Monday, September 15, 2014

You Don't Need Ninjas

No, you don't need ninjas.

Or rock stars.

Or yetis, or unicorns, or oscilloscopes, or whatever crazy new metaphor somebody comes up with for a software engineer with some kind of magical talent for exactly what you think you might need at this very moment.

I get frustrated when I see a job listing looking for someone with an extremely specific skill set. It's usually something trendy. Unless you were someone ahead of the trend by starting to work on Technology X years before normal people ever heard of it, you don't qualify.

This is the tool. The only tool.
The best analogy I ever heard to describe this situation is the following. Try to hire a carpenter to build you a house. But he must have 15 years of experience with Black & Decker Model #CS1014 circular saw. Sounds silly, right? You just want a guy who knows how to handle any saw or drill or whatever tool. Maybe he has a preference for a certain brand or model, but that's probably based on his experience as the guy doing the actual building. This kind of thing happens all the time for software jobs.

What ever happened to hiring competent software engineers who were capable of learning new things? People who can stay with you long-term, and use their lifetimes of knowledge to enhance any project on which they work?

I've worked projects in Pascal, C, C++, Visual Basic (I don't know why I admit this one), ASP (or this), Java, and JavaScript. I've never worked a real project in Python or Ruby, but I don't think I'm incapable of doing so. I know programming. I can probably learn any language quickly, at least well enough to be a useful contributor.

And in this environment, we supposedly have some kind of software engineer shortage. The data to support those claims are not clear, if you ask me (see here and here for starters). But if you believe there is a shortage, maybe it's because everyone has unrealistic expectations. Maybe it's really just a shortage of ninjas, rock stars, and unicorns.

But you don't really need them. Just don't hire rodeo clowns.

Amphibian.com comic for September 15, 2014