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Interview...with Bill Baloglu & Billy Palmieri, by David Johnson

JDJ: ObjectFocus is the leading staffing firm in the Silicon Valley area. Two of the principals, Billy Palmeri and Bill Baloglu, will tell us a little about their story and what differentiates them in the Java staffing community. Billy, why don't you start by giving an introduction to ObjectFocus.
We are, as mentioned, the Java-centric contract staffing firm for Silicon Valley. We specialize exclusively in server-side, middle-tier developers. All our positions are here in San Jose up to the Redwood shores.

We alluded to working with our clients and our consultants in, I think, a rather unique way. Everything we do is on a personal basis. Every client we have, we interview; every consultant we have, we interview. We don't work through faxes; we don't work through e-mails. Of course, we're using them as tools, but we don't accept résumés off the Internet and just submit a piece of paper to a client. I think this guarantees the highest quality of matches.

Our ratio is very, very high - in the 90th percentile, simply because Bill is an engineer. So we get people very well screened on the technical end. Because Bill is a technical guy he understands the job requirements. I've spent about four years in the recruiting area. I know the recruiting process. By the time we get to the end and bring our consultants in for an interview, we're pretty much home. I think this is a great process not only for the client but also the consultants, because they're not jerked around. And they know the job opportunities are real.

JDJ: I've actually had the opportunity to do some consulting in the Silicon Valley area, and I did see some consultants forced to leave their team when there was a mismatch of skills. I also saw a lot of candidates come through who just weren't a good fit at all. It was a waste of everyone's time. How does the screening process that you're talking about ensure that the 90% hit rate is achieved?
As Billy mentioned, prior to staffing and recruitment, I spent 16 years as an engineer. This was primarily in the object technology area and C++. Most recently, just prior to moving to recruitment, it was in the Java area. I actually used to speak at a lot of object technology conferences.

Let me talk to you about our process in the sense of what I think is the biggest problem in the staffing industry today, as far as agencies and the middle layers are concerned. You go to your hiring manager and say, "What are your requirements?" The hiring manager says, "I need two Java guys and two server-side engineers." What does server-side mean and how do you qualify? That's really the process. If you don't understand the hiring manager's language, you don't know what he or she is looking for. "It's not just the obstacle of EJB, XML, or XSL and that type of thing, but it's also that I need a good communicator because this guy is going to be mentoring as well."

From a technical angle we understand what the manager is saying. Managers might sometimes elaborate just by saying a few words, like, "I need a Java server engineer," but we understand what he means by that. When we come back to the office and start qualifying people, we're not just looking at their résumés, and going to a search engine and typing Java, XML, and XSL. We don't just get a bunch of papers and send them to the manager. We actually read those résumés; we don't just go by the summaries. We look at each project and organize those skills and put them into categories. Then when we finally meet the person face to face, we go through those projects. We find out if their skills are real. We are not just looking for a bunch of keywords on a résumé. We make sure that this is not someone who just went to a Java training course and claims these skills. We make sure all of this is in place, then we submit candidates to clients. That summarizes our technical process.

JDJ: What types of firms, on the business side, do you integrate with to fill positions? If I worked for one of these companies, how would I get in touch and what would the process be? Do I fill out some requirement forms?
Sure, but let me elaborate on that a bit. Basically our process is like this: we have the same type of relationship on the client side that we do with the consultants or the candidates. Again, I think one of the situations in the Valley is that agencies receive by phone, fax, and e-mail what we call job orders or job requirements, such as requests for two Java guys with XML and XSL. The key is that you need to meet with each client to understand and capture their requirements.

I don't want to digress too much from the question you asked, but I want to elaborate on the importance of the relationship on the client side as well. We work with companies I'd like to characterize as emerging growth companies. Our clients include large companies, such as HP E-speak, Sun Microsystems, 3Com, and Cisco as well as some of the most impressive dot-coms in Silicon Valley, e-commerce companies typically in the B2B arena.

People can get in touch with us at www.objectfocus.com. It's a good starting point. Later, we can meet with them to understand their requirements and fulfill their needs.
Billy: If I could just mention a little bit more about the consultant side. One of the things we do is work heavily from referrals. Most of the people we have working with ObjectFocus right now have come to us through referrals. We feel that any candidate we get from someone who's working with us has a little more weight than someone we just pull from e-mailed résumés. This is someone who is going to bring some real weight to the table.

We released a referral program last week that I think is unique. We actually pay 10% of the gross margin as a commission on any referral. So, if someone were to work for us for a year, the referring person could actually earn over $5,000 a year on that referral. One referral is $5,000, two is $10,000, three is $15,000. We call it a commission plan. Most companies offer a couple of thousand dollars.
Bill: You may mention that this program is actually the same plan that we're offering our internal recruiters. We're treating the community that refers an individual to us as a virtual extension of our recruitment organization.
Billy: Absolutely. And I also wanted to mention that we disclose margins. Not only to our clients but to our consultants. So we have a very open policy not only with communications but with bill rates, margins, what people are earning or paying. We have a Bill of Rights for clients and consultants on our Web site, and I invite everyone to look at that.

JDJ: I think that's an excellent practice. So if you're a Java developer and you're looking for Java opportunities, check out ObjectFocus; visit their Web site at www.objectfocus.com.

Author Bio
David Johnson is CEO of Verge Technologies Group, Inc., a Boulder, Colarado, based Enterprise Java consulting and hosting firm


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