A CTO’s Story: How We Built A Nearshore Development Team in Madrid in Just 8 Weeks
Valant is a leading provider of cloud-based technology for the healthcare sector based in Seattle, Washington since 2005.
Over the last five years, one of its toughest challenges has been in hiring software engineers, says Chief Technology Office, Ryan Donahue. “We’ve had an explosion of technology companies coming into Seattle and setting up engineering centers, which created a bit of a problem from a talent demand and supply perspective, especially if you’re looking for highly talented engineers that have some experience working with cloud-based infrastructures,” he says.
“We really wanted to build a team that we felt was highly integrated.”
Donahue and his team decided to explore the benefits of outsourcing to offshore and nearshore locations. “We started looking outside of Seattle and across the US, and we couldn’t find the talent in the time frame we needed. Then we started thinking about offshore outsourcing options. We looked at India, South America, and Eastern Europe. India is a really attractive place if you’re a large, long-established organisation; it’s less attractive if you’re trying to have a bit of a start-up culture, in which teams can operate in an autonomous way. Eastern Europe was too far removed. Overall, we weren’t finding the cultural fit we wanted in any of those places,” he says.
Donahue’s team at Valant was “looking to establish a team that felt more part of the organisation, and not a siloed offshore team,” he says. “We really wanted to build a team that we felt was highly integrated with what we were doing.”
The search to hire a team of engineers led Valant to Dublin, where they met with Zartis. “In Dublin, we found a lot of the same challenges in finding top quality talent we had faced in Seattle. In talking to Zartis, we came to the conclusion that, from a technology skillset point of view and a culture perspective, we should expand and look into other up and coming areas. Spain was top of that list, and we isolated Madrid as the place where we would have access to a wider pool of engineering talent with the skills we needed.”
Zartis advised Donahue and his team that Spanish engineers who had moved north during the recession, and who now wished to return home, could offer an untapped pool of talent to companies establishing a tech operation there. Valant wasn’t the first company to be drawn to Madrid by its software talent: Amazon set up a tech hub there in 2015, its third outside the US, and it recently chose Madrid as the location of its Spanish headquarters. It cited the “overall quality of Spanish engineers” as one of the main reasons behind the decision to open the software development center in Madrid.
“Zartis helped us identify spectacular individuals”
Together, Zartis and Valant hired a team of 12 software engineers (and counting) in Madrid. “We started with just two engineers: Zartis helped us identify two spectacular individuals, and we’ve grown from there,” says Donahue.
The developers they hired include full stack engineers, API specialists, DevOps practitioners and QA resources. These engineers work as a part of a small project team, with some members in Seattle, and others in Madrid. According to Donahue, the Madrid office is not an offshore or even a nearshore office for Valant: it is an extension of the Seattle team, rather than a separate entity. “From the start, we have encouraged everyone to work as one team and not in silos. The teams from both sides have come to realise — and this has taken a bit coaching — that you need to be very clear in your communication, and ask clarifying questions rather than making assumptions about what someone is trying to say. We also try to have some face time every couple of months, either in Madrid or in Seattle.”
“We don’t think of Zartis as our recruiting company; we think of them as an extension of our team, as true partners”
“I don’t think we would have been successful if it wasn’t for the Zartis team,” he says.
“We had a very short period of time – only a couple of months where we had to get a lot of candidates through the process. We needed the mix of technical skills, cultural fit and language skills. Zartis put together a plan to help us achieve that, they did a tremendous amount of work to find the right candidates. Since then, the follow-through process has been amazing. They found office space for us; they handle our HR issues; they check in with the squad multiple times a week. The sense of ongoing partnership we have with Zartis is really unique. We don’t think of them as our recruiting company; we think of them as an extension of our team, as true partners. For a company like us, trying to make a decision of about where to build a new team, having a partner you can count on makes all the difference.”
Donahue’s advice to other companies who may be setting up a nearshore team:
- First, understand what your team structure is going to be. Through the interview process, let your candidates know that is the structure they’ll be working under.
- Second, start slowly, hire a couple of engineers have into leadership positions. As you hire other folks, those leading engineers can help you grow.
- Be prepared to give and receive continuous feedback. Err on the side of over-communication, at least in the beginning.
Zartis has deep expertise in large-scale recruitment projects across different European locations, serving clients in the US, UK, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Spain. One of our key competencies is helping companies hire entire new teams of developers and engineers, ranging in size from two to twenty-four.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help you build a development team in Europe.