Steve Jones - SSC Editor (12/2/2013) djackson 22568 (12/2/2013)
Well before others start harping on your opinion, let me say that I think you nailed it. I hate listening to people claim that "people skills" are more important, that anyone can learn technical skills, which is just one example of the issue.
On the specific topic of Mongo DB, YouTube has a video that I thought was funny when I saw it some time ago...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URJeuxI7kHo
You're conflating two things. The fact that people skills are more important, which I believe, doesn't imply that you choose employees without technical skills or experience. It's just saying that if I get two experienced people, technical skills rank second in how I judge them. It's not that they don't count, but that I'll take slightly less technical experience over much better people skills. However, I can teach you some technical stuff if you don't know it. I can't teach you to learn how to work with others very easily.
If both are really close, I'd have to make some judgement call.
The problem comes in when you replace technical skills with people skills.
I think I recognize what you are saying about conflating two things. Unfortunately I had a few things come up while I was writing this, and couldn't spend as much time editing as I would have liked. I failed to convey that I was presenting an example.
You mentioned an issue where the developers didn't model things well. To me, that shows a lack of skill, although admittedly it can sometimes be due to other issues such as unreasonable time pressure, et cetera. When I point the finger at a lack of skills, bear in mind that the skills that are missing may be technical, but they are also frequently a lack of skills when it comes to proper planning. If we assume it was a skills issue, then we may look to blame the hiring process, or the training process, or even incomplete/inaccurate requirements being provided. There are a bunch of reasons, so in an effort to keep on target, let's assume it was either a skills issue, or not providing sufficient time to do proper modeling.
Given that assumption, my "insufficently documented example" above, was meant to convey my opinion that too many companies are abandoning the technical requirements in favor of soft skills. I think that is a big mistake. I understand that people skills are important - but to me, we should only look at people skills once we have a sufficient quantity of TECHNICALLY QUALIFIED applicants. My company recently did that, and chose a person with better soft skills after confirming he had the technical skills. Both met the technical requirements, one more than the other, but the one with lesser technical skills had far, far better people skills. I hear you saying that you agree it is fine to choose the person with better soft skills, as long as the tech skills are met.
I know of too many examples, though, where soft skills were looked at as the dominant criteria, and technical skills were pretty much excluded. Those hires either end up separating much sooner than necessary, or even worse, continuing employment at a substandard level of competence. The end result is higher costs. My opinion is that people hear someone say "people skills are more important" and they take that to mean there is no case where we should hire a person who isn't a superstar when it comes to people skills.
Lastly, in my experience in a number of fields and positions, I have found that far too often someone with "people skills" is really just someone who is a good salesman, and frequently they are able to sell themselves as being able to do a job that they are truly incompent at. Judging technical skills is relatively easy if you are willing to ask hard questions. Create a test that has easy, medium and hard questions, have some multiple choice, some essay, some code writing, whatever. It can be done in a way that allows you to find a group that appears to have what you need "technically". I know of no such reliable test for people skills, and IMO people skills are the easiest to fake.
So with respect to your opinion, I don't see myself swaying from my opinion that technical skills matter far more to me. I hope your opnion/method continues to deliver the results you have seen, just as I hope my choices do as well.