Small Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small Business: Hiring right - Bruce Aylward, Psoda

This week, small business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about hiring right.
Bruce Aylward (left), a founder of Psoda, with the Psoda team.
Bruce Aylward (left), a founder of Psoda, with the Psoda team.

Bruce Aylward is a founder of Wellington-based project management software firm Psoda.

Can you talk me through the staffing situation at Psoda?

We currently have five full time employees and then work with a number of contractors and partners around New Zealand and Australia. Our team of five includes the two founders, a staff member who's been with us for about a year now, and two new employees who came on board after completing internships with us as part of the Summer of Tech programme.

Did you envisage from the outset that you'd be taking on those summer interns permanently in the business?

Yes, it was always our intention to bring on board graduates as permanent staff. We've worked with Summer of Tech in the past as well as with the Victoria University intern programme, and we'd previously taken on a second-year student who had to return to their studies after the internship.

This year we decided to focus on final year students with the intention of hiring them full time if things worked out.

Why did you want to go the internship route as a channel to find permanent staff?

We were looking for people who had the right cultural fit, because if they're not particularly skilled in a technical area we can get them some mentoring and training, but you can't necessarily train employees in your culture.

With Summer of Tech you have a series of contact points with the students before they even come on the internship. For example, Summer of Tech holds a hackathon, and through that we were able to see one of our interns working in a team context, see their leadership skills come out and how they worked under pressure.

Then when we were doing formal interviews for the internships, we were able to tease out a bit more about their skill set, but also assess their attitude and willingness to take up the opportunities we offer. In the Wellington market in particular there are some big brand names that are hiring, and it can be difficult for students to know whether to go for a small company they may have never heard of versus some of those big brands. For us it was important to find students who really love being in a small company because right from the start they're able to get involved in parts of the business they would never touch in a larger organisation.

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Then during the internship itself we gave the students real work; we picked a specific project for them that involved working on a new function we wanted to add to the Psoda toolset. That gave us the chance to see how they could really add value to the business.

What are your future hiring plans for the business, and what other channels will you be looking at to hire staff?

As a business we're growing quite quickly - this financial year we're looking to grow about 40 to 50 percent - so we're looking to grow the team to about 25 over the next couple of years. We will definitely be using Summer of Tech again because it's a great way for students to get to know us, and for us to get to know them. We're also likely to hire in some more senior people to help to manage the bigger team. We give our team the flexibility to work from home if it makes sense for their role and are also open to part-time roles.

In terms of channels for hiring staff, we'll primarily be looking at our network of connections - that means tapping into the community who use our product, some of the companies that we loosely partner with, or through user groups and conferences that we take part in. We network a lot with businesses that share similar ideals so that helps us when we're looking to find people who fit with the culture of our company, because it's quite different to a big corporate.

- NZ Herald

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