Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Where’s the Lemon ?
Garrett Conaty joined my team this week. Recently, we’ve really been hiring some first rate people and Garrett is just the latest one. Garrett and I worked together in 1999 in Ireland at a subsidiary of the telephone company over there that was called Trinity Commerce and later Ebeon.com.
One day I remember trying to explain to the CEO how hard it was to hire good software developers and what kind of a difference a good one could really make. I tried to describe how a typical interview process worked and how my approach to interviewing was designed to make a difference. I used a football (soccer) analogy. I said, imagine you are the boss of a football team and we need to hire a new striker. So we work with a couple of agents and they each bring along a candidate. We stand here on the 2nd floor at the window and we tell the candidate to go kick a ball around the parking lot for 10 minutes. We observe from the window and based on this observation we will select a winner. Agent (1) provides a candidate who will cost us 100,000 in signing fees while agent (2) provides an alternative who will cost us 10,000,000 in signing fees. Do you think you could tell a visible difference between the performance of player 1 from player 2 based on observing them kicking the ball around the parking lot for 10 minutes? Well no, probably not! So why is player 2 worth 100x more than player 1? I don’t know! Well do you think you will win the league with player 1? and is winning the league worth a 10 million investment?
And so it is with software developers. A 1 hour interview where we walk-through a resume of past positions and ask a few questions about APIs and languages and maybe a design pattern or two, is the equivalent of kicking the ball around the parking lot for 10 minutes. You can’t tell the stars from the lemons!
Garrett was good enough to point me today at this admittedly long piece from Reg Braithwaite on the whole lemon phenomena and why its all too likely your software engineering org and enterprise architecture is loaded with them. Technorati tag: David+Anderson, Software+Engineering, Garrett+Conaty, Reg+Braithwaite