What Do You Need to Win in a 1099 Economy?


Like most development firms, Mobility Labs often hires short-term or part-time developers and designers. Even many of our regular team members contract with us project by project, and do the same kind of work for other clients as well. This is the reality of our modern, fluid world. Many call this the 1099 economy.

Interestingly, Thomas Friedman, in a Sunday Times article, discusses the skills Google looks for when hiring new employees. Google has a fluid workplace in which people can choose what projects to work on, and how much to contribute where. In many ways, it is functionally similar to the 1099 economy.

Friedman quotes Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google:

“G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. … We found that they don’t predict anything.” He also noted that the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time”

It was interesting to look at these skills and relate them to how we look for people to work with. I think the lessons can be valuable to anyone looking to work in the emerging, non-hierarchical  environment.

The five things Google looks for (according to Friedman):

General cognitive ability. This is distinguished from I.Q., and relates to the ability to learn and process on the fly. For technical positions, they still evaluate coding ability, but even then the ability to learn quickly is more important than having set skills.

Leadership. Interestingly, this isn’t the take-charge mentality so much as knowing when to step up and when to let go of control.

Humility and Ownership. This seems to include standing up for your project, but being willing to change when wrong.

Expertise. This is the least important, according to Google. Sometimes a non-expert will be more innovative than an expert in a field, so expertise rarely stands on its own.