Competence trumps a good cultural fit

  • Phil Factor

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 20064

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Competence trumps a good cultural fit

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor
    Simple Talk

  • JChwaszczewski

    Grasshopper

    Points: 18

    Thanks for the perspective. I'm a developer in his 50's and have had the good fortune to work in smaller environments that better suited my particular personality. I'm good with people about 50% of the time. After that I need to work alone. As our team has grown I've struggled with the increased communication, meetings and other "social obligations". I've done some searching recently and see the position requirements you've mentioned. I endeavor to be a strong and competent technician.

  • oopsieee

    Valued Member

    Points: 70

    Thank you for writing this editorial. You have reaffirmed what I have been seeing happen to the job that I so dearly loved for so many years.

    Being productive is so difficult in the "open concept, collaborative" work environments. "Just wear headphones" is the response from the management when the fellow next to you sings aloud and announces (loudly) his receipt of every email throughout the day. Hours of focus and concentration go down the drain with each new interruption...

    I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way.

  • bazmunro

    SSC Journeyman

    Points: 83

    Born on 1945.

    Never worked for a company or in a team.

    Been writing thick Windows code for 36+ years as well as web stuff for 15+ and still filling needs.

    Survived the procedural to OOPS change up and loving it.

    My work periods have totem poles of coffee cups and shredded bits of notes everywhere.

    Could I handle working in offices and cubicles to do the same for any amount of dollars? No way. I've seen too many fall, too many intuitives leave the craft because of team weirdness.

    One lone person can change a world - their own world.

  • Julie Breutzmann

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3607

    I agree up to a point. A minimum level of social skills are necessary. When a colleague of mine told the wife of a vice president that she was stupid, did it in front of her subordinates, and couldn't understand why that was a problem, he just did not have acceptable social skills to remain employed there.

  • j_e_o

    SSC Eights!

    Points: 959

    I have good leadership and communication skills, but I realize that to create great software requires excellent technical abilities, good requirements and domain knowledge.

    My colleagues thank me when I help them solve problems, not because I lead the scrum retrospective (the management types get all gushy though...would be nice if I didn't see right through that).

    Oh yeah, I hate the gazzillion developers in one office approach as well...very distracting.

    Enough said.

  • Dalkeith

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3684

    Programming is one of the few disciplines were the ability of the individual can outweigh the ability of an army of individuals.

    As long as that individual is not down right evil I would make attempts to accommodate.

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104773

    Come on, Phil, there was no reason to hit Agile quite that hard; after all, anyone who understands development knows that Agile is vacuous anyway, just a silly misunderstanding of principle of economy of effort wrapped up with a little pseudo-psychological lunatic sociology jargon to convince people that it's useful do it faster by not bothering to try to do it right, and people who aren't bright enough to understand development aren't bright enough to understand your editorial either.

    It was great to read - so cheering to see that someone is still batting for technical ability against the fitting face; but I hope that the days of the misfit are not over. Misfits cause change; since our systems are not perfect we need change; so lets have more misfits. It's probably a forlorn hope: in the early 2000s I and my people wasted time skimming hordes of irrelevant CVs because recruitment agencies were incapable of understanding that a developer doesn't become competent by churning out the same old muck year after year and never getting out of step with the organisation, but by doing new and different things so that he or she can find out what works best and what doesn't, and people who want to do new and different things - well, they won't fit in socially, will they, because they will argue about being required to do what they are told without being able to question anything.

    edit: I perhaps shouldn't be so nasty about agile. If divorced from the idea that someone must have the right social habits in orer to participate, and done right instead of sloppily, it might even make sense; it wouldnt then be much different from doing the minimal viable amount at each stage, which of course was a well understood design, development, validation, and release method long before the name "agile" was invented - sufficiently well understood that, unlike many brands of snake oil, it wasn't hyped as a panacea.

    Tom

  • Jim P.

    SSCrazy Eights

    Points: 8725

    I can't stand end-users. I can work with most IT people.

    But there is a point where I don't care about the muck someone else put together. And I'm more than willing to state it.

    But the agile just doesn't work.

    Hear, hear Phil!!



    ----------------
    Jim P.

    A little bit of this and a little byte of that can cause bloatware.

  • bmcgirr

    Grasshopper

    Points: 11

    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.

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 996651

    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.
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not".
    "If "pre-optimization" is the root of all evil, then what does the resulting no optimization lead to?"

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • TomThomson

    SSC Guru

    Points: 104773

    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

  • Jeff Moden

    SSC Guru

    Points: 996651

    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.
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not".
    "If "pre-optimization" is the root of all evil, then what does the resulting no optimization lead to?"

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • P Jones

    SSChampion

    Points: 12327

    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.

  • Phil Factor

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 20064

    @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

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