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Competence trumps a good cultural fit Expand / Collapse
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Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 5:16 PM


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bmcgirr (9/29/2013)
Nice to be challenged with an opinion I can't agree with :)

I think you've put forward a bit of a straw man argument here. As a minimum, an interviewee must have the technical skills required to do the job. Nobody would hire a nice guy just because they are nice. The thing that gets people hired above that is whether or not they can apply those skills to produce what the customer wants. This requires the softer skills and a company would be silly to ignore them.


Amen to that.

I'll also tell you that I've had to work with some real jerks that some bosses put up with because the bosses thought the person was somehow smart enough to be indispensible. That's just wrong. Someone who can't get along with other people on the job is bad for moral and can drag a whole team down. There's no need for anyone to have to tolerate a jerk just because he's smart. There are enough smart people in the world that can work with others that you don't have to hire or keep a jerk.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Post #1499797
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 6:08 PM


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Jeff Moden (9/29/2013)
bmcgirr (9/29/2013)
Nice to be challenged with an opinion I can't agree with :)

I think you've put forward a bit of a straw man argument here. As a minimum, an interviewee must have the technical skills required to do the job. Nobody would hire a nice guy just because they are nice. The thing that gets people hired above that is whether or not they can apply those skills to produce what the customer wants. This requires the softer skills and a company would be silly to ignore them.


Amen to that.

I'll also tell you that I've had to work with some real jerks that some bosses put up with because the bosses thought the person was somehow smart enough to be indispensible. That's just wrong. Someone who can't get along with other people on the job is bad for moral and can drag a whole team down. There's no need for anyone to have to tolerate a jerk just because he's smart. There are enough smart people in the world that can work with others that you don't have to hire or keep a jerk.

I didn't get the impression that Phil was advocating hiring jerks; anyway, the people I think of as jerks are (i) the people who want to keep their cosy way of doing things even though it produces bad results and therfor avoid hiring anyone who is unwilling to bow down and unquestionally worship the status quo, (ii) the incompetents who think they will get good reviews as long as they never disagree with me, no matter how wrong I may have gotten something, (iii) people who can't be bothered to learn, (iv) people who think that authority without responsibility is a good for them while responsibility without authority is right for everyone else, (v) people who can't do the job but pretend they can and (vi) people who by their behaviour make the working environment into a miseable place for their colleagues and.or their customers or impair the efficiency of colleagues. So it seems to me that Phil was attacking people who fit the first (and possibly also people who fit the fourth) alternative of that definition of jerks, not because they wouldn't hire jerks but because they wouldn't hire competent people, but because they would rate someone who fits the second alternative in my berk definition higher than someone who was actually competent.


Tom
Post #1499802
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 7:19 PM


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The title of the article is "Competence trumps a good cultural fit" and it pretty much went that way in the article. I say that one without the other is almost always a bad thing. I'll also say there's no reason to tolerate one without the other. I've worked with some extremely competent people that were virtually useless because they couldn't even get along with the incomptetent that hired them.

You just don't need to be an isolationist, an eccentric, or a jerk to be an innovator.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Post #1499818
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 1:22 AM
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As a female developer over 40 it looks like my job prospects are minimal - depressing message on a Monday morning :-(
But thank goodness for the public sector as our entire development team are over 40 and 80% female. And yes, we can work as a team or individuals. Maybe others should appreciate the skills of the older generation as with later and later retirement ages there are plenty of us around to build experienced development teams.
Also most older folk find team working far easier when working with those of their own age and similar values (home, family etc) than with the young upwardly-mobile here-today-gone-tomorrow developers of our children's generation.
Post #1499875
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 4:16 AM


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@Jeff
I had to re-read the editorial to make sure I wasn't arguing that it was OK to hire people who were so socially inept as to be unemployable. (although Alan Turing came close at times!) Sorry if I gave that impression. I was attempting to argue that we were making it increasingly harder for a large chunk of perfectly normal people to engage in IT teamwork within offices. Many factors are conspiring to make it so. The architecture, general office conventions, and development methodologies. The development methodologies are requiring particularly keen social skills. This has required an increasing emphasis on 'soft' skills that are subjective and difficult to measure. It becomes a matter of opinion and, too often, prejudice. I believe that rejecting a suitably qualified person purely for reasons of 'cultural fit' were wrong. It is such a vague term that it could merely give a polite veneer to the prejudices of the company doing the recruiting. It worries me greatly that developers are becoming increasingly homogeneous, many departments are staffed almost entirely by twenty-something males. I wasn't always like that. We should accommodate our work practices to make sure that we don't exclude perfectly normal people from the workplace on the grounds that 'they wouldn't fit in'.

I once wrote
'the best development teams I’ve worked on embraced the whole gamut of humanity – a wild mix of cultures, sexuality, motivation, age and beliefs, spiced with maverick spirits and eccentrics. The result being that everyone was jolted out of their complacency, both professionally and personally, and learned to challenge assumptions rather than accept them.'
I still stand by that opinion.
https://www.simple-talk.com/opinion/opinion-pieces/two-stops-short-of-dagenham/



Best wishes,

Phil Factor
Simple Talk
Post #1499917
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 5:20 AM
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Like others, I've been slogging through IT for the better part of 25 years (I guess that kind of makes me ancient in the eyes of the younger crowd). I've done both programming and operations, though I am in love with programming. I've seen the industry go through all sorts of changes. I remember, back in the 90's, when people who were extremely technically competent, but who were, let's just say, socially challenged, were considered prima donnas, and management was on the warpath because these people were disruptors of the team.

The team has become the mantra for everything in business. I don't say it's wrong, but as Phil said, we need to be able to integrate everyone. So many times I've seen team spirit trump excellence, because a manager is too lazy to do his/her job. And before anyone decides to flame me (see, told you I was older) for relaying such un-PC concepts, I have been witness to the general dumbing down of teams.

As far as Agile/SCRUM methodology is concerned, as a programmer I find it to be disruptive of my thought processes. Just as you get into the serious coding zone, someone just has to make a joke (loudly), a manager comes in to give you the hearty what ho, a SCRUM meeting/preparation/retrospective comes along, etc... If these methodologies were properly driven, these interruptions would be minimized.

I really believe all these magic bullets are just another way for management to feel good about itself, without having to actually spend any money (i.e. closed areas where a coder can just think without interruption). Someone earlier mentioned how he was told to just put on earphones to block out the noise. If that isn't management-speak for our company is too cheap, I don't know what is. Time for companies to really put their money where their mouth is when they talk about their employees being their greatest asset.
Post #1499934
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 5:27 AM


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Phil Factor (9/30/2013)

I once wrote
'the best development teams I’ve worked on embraced the whole gamut of humanity – a wild mix of cultures, sexuality, motivation, age and beliefs, spiced with maverick spirits and eccentrics. The result being that everyone was jolted out of their complacency, both professionally and personally, and learned to challenge assumptions rather than accept them.'
I still stand by that opinion.


Now THAT I agree with... especially the complacency thing. Too often I find developers that just want to "get it off their plate". Too often I find developers that take no ownership of any given problem nor even ownership of their own code.

The phrase "maverick spirit" sometimes bothers me depending, of course, on how one defines the word "maverick". I absolutely love the "mavericks" that come up with different and, many times, better ways to do something. "Best practices" many times come about by some "maverick" testing for oolies. On the flip side of the coin, I absolutely hate "mavericks" that implement those things without discussion with the rest of the team or any practicle testing because they don't necessarily know the ramifications of their "improvement" as they also don't necessarily know the big picture.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Post #1499936
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 6:51 AM
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It seems to me that just because buzzwords start appearing on job descriptions doesn't mean that they are what determines who gets the job when push comes to shove.

The job description is the idealized vision on the candidate. You can't really read into it whether the hiring team will choose social skills over competence, or even whether they'll get a good read on either in the interview process. On the description they want both.

As for competence trumping cultural fit, there is a tradeoff there. It may depend on the specific role being sought (the bar for competence), but taking a poor cultural fit has more consequences than messing up your agile methodology. It can hurt retention of other competent employees, among other things.

Post #1499969
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 7:15 AM
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I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who hates open floor plans.

"No I don't want to shoot nerf guns with you, or hear you play guitar or practice on the putting green"

Glad I have a small, but quiet cubical away from that open floor plan stuff currently.
Post #1499989
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 7:32 AM
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Nice article. As a member of the public sector workforce, I am seeing that in our environment, more emphasis is being placed on communications and "Getting along with others" skills, and we are losing some of the technical skills. I remember the days when you would go up into the software developement section of the company and it felt like you walked into another world. Not anymore.

As a DBA, I want to come in and do my job, and not have to put on a happy face for the rest of the world. I have work to do, I am more productive if you let me just do it. I don't want to go to seminars where they bring in a motivational speaker to charge everyone up. You want to charge me up, check with me when I have just finished a project.

There are levels if I.T. that communication skills are probably more important, like a Helpdesk, or Customer Service office. But once the problem needs to be escalated past the Helpdesk, then we are talking about people that are going to serve you better if you just let them work on the problem. And there is where you want that technical ability, and can leave behind the people skills.
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