review code and help identify options for impediment resolution. Junior Developers are never on a client solo, as a senior developer is assigned a few hours per week to help with code reviews, architectural decisions, impediments, and communication, if necessary.
Feedback and Coaching
All employees receive feedback and additional coaching. All Entry Level and Junior Developers are formally evaluated every six months for their first two years where we provide 360-degree feedback, including input from clients. Mid and Senior Level Developers are reviewed annually with the same 360-degree feedback. All Senior Developers meet weekly in one-on-one sessions with the COO to discuss team performance, client satisfaction, professional development and more. Our Senior Developers and our in-house computer science professor conduct workshops for the company during lunch and learn sessions and are available to all for problem-solving and guidance. We have open office space and rotate seats regularly to foster communication, ensure that growing teams stay together and that Senior Developers are embedded throughout.
We keep all developers active, whether working for clients or skill-building. Developers that are not assigned to clients, as part of a staff augmentation model, lead our project-based work. When developers are between clients or client-based projects, they balance their time between learning new technologies and supporting internally developed products, thus always refining their skills. There is never downtime that leaves developers idle or without direction.
First Factory is known in Costa Rica as a great place to work. It is known that to be hired here, you must be very good at what you do. We hold ourselves to high standards so that we exceed our clients’ expectations and preserve a truly unique and remarkable culture.