Recently Oren Eini (A.K.A Ayende), wrote a couple of blog posts around hiring strategies. Like some of his other posts, those two got a lot of traction and opened various discussions in the developer community.
One of these discussions were initiated by some work colleague, who emailed some private list asking us what we think about the articles.
So, let’s first check the two posts…
I highly recommend checking them out before continuing. You can see the titles tell the summary of what this is about really. What do you think of a statement like “If you don’t have pet projects, I don’t think I want you?”.
Well, this is what I’m trying to answer from my point of view in the following lines…
Disclaimer: This is from personal experiences
Since 2005, I have been working as a full time .NET developer even before uni. graduation. I have worked in both failing and successful start-ups, and various sizes of corporates/enterprises/you-call-them kinds of companies, with developers from different countries(Arab, U.S, Europeans, Chinese, Australians,…). Also, have been involved in developer community since 2004, and had some, and been lucky to listen to many developers (and managers) expressing what they think about our career.
This doesn’t make me compare to Ayende in anything. There are good reasons behind the weight his say has in the community, right? , It just draws more on how I came up with those thoughts…
My 2 Cents
So, here is my reply to the question. I’d be interested in how you view the topic as well.
Having a pet project, having a post-grad degree, having an active technical blog, having a presentation history, having a popular name is technical forums / forum groups / StackOverflow, all are things that show that you love what you do, and are willing to invest more in it.
That said, lack of any (or all) of them, means you have less to show that kind of will, not that it doesn’t exist.
Each of them might be a factor in evaluating the person, no-more, no-less.
But that’s just one side of it……
I have seen some developers who try to avoid cutting corners and taking shortcuts at work, and try to solve the problems they face best. But go talk to them, you’ll notice that they treat programming as.. well.. work. Something they do and they do well.
Usually those people impress management by more speed without scarifying quality, and less complaints about whatever issues there are in the work environment (if any).
There are managers who really love those, and other managers who really wouldn’t appreciate them.
It’s funny cause I used to work for one of those managers, then later to work with a manager on the other side completely. The geeky manager who still codes himself and always on top the hourly tech news/rumours in all sorts of social media, always happy to use pre-release tools and libraries in production code, etc… This kind of manager would really impressed by a developer based on how many of those factors mentioned at the beginning of the message are in him/her.
They will still worry about the velocity and everything but will also pretty much appreciate the “craft” in the code itself and how the guy/gal tackles the problem smartly.
It’s matching, just like marriage, or even friendship. There are some types of managers who’d find it easier working with certain types of professionals, and other type of management that would find it more appealing to work with a different type of professionals.
Of course each of those types of both managers and professionals might (on individual persons basis) be more or less extreme (vs. flexible) when it comes to working with other types of people than their ideal matches…..
Of course there is more to this still. For example, my company, Readify, provides a certain amount of days annually that is called “Personal Development” (PD). This is paid time you spend with pre-set objective(s) to learn stuff you decide. This likely include working on pet projects or attending/delivering technical training/presentations. BUT it’s not the only place we developers/consultants are expected to develop ourselves of course, or is a replacement for playing with stuff at home..
If someone’s eyes light up when she talks about some project she worked on, I don’t really care whether this was her pet project or something she is proud of at work. What really matters is that her eyes lit up, that she is interested, that she sees herself as a Cathedral Builder.
But this is not to agree or disagree with Ayende. It’s just that every developer/manager will have their own criteria for ideal work mates. This is really the point I’m trying to make here…
For more thoughts, there was a really classic one (back to 2007) from Scott Hanselman he tweeted today, that’s “5:01 Developers, Family, and Excitement about the Craft“.
So, yeah. That was all from me. Now it’s your turn with your own thoughts.
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