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Profile of a Support Developer




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I recently posted about the importance of identifying the type of developer you are or aspire to be. In that article I differentiated between two types of developer: project and support. In this post I will expand on the attributes of a support developer and why those attributes can be important when expressing interest in a new FileMaker development position.

A key revenue generator for any FileMaker consulting business is the maintenance of existing systems that are already in production. The FileMaker platform’s rapid development and flexible nature lend itself perfectly to a constant flow of modifications, enhancements, and upgrades. New work from existing clients is the cheapest work to get because the business relationships have already been established. The owner of a FileMaker Business Alliance Platinum Level company once told me that over 80% of that company’s yearly revenue comes from system maintenance. There’s an incredible amount of value in doing it well.

Support developers specialize in maintaining existing systems, what I call support work. They are able to quickly troubleshoot and fix code that may have been developed many years ago by developers who are long gone, on archaic unsupported versions, with techniques that only made sense at that time. They often have a broad knowledge of FileMaker’s capabilities rather than a deep knowledge in only one or two specific areas. They are multi-taskers who have no trouble changing gears at the drop of a hat, touching dozens of different systems in a relatively short period of time, and maintaining a sense of focus and calm amidst sometimes stressful, and often times completely chaotic situations. They can communicate with brevity, accuracy, and a positive tone, even when the news isn’t so great.

In many FileMaker shops, the perception is that support work should be relegated to junior developers who are less experienced, and big new custom projects should be saved for senior developers. This is baffling considering how important it is to maintain ongoing relationships with great clients who provide consistent work and (hopefully) consistent payment. While support work is invaluable for junior developers to quickly acquire a breadth of development knowledge, a blend of support and project work alongside senior developers makes more sense for everyone, including the clients.

The bottom line is that support work is a critical part of any FileMaker development shop’s bottom line. If you love fast-paced problem solving, the challenge of working on several different systems in a short period of time, and can stay calm and communicate well under stress, then you are probably what any FileMaker shop is exactly looking for in their next hire. Be sure to express those attributes when discussing new opportunities with prospective employers and let them know the value of what you can bring to the table.

At Thorsen Consulting, we’re not interested in just filling positions. We work with many development shops around the country helping them find talented developers like you. We have our finger on the pulse of the FileMaker industry and we want to help you find the right opportunity so you can maximize your skills and get into your development zone. So let us know what you’ve done and what you’re looking to do, and let us help you find the right place to do it.

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