Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Good programmers: there is no substitute

[Rant warning.]

One of the hazards of being semi-management these days is that I spend altogether too much time on the hiring process -- both writing reqs for new hires and interviewing people. And I keep being surprised by the question, "What kind of programmer do you want?"

The answer is, "A good one". All else is commentary.

If I'm hiring someone to work on the client, I keep getting questions about, "Do they need to specifically be a Flex programmer? How many years of UI programming experience do they need?" and so on, as if that's the important part. If we're looking for QA Automation Engineers, there are all these questions about, "Is it critical that they know a particular automation framework? How much time do they need to have spent on QA automation?"

These are the wrong questions. I do not, by and large, give a good goddamn about how much time someone has spent in a pigeonhole. Indeed, the more focused their career has been, the more suspicious I am of them. I have met Flex programmers who wrote the most atrocious code I've ever seen, and QA Engineers who thought they knew how to do automation because they could string lines of code together; both have been nothing but trouble.

While it is a *slight* exaggeration to say that Programming is Programming is Programming, it's not a huge one. Give me a programmer who knows what they are doing -- who is keeping up with the field and how to program *well* -- and I can confidently throw them at almost any problem. Moreover, I can be pretty confident that, after a fairly modest ramp-up time, they will probably be programming rings around the specialists who know an area well, but haven't spent the time really learning the craft of software.

Seriously: if you're in management, stop worrying about trying to hire specialists -- a good generalist programmer will, in most cases, be your best bet. If you're a programmer, don't spend as much attention learning specific libraries and such -- focus on honing your craft every day, knowing the general art of programming well, and exploring it in many forms. Good code pretty much looks like good code, whether you're writing databases, user interfaces, web servers, test harnesses, or anything else.

[/rant, brought to you by seeing the same mistakes made a few too many times]
Tags: programming, rants
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