How to hire top tech talent and keep them engaged

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It seems like most companies these days are hurting for technical talent. But Keeper Security, which provides password management and security, manages to consistently hire top developers and coders without offering outlandish salaries or jaw-dropping perks.

How do they do it? In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, co-founder and CTO Craig Lurey shares some of the company's secrets to great hiring.

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Finding and retaining top talent is a challenge for most companies, tech and otherwise. What are some ways Keeper Security hires the best technical talent?

Lurey: We focus on the person we're interviewing in terms of their fit from a personal standpoint, and then a technical standpoint. We tend to hire people who love writing code, working hard, and enjoying their families. I always ask for code samples when I hire people, but I never put anyone on the spot to take a test or answer textbook-style technical questions. I let them tell me about the work they have done in the past, and I ask questions related to that specific work.

TEP: Is it easier or harder to hire near a major tech or startup center?

Lurey: We recruit most of our development team in our Sacramento office. This is an ideal location for many reasons. First, it's affordable to live. Second, it's a beautiful area and an amazing place, especially if you love the outdoors. Most of the team members we hire are ecstatic to find a tech company in this area that is growing and building strong products (as opposed to doing consulting or project-based work, which is pretty typical in the mobile app business). Developers are just really excited to work on a popular app with millions of users and a huge fan base.

TEP: The tight tech labor market tends to translate into escalating salaries and expensive perks. How do you keep up without completely destroying your budget?

Lurey: We pay competitive salaries, but we don't overpay our team. We offer team members the opportunity to grow into whatever platform or framework they are interested in. Refactoring code and migrating to new technology is a critical part of our process. This keeps everyone engaged and removes a lot of the legacy that is typical of larger software companies.

TEP: Once you've hired or trained a skilled technology person, you know that he or she will get a lot of other offers. And most people job-hop a lot these days. How do you get the best tech talent to stick around?

Lurey: Developers enjoy learning new platforms and being engaged in the latest and greatest technology. We embrace this, and it creates an environment where people want to stick around.

TEP: Any advice you'd pass along to tech leaders at other companies about how to hire and retain top tech talent?

Lurey: Allow developers to work on the platforms where they feel the most comfortable. If they love a huge challenge, then put them in platforms that are brand new and require a massive learning curve. Embrace the cloud. And embrace having as few meetings as possible.

Craig Lurey is a co-founder of Keeper Security and leads the technology roadmap and dev team. Prior to Keeper Security, Craig was the CTO of JiWire, Inc., now called NinthDecimal. In 1998, Craig created a software platform for what would become CNET ChannelOnline, a turnkey sales-cycle automation solution for the computer industry. Craig's company Apollo Solutions was acquired by CNET Networks Inc. in June 2000. Prior to starting Apollo Solutions, Craig served Motorola as a software engineer writing firmware for cellular base stations. Craig holds a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.