Effective techniques for unicorn hunters

This is a follow-up to my earlier rant about unicorns.

As with the data challenges of genomics, I feel like we’ve been talking about this unicorn thing forever, or at least long enough that it’s awkward to keep pretending that it’s a new thing. There has been plenty of time (years!) for the community to pivot and for people to train up to meet our needs. If they haven’t done that, I think it’s because we’ve been unclear.

Terms like “unicorn” allow sloppy thinking. Instead of “unicorn,” we should go ahead and post the actual requirements.

A typical unicorn posting might be fleshed out like this:

  • Must have worked at a Silicon Valley startup that imploded because of culture issues.
  • Must already know our VCs / founders from the climbing gym and/or Burning Man.
  • Must be white, male, and creepily fascinated with virginity. Horn optional.

I’m just kidding, of course. Here is a more serious attempt:

  • Full stack development experience, including node.js and python
  • Devops experience with continuous integration, test, and deployment tools like Jenkins, Travis, and Bamboo
  • Systems engineering experience, including container technologies like Docker, orchestration tools like Kubernetes, infrastructure tools like Terraform, and configuration managers like Puppet.
  • Solid grounding in Agile development
  • Familiar with information security principles.

Admittedly, that’s a lot of tools, but unlike the list up top, it is actionable on the part of the job seeker. With a couple of years of evenings and weekends, a bright tech person could spin up on that whole stack.

Well written job descriptions also serve to counteract existing biases in your hiring process.

If we want to solve the unicorn shortage, this is the path. Clear, actionable, specific job requirements. The local climbing gym just isn’t big enough to satisfy the needs of a growing industry.

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