job description: Enterprise-focused .Net developers write and maintain desktop and Web-based business applications, as well as extend and customize Microsoft platforms for customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and other areas. A well-rounded developer is also versed in testing and quality control. "When I hear '.Net developer,' I hear more than, 'They just write code,'" says Julie Yack, cofounder of Colorado Technology Consultants, a .Net custom development company.
why you need one: The .Net technology is ubiquitous, particularly regarding application user interfaces, says Dan Cobb, senior vice president of the West for Yoh, an IT staffing and outsourcing firm. "In every market we're in, .Net is one of the skills at the forefront of what people need. It's the front-end of most of your traditional applications." The nature of enterprise applications has also changed, notes Bruce Culbert, CEO of iSymmetry, an IT consulting and recruiting company. "You used to buy an application and back your business into it. Not anymore," he says. Programming frameworks like .Net allow companies to refresh legacy applications' interfaces, connect them to the Internet and make other customizations, he says.
desired skills: Candidates should be comfortable with many areas of application development besides coding, such as unit testing. Experience in the "full lifecycle" of an application project is key, from initial planning and scoping to development, testing and integration. .Net developers with an eye for user interface design have a distinct edge. Knowledge of Microsoft's Silverlight technology for rich media and applications is desirable. Certifications are nice, but real-world experience counts for more.
how to find one: Building your own active candidate database is probably the most important thing you can do," says Culbert. You can also find .Net developers through job boards and user forums.
what to look for: The best candidates are those who can admit they don't know the answer to a question, according to Culbert. "[Employers] want to see if you can collaborate in a work environment, that you're not going to bury a problem because you're afraid of it," he says. "Some people will get a task and keep coding until they get it right," a habit that is likely at the root of many a project overrun. Companies also want developers who are comfortable working with the business side.
elimination round: If a candidate passes the initial interview, have members of the project team they'd be working with grill them at length. This will help ensure a proper fit.
salary range: $50,000 to $100,000
growing your own: It is possible for a company to train its own .Net developers if individuals have a basic level of knowledge, says Yack. "If you want in the door and you know what object-oriented programming is, you're moldable, you're good," she says. But companies must also have the proper resources. "When you're trying to grow your own, you need mentors there to walk them through the challenges, to get them from book programming to the real world," says Cobb.