To hire an expert developer or not to hire it… that is the question

By Diego | Software Practices

May 15

I guess that’s an easy question, right? Mmm… not so fast. At least read through before passing any judgments.

It’s fairly easy to know if a developer is an expert in some technical field, programming language or framework. Just read his or her resume and search if the tech is in her assets, check if there is any real working experience with the particular tech and for how long. That would give you a pretty good idea (in theory) of what this “expert” knows. Finally you’ll have the option to test her the first days doing real work and that’s were you can realize if your assumptions where good or not about her expertise. Pretty easy.

So I imagine that your answer will be to try to hire the expert. And you are right, I always try to do that also.

Of course we all want to hire the expert, but a good leader has to see beyond the surface of the evident. Should this question be the main purpose of your search? Should this be the most important factor in determining who will be your next team member?

During these past months I had the chance of meeting a lot of people from the IT area, programmers, startup guys, company owners, CEOs, CTOs, you name it. In some point of the conversation with them we usually started talking about forming teams, how to do it, and how to search for new members for that teams. And almost always people say the same thing: “I want experts in such and such tech”. “I’m tired of people saying they are experts when they are not!”. “If you don’t have an expert in tech X your project’s most likely is going to fail”, “I always search for experts in Z framework, it’s not negotiable!” And a lot more things that what really show is that they are only focused in searching the best expert they can find for a particular technology and nothing more.

This situation keep amazing me all the time I think about it. First of all because, although they have only this objective, most of them fail to detect if the person is really an expert at all; and they realize the lack of expertise well after the hiring process, when the projects have already begun. That doesn’t talk to well of the recruiter abilities! And second, but more important, is that these people are not taking into account a critical factor in their recruiting efforts: technology and software development are always changing and evolving.

Technology and software development change and evolve constantly. Today you are an expert in a language and framework, but tomorrow a new library is published… and what are you now? A “vanishing expert”, so you’re not so cocky now, eh? And if you want to keep your cocky attitude, you should learn the new features. This happens almost daily and with every tech you can imagine. New framework versions, new programming languages releases, problems encountered during development that are only solved using a library that nobody knows, testing libraries and frameworks, version control tools, continuous deployment tools and servers, internal scripts… the list could continue almost indefinitely. So every “expert” in a particular technology, actually is a vanishing expert, her days are counted. So that’s want you’ll get at best when focusing your recruiting efforts in tech experts alone.

After all this, I guess that you are starting to see where I’m going.

When you recruit your next team member, your main focus has to be finding the expert, but not in a particular technology, but instead in learning new technologies. You should search for the guy that enjoys learning new things and evolving, that can become proficient in a small amount of time with the new techs needed, that is not afraid of testing new things, that has the confidence of finding a solution to a problem she has never seen before, that has the capability of investigating new things and learning them. A developer that could meet these requirements, will become automatically a proficient developer with any tech that you put in front of her. And that’s exactly want you should search first!

How to detect these things is the topic of another post. But for now just remember this guy, and ask the Sword of Omens, to give you Sight Beyond Sight, in every recruiting effort:

Sight Beyond Sight“Sword of Omens, give me Sight Beyond Sight!”

And just to make the fans cry:


About the Author

I’m a software engineer and work as an independent software developer and consultant. Software development is my passion. I usually find some time to write in between my work and my other interests, sports and PC gaming!

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