To convince people to come work for you you offer them, aside from compensation, perks. And you try to have better perks than your competitors (other employers). Brainstorming with my friend Justin a few years ago I came up with what I believe is the ultimate perk and since then I’ve been desperatly trying to find a place to deploy it. I haven’t found a place where I feel even comfortable bringing it up, that’s how far I am from deploying it, so I’m sharing it with the world. If I was running my own company, I’d deploy it in an instance, not giving it a second thought.

This is the perk: every developer gets a confidentiality-bound personal assistant. There wouldn’t be one PA per developer, because they don’t need nor have enough work that can be delegated to keep one person fully occupied. Instead there would be one for all of the developers (or two, or three… or whatever you need depending on how many devs you have).

First, I don’t think this would be a very expensive perk, because actually delegating work to a PA is a skill that you have to learn and most developers will not have it. Most developers will not know where to start. But most developers will likely enjoy saying “I have a PA” or “I have a secretary”. Having said that, I would actually run courses for the developers to learn to delegate because…

It’s a perk that pays for itself. You might think you are paying for extra employees or contractors, but your developers are likely the most expensive salaries in your books. So if they can pass a task to someone else, you are saving money, not spending money. Let’s say a developer needs to arrange a call with a vendor to discuss a technical mater. They have to search for the right person, their contact details, go back and forth over emails. Imagine if the developer just tells their PA “Can you arrange that call?” over a Slack message and that’s the end of it. Back to coding!

Think about making reservations, making doctors appointments, running errands, making phone calls in general (this is why they should be confidential). Developers tend to hate phone calls. Imagine if they could delegate to someone complaining about a flight ticket that got canceled! I once had a coworker who spent half a day on hold while pretending to code.

It’s a perk that generates retention: you know why Google pays for food, haircuts, laundry, doctors on-site, etc? It’s because that generates a lot of retention. When you quit Google, you not only need a job, you also need to find a hairdresser, a place to clean your clothes and make doctor’s appointments. They treat you like children and you became as dependent as you were on your parents. I’m not exactly sure where the ethical boundary is here, but offering a free PA feels on the good side of things.

It’s unique: nobody is doing and I bet nobody will start, even after it’s been proven successful. It’s like private offices: we have the studies to prove that developers need silence to focus and yet we cram them in open office buildings. Private offices, and PAs, are for the three-piece suit executives, not for the lowly developer, so it’s not a perk likely to get devalued when everybody picks it up, because nobody will.

It’s loud. Imagine when the developer is hanging out with other developers and jokingly says

> “Have your people call my people to arrange it”

> “Oh… you don’t have people? I do… this email address and phone number is my PA, just call them… and if you want a PA, come work for us.”

I’d love to try this some day… 

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