Alternative sources of Perl programmers

Duncan Garland duncan.garland at
Wed May 15 22:37:08 BST 2013


Thanks for all the replies. Interesting thoughts on telecommuters. Also
interesting that nobody sees too much of a problem cross-training into Perl.

I didn't mention the company because I was (and still am) using my personal
email and it didn't seem appropriate. Anyway, the company is Motortrak

We're located in Thames Ditton and we do websites and backend systems for
chains of motor dealers. We've doubled in size to about 70 in the last three
years. In the last six months we've opened an office on the west coast of
the USA to partner the existing one on the east coast. Earlier this week we
bumped up our nominal presence in Australia to a proper office of half a
dozen people. We can reasonably claim to be doing quite well.

Thames Ditton is a bit difficult to reach from certain directions because of
the way the Thames loops. However, the upside of that is that it doesn't
feel like the big city. Plenty of greenery, nice riverside pubs etc.
Generally a good working environment.

The CMS and the inventory management system (IMS) are written in PHP and
doing very well. The CMS serves thousands of dealers and we have contracts
in place which guarantee that the IMS will do at least a thousand. There are
other PHP projects in the offing. Any idea that PHP is a toy or that Perl
programmers are automatically worth more than the better PHP programmers has
to be justified.

The feeds are all written in Perl, as are several other systems. The
service-booking system won the Automarket award for "Best Digital
Initiative" earlier this year. It's a Perl system and is the first one on
which we've used modern Perl modules such as Catalyst, DBIx::Class,
Template::Toolkit and the like. We developed it over three years so there's
at least 5 man-years of effort in there. Based on the success of the
service-booking system and the general momentum of the company we are almost
certain to be doing three or four more similar projects this year. Each will
be big enough to keep the interest of an experienced programmer or provide a
real challenge to a less experienced one. Hence we need more people (just
one ticket signed at the moment). They don't have to be done in Perl, and
they won't be done in Perl at any cost, but they sit logically in the Perl
camp. As Lead Perl Programmer, I've got to make the case.

We haven't been passive in our search. We saw it coming. Perl programmers
have been rare for a while. It took some time to find our last Perl
programmer whom we picked up from the BBC. We try to be visible in the Perl

We sponsored the last London PM and I ran a beginner's workshop on TT. I
attended most of the London PM tech meetings until they stopped. I
contributed to the Catalyst Advent Calendar this year.

I offered to mentor one of the students from Rick Deller's Perl Academy.

I attend Southampton PM meetings. I contacted Portsmouth University and
there is a possibility that we may be going in for beer and sandwiches with
their computer club in the autumn. (It's only a possibility because I'm not
sure the other mongers are as keen to do it as I am.)

I've also tried to contact Kingston University. I didn't get a reply and I
confess that I haven't tried again yet.

In spite of all that, I've only had five CVs across my desk this time. None
were strong candidates. One we rejected outright. A second told me at the
end of his telephone interview that he had just started a contract. Numbers
three and four weren't present at the appointed times for their telephone
interviews and the agency couldn't trace them either. We skipped the
telephone interview for number five and rushed him in for a face-to-face
with a view to hiring him if he was half-decent. He wasn't. He just wasn't.

When we want a PHP programmer, we only have to whistle.

Anyway, that's the background. Thanks for all your replies. A fascinating


-----Original Message-----
From: at
[ at] On Behalf Of Mark Stringer
Sent: 14 May 2013 10:18
To: at
Subject: Re: Alternative sources of Perl programmers

We sent out an Intern Wanted posting to heads of careers departments at
various colleges and Unis. This was filtered through to the students and we
had a number of promising looking applicants contact us. We're a startup, no
track record, tiny budget, no benefits and all we had to our credit was wfh
and flexitime. We had an intern signed in 4 days, and our pick from a number
of decent looking ones.

Sure, we're having to train him up a bit, but overall he's proving

With a decent sized budget for a full time employee, I'd have thought it'd
be easy to get a high standard of applicant. They may not be experienced in
Perl, but some experienced developers are willing to cross-train IME.

Also worth pointing out that now is about the best time to be finding
Uni/College leavers... they're all wondering what they're going to be doing
come June/July.

As for wfh, I've done it for about 10 years now. One previous employer
operated solely on this basis. Staff turnover was minimal. It occasionally
didn't work out due to distractions/it not being a suitable environment for
some, but by and large, it seems to work IME.



On 05/13/2013 10:22 PM, Duncan Garland wrote:
> Hi,
> We're advertising for a Perl programmer again, and once again we are 
> struggling. It's a shame because we've got quite a lot of development 
> work in the offing, mostly using Catalyst, DBIx::Class, Moose and the
> I spoke to the agent today and asked why so few people are coming forward.
> His view was that there aren't many Perl vacancies about at the 
> moment, and even fewer people are interested in them.
> What are other companies doing about this?
> We've got several PHP projects on the go as well. It's easier to get 
> local PHP programmers and when we can't, there seems to be a constant 
> supply of good Eastern European programmers. Why isn't there the same 
> stream of Eastern European Perl programmers?
> A second possibility is to cross-train experienced programmers from 
> other languages into Perl. However, Perl has got itself such a 
> reputation for being difficult to learn that the CTO winces whenever I
suggest the idea.
> How have other companies got on when they've said that they will take 
> experience in Python/Django or Ruby/Rails or whatever in lieu of 
> experience in Perl/Catalyst? Was anybody interested and did they succeed?
> The third possibility is just to move some of the projects ear-marked 
> for Perl into the PHP camp. I don't really believe that they can't be 
> done in PHP, but it's a pity because they sit nicely with similar 
> successful projects we've done in Perl. (A Catalyst-based system of 
> ours won an industry-wide prize for "Best Digital Initiative" a couple 
> of months ago.)
> All the best.
> Duncan

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