David Bonilla has challenges. Without being a writer or training journalist, he launched to develop and distribute a technology newsletter weekly, the Bonilist, which today brings together 11,000 subscribers. Without being an event organization professional, he has just held the fourth edition of the Tarugoconf, a technology and business conference for 700 people capable of selling tickets at 150 euros in 48 hours.
Without having business baggage, he set up Otogami, a startup that ended up selling for 1 euro. After this first failed entrepreneurial attempt, and with no experience in the area of human resources, Manfred, a recruiting startup specializing in technological and digital profiles, has started up.
At Manfred, he wants to concentrate and bring out all the accumulated knowledge, in so many different areas, to try to change the context in which many companies are managed in human resources, since it cannot be applied to the professional ICT environment. “There is great potential for improvement”, says Bonilla, for whom the key is to put the worker in the middle and focus on the “point of view of the candidate, which in our sector today is the scarce resource”.
You are a training programmer, but you move freely in the field of entrepreneurship. What drives you to take forward Manfred, a recruiting company, after the bittersweet adventure of Otogami?
It was a combination of elements. I saw that something was happening with the newsletter, I started admitting sponsorships because companies asked me to. And every time I had more reservations: four, five or six months before.
Is the sponsorship of your newsletter always intended for employment?
No, but they almost always ask for employment. There came a time that I did not want to raise the price of sponsorship any more and it was when I started Manfred, which was born as a Telegram channel where I wanted to publish five offers every day. But I realized that this did not bring the value I was looking for, that something really had to be done in the world of recruiting. And it was when I hit the jump.
I was sure that I wanted to do it, with my own funds and not with venture capital, precisely because Otogami did not go well. And I was very clear that I was going to do it first as a service, to try to understand what was happening, where the pain was, and from there build.
The approach was to create a platform for recruiting technical and digital profiles that add value to all the parties involved. How is this put into practice?
In the world of recruiting, much of the business there is is based on being ‘the man in the middle’: cover up one another and prevent them from connecting. There are many offers that tell you “leading company in the sector”, but they don’t tell you for which final company the position is. That opacity is the business model of many companies. What we did was refuse to be opaque.
In addition, recruiting usually works to success: you do not charge if you do not find a person and hire him. In exchange there are high commissions of 20% or 30%. Outside of Spain it reaches 40%. In addition, most recruiters work without exclusivity. Implying? That quality is not paid, but speed, because they compete with each other in the same selection process. It is a rat race, a broken model. We ask for exclusivity: “Give me only one month, but only with us.” And this minimal temporary space to do things right and find the right people changes everything.
This on the side of the company. What is the value it brings to the candidates?
Basically what we have done is to put ourselves in the candidate’s point of view, which in our sector today is the scarce resource, instead of focusing on the offer, which is what we saw that everyone did. They continue in a paradigm whereby the scarce resource is the job. This may happen in other sectors, but not in computer science. In computing, the scarce resource is talent, the candidate, so we put it in the middle.
I will give the client quality and the candidate I will give transparency: what company it is, how much it will earn … We try to match the reasons why a company exists and the worker’s vital motivations.
And for this very high salaries are being paid. Do you think the remunerations currently offered in the sector are sustainable?
I think the recession will come and it will affect all sectors, but probably the one that will be the least in computing. To start, because the software is eating the world. Any modern car has more lines of code than Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon together. This is proof of the level of complexity we are reaching: everyone needs software. Are there hands today to make that software? No. And will it change with the recession? Do not.
On the other hand, fortunately in Spain there are more and more product companies, where the turnover per employee is skyrocketing. The product is scalable: there comes a time that with the same number of workers you serve 1,000 customers, 1 million or 10 million, such as Google or Facebook. And if I bill 1 million for each employee, I can pay $ 200,000, $ 300,000 or even $ 500,000 and keep earning.
Another different case is that of computer service companies, which suffer what I call the ‘sandwich of death’. They are pressured by the workers, who push up salaries, and by the prices that your clients let you assume. In this sense, programmers have a false conviction that they do not want to pay good salaries. They are wrong, the service companies would be happy to pay salaries of up to 100,000 euros for a programmer, the problem is that they cannot be passed on to the client.
And, in addition to money, what weight have the emotional salary that is talked about so much lately? Are social benefits decisive when a programmer chooses a project?
My opinion, based on my experience: at the level of a certain salary level, of course the emotional salary is important. Of course there are people who prefer to be 5 minutes away from their children’s school or from their home than earn 10,000 euros more. If someone tells you that it is not true, he is a jerk or a liar.
What happens is that the emotional salary does not matter when the real salary, in money, does not arrive. But we are from the few privileged sectors that may have this circumstance that all your vital needs are covered: the school of children, food, saving, the house … If the only thing that really mattered was the salary, everyone I would be in Germany, for example.
When it comes to mobilizing young people towards a sector with a future job, a newly created training center that raised the need for a change in the education system. What is your vision about it?
We have a population problem: there are fewer and fewer young people. And if fewer and fewer people are born, how will more people go to college? They are mathematics. Reality is very stubborn. On the other hand, while it is true that the university teaches things that do not always have practical application, it is also true that the university is not for everyone. And I do not think that the training is wrong, I think it is impossible for the university to keep up with the computer reality, which is going at a pace that in 6 months everything is out of date. What we have to keep in mind is that there are more options.
Bootcamps, for example.
Yes, in three or four months they put you to work. In three or four months do you learn to program? No, you learn to know where the air is blowing, to form for yourself. They are doing an immense job, but there are people who are going to crash and people who are going to get ahead.
What do companies demand most from Manfred?
General purpose languages: Java or .Net, for example. Today the most demanded language, not only to Manfred but in general, is Java.
And for someone who wants to find work in programming / development, what would you recommend to study?
If you are looking for a way to enter the sector, first learn to program; Learn the basics … Programming is pure logic: solving puzzles with code. Learn that and from there, research, work, make your own projects …
Do you think it would help to encourage people to enter the sector that had more references?
Yes, and from school, from very young. It is very important to have references for children. Female referents to include 50% of the population that so far is underrepresented in the sector. And also masculine. Let them see what programming is, what programming is, what fun, that you can earn a living … That would help a lot. I go to my children’s school and give talks, I teach them. Of course, it is something that must be done, you have to put the programming in the schools.
You have about 11,000 subscribers in the Bonilist and you have just signed an agreement with a Galician newspaper to publish the newsletter. Is it important to disclose?
Yes, for me it is very important. My goal with the Bonilist is to write so that my mother understands. Hence, the jump to the press was very natural because I think it is a real job for my community and for the country to explain the opportunities offered by technology. We talk about empty Spain and we must know that with technology we can work from Cuenca or Salamanca. And like that thousands of things. We are very good: engineers in Spain have a brutal level and soon as society promoted that, we could really change things.
This year with the Tarugoconf you have increased the capacity exponentially, since the 150 of the previous years. And you sold everything in two days. Once this ceiling is touched, what are the next steps?
For now, stabilize three or four years in 700 people. We do not organize events, we are not professionals; We do not do this for money or personal brand, we do it because we like it and for people. We believe that we have learned how to make an event for 700 people, now we have to improve it. We want to do the same, but better.
In addition to Tarugoconf, events such as Codemotion, T3chFest, WeCode, Commit, etc. are held in Spain. Others organized by the companies themselves or the communities, hackathons, meetups, afterworks … Is it a boom or has it always been like that? Is the techie guild so active?
There is a perfect storm. When the world of computers began, it was something very niche. Very few had a computer. Most of the lessons we learned from friends, there was a collaborative environment. Add to that the open source culture, of sharing knowledge, of transparency. And there is a third leg: a bubble that has nothing to do with other sectors. There is no unemployment and that allows things that you cannot think of other professions: I go to an event and the company pays me. And if you don’t pay me, at least you don’t take it into account when computing my vacations.
If we have more events than any other community or profession, it is very much in our DNA. We use it to socialize and learn. The stereotype of the programmer a bit isolated … Well, that is a stereotype.
Undertake, have children, organize a massive event, write a book … What do you have left to do?
I would like to write a real book, because what I have published is a compilation of La Bonilista. I would like to make a video game … I would like to do many things. In the short term, to continue in the world of recruiting, there is a great space for improvement. More challenges? Have fun and keep doing things. My limit? That are sustainable.
Also published on Medium.