Why Can't We Code?

  • john.richter (6/8/2011)


    I agree--If they've done nothing, they've got no passion. This isn't easy work. If they don't like the puzzles and the problems, they're better off in Accounting or HR.

    Accounting has its own set of puzzles and problems, as does HR.

  • From my experience you need a nice assortment of skills and personalities. You need that guy that can code fast like the wind, even if the code does have flaws. You need the slow coder too, the one that takes forever but his code works perfectly in the end. You need the person that can figure out work-arounds for everything and the one that can design it all so you never need a work-around. In the end, do they work well in your environment and serve your needs. Only time will tell.

  • When presented with what appears to be an impossible challenge; more often than not it's because the task is misunderstood by the developer, the requirements have not been properly defined, or perhaps the ultimate goal itself is misguided and the organization should be focussing on a different set of problems.

    How would I move Mt. Fiji ?

    Give me a map, an eraser, and a pencil. I'll move Mt. Fuji whevever we need it. Once done, we can get back to solving real IT problems.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • If it's so easy create things for your portfolio and history of work, why can't you just perform some of the tasks required for the job during the interview? You hire a chef by watching them cook. They either cook good tasting food (code) in a reasonable amount of time and act like they know their way around a kitchen (IDE) or they don't. They may have to ask where everything is and substitute ingredients, but they should be able to do that without a total meltdown.

  • Jeff Oresik (7/7/2015)


    If it's so easy create things for your portfolio and history of work, why can't you just perform some of the tasks required for the job during the interview? You hire a chef by watching them cook. They either cook good tasting food (code) in a reasonable amount of time and act like they know their way around a kitchen (IDE) or they don't. They may have to ask where everything is and substitute ingredients, but they should be able to do that without a total meltdown.

    Sometimes I present the candidate with a scenario where there is Customer and CustomerContact table, and I ask them to write on the white board a SQL query that returns last three calls made within a specific month. Basically this would be a simple join with group by and having clause, or it could leverage a windowing function. It's typical of the type of SQL coding that we do in our department, and it's simple enough that someone proficient with SQL can easily understand the task and write it out in under a minute. If they get the SQL coding part right, then I may follow up by asking them what index on the CustomerContact table would best optimize the query they just wrote.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Revenant (6/8/2011)


    Michael Valentine Jones (6/8/2011)


    . . . My experience is that people that are good programmers in one langage are good programmers in other languages. . . .

    Being a crack closse-to-the-metal C++ programmer is a significant obstacle to mastering Prologic or Forth. That might be an extreme example; however, I have to deal daily with programmers who are highly experienced but are unable to switch between C# and T-SQL mindsets. (Although they of course think they are masters of both.)

    Maybe I'm crazy, but I sort of agree with both of you.

    I've known people who were crack close-to-the-metal assemly language programmers who became crack functional programmers followed that up with becoming crack database programmers, so I know that some very good programmers don't have a serious problem with switching between programming paradigms. But I've also observed good C/C++ programmers who couldn't get their heads around Prolog or Hope or ML, so I know some good people can't cope with a paradigm switch.

    I think it was at least partly an overspecialization thing - people who had done just one procedural language (usually one of C, C++, or Java) for more than a decade generally couldn't learn to write decent code in anything but a procedural language (so no query language, no logic language, no functional language, no process language) and were not terribly good at even any procedural language other than their first one. Specialize too much and you risk not being able to break out. Refrain from overspecialization and you'll be able to pick up new languages involving new programming paradigms without any trouble. And of course people with decent CS or Maths degrees are likely to have learnt both recursive function theory and lambda calculus and maybe even a decent amount of mathematical logic and set theory, so they should have no difficulties either.

    Tom

  • Evil Kraig F (6/8/2011)


    Revenant (6/8/2011)


    Craig Farrell (6/8/2011)


    The only thing a previous employer must disclose is your existance at having worked at a firm and your hiring/leaving dates. That's it. Anything else is gratis.

    This should vary by the state, shouldn't it? (Not that I like legal aspects of any hiring, anywhere any any time, I am leaving that gladly to the others.)

    I'd need to re-confirm with HR/Legal departments, but afaik, no. That's the federal guideline (US).

    In the UK too - I don't think it's a matter of law, but it's certainly normal practise.

    The thing is that our libel/defamation laws are quite loony (especially with lawyers operating for claimants on a no win-> no fee basis) so it's rather dangerous to give a bad reference (except in extreme cases of dismissal for misconduct like sexual assault on another employee or assaulting a customer); then if you have a reputation for giving good references when appropriate it's clear that when you refuse to give anything but employment dates it's because the candidate isn't worth a good reference, so that amounts to a (non-extreme) bad reference - so you can't safely give good references either, unless you're going to give exery who wasn't dismissed for gross misconduct a good reference.

    One possible solution is to make providing a written "to whom it may concern" reference at the time the employment ends, and stating that all you will do subsequently is confirm or deny that something purporting to be (a copy of) that is genuine. Used to be common for some sorts of jobs, but I think it's pretty well not done at all these days.

    Tom

  • TomThomson - Monday, July 20, 2015 8:13 AM

    Craig Farrell (6/8/2011)


    The only thing a previous employer must disclose is your existance at having worked at a firm and your hiring/leaving dates. That's it. Anything else is gratis.

    In the UK too - I don't think it's a matter of law, but it's certainly normal practise...

    I have been informed that in the UK this is the law. I haven't checked it though just what I have been told. You must confirm employment initiation and termination dates. Everything else is optional.

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • I think that giving the simplest of tasks is the best way to interview someone. Ask them what they have done and what they would do if it was in the context of real work. The charlatans usually squirm at even the simplest of tasks and everyone else demonstrates that they have some technical competence and you get an insight into their working practices.

    This, for me, is the primary purpose of the FizzBuzz test. It is so easy in a 3GL as to be almost embarrassing, however, it can lead to enlightening discussions on input validation, exception handling, error handling, coding standards, documentation, unit testing and so on.

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • Mount Fuji? ...it is constantly moving!!!

    It's just a question of perspective. Compared to the Solar System (or larger celestial view) it is moving. From an Earth's perspective, the tectonic plates are in a constant flux (just VERY slowly).

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • Gary Varga - Monday, February 13, 2017 2:29 AM

    TomThomson - Monday, July 20, 2015 8:13 AM

    Craig Farrell (6/8/2011)


    The only thing a previous employer must disclose is your existance at having worked at a firm and your hiring/leaving dates. That's it. Anything else is gratis.

    In the UK too - I don't think it's a matter of law, but it's certainly normal practise...

    I have been informed that in the UK this is the law. I haven't checked it though just what I have been told. You must confirm employment initiation and termination dates. Everything else is optional.

    Maybe it is law now.  In fact when I said 30 months ago that I didnt think it was I assumig there had been no change since the last time I had to find out what teh law on this was.  The last time it fell to me to provided the employer's reference for someone was way back in 2001 I ended up giving a purely factual reference, just the employment dates plus the fact that the end of employment with us was at the company's initiative, not the former employee's, - didn't state the reason for termination. That was as far as the personnel director and the CEO and I thought I could go without getting us sued.   Our personnal director told me I didn't actually have to reply to the request for a reference in that case, because although there had been talk of changing the law to create an obligation to supply employment dates it had so far gotten exactly nowhere; but in that particular case I thought I should reply (I and my direct reports had spent a lot of time trying to find a way to keep the person concerned, but nothing we attempted got one single jot of competent work out of them and they didn't even appear to be trying, so the end result was that I terminated his employment with us).

    Tom

  • TomThomson - Monday, February 13, 2017 12:02 PM

    Gary Varga - Monday, February 13, 2017 2:29 AM

    TomThomson - Monday, July 20, 2015 8:13 AM

    Craig Farrell (6/8/2011)


    The only thing a previous employer must disclose is your existance at having worked at a firm and your hiring/leaving dates. That's it. Anything else is gratis.

    In the UK too - I don't think it's a matter of law, but it's certainly normal practise...

    I have been informed that in the UK this is the law. I haven't checked it though just what I have been told. You must confirm employment initiation and termination dates. Everything else is optional.

    Maybe it is law now.  In fact when I said 30 months ago that I didnt think it was I assumig there had been no change since the last time I had to find out what teh law on this was.  The last time it fell to me to provided the employer's reference for someone was way back in 2001 I ended up giving a purely factual reference, just the employment dates plus the fact that the end of employment with us was at the company's initiative, not the former employee's, - didn't state the reason for termination. That was as far as the personnel director and the CEO and I thought I could go without getting us sued.   Our personnal director told me I didn't actually have to reply to the request for a reference in that case, because although there had been talk of changing the law to create an obligation to supply employment dates it had so far gotten exactly nowhere; but in that particular case I thought I should reply (I and my direct reports had spent a lot of time trying to find a way to keep the person concerned, but nothing we attempted got one single jot of competent work out of them and they didn't even appear to be trying, so the end result was that I terminated his employment with us).

    It is frustrating when that happens. Doubly so when colleagues and bosses put more effort into someone's work than themselves.

    BTW Everyone, if you need to know what your obligations are in the UK please find out. It sounds like Tom and myself are both repeating what we have been told by non-experts (although Tom's colleague might have been speaking from a position of knowledge - I just don't know). If in doubt call the Citizen's Advice Bureau. Don't blindly follow hearsay. Thanks.

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • Gary Varga - Tuesday, February 14, 2017 1:18 AM

    TomThomson - Monday, February 13, 2017 12:02 PM

    Gary Varga - Monday, February 13, 2017 2:29 AM

    TomThomson - Monday, July 20, 2015 8:13 AM

    Craig Farrell (6/8/2011)


    The only thing a previous employer must disclose is your existance at having worked at a firm and your hiring/leaving dates. That's it. Anything else is gratis.

    In the UK too - I don't think it's a matter of law, but it's certainly normal practise...

    I have been informed that in the UK this is the law. I haven't checked it though just what I have been told. You must confirm employment initiation and termination dates. Everything else is optional.

    Maybe it is law now.  In fact when I said 30 months ago that I didnt think it was I assumig there had been no change since the last time I had to find out what teh law on this was.  The last time it fell to me to provided the employer's reference for someone was way back in 2001 I ended up giving a purely factual reference, just the employment dates plus the fact that the end of employment with us was at the company's initiative, not the former employee's, - didn't state the reason for termination. That was as far as the personnel director and the CEO and I thought I could go without getting us sued.   Our personnal director told me I didn't actually have to reply to the request for a reference in that case, because although there had been talk of changing the law to create an obligation to supply employment dates it had so far gotten exactly nowhere; but in that particular case I thought I should reply (I and my direct reports had spent a lot of time trying to find a way to keep the person concerned, but nothing we attempted got one single jot of competent work out of them and they didn't even appear to be trying, so the end result was that I terminated his employment with us).

    It is frustrating when that happens. Doubly so when colleagues and bosses put more effort into someone's work than themselves.

    BTW Everyone, if you need to know what your obligations are in the UK please find out. It sounds like Tom and myself are both repeating what we have been told by non-experts (although Tom's colleague might have been speaking from a position of knowledge - I just don't know). If in doubt call the Citizen's Advice Bureau. Don't blindly follow hearsay. Thanks.

    Any reference that you are not willing to give in a court of law should not be made. This is personal reference as well as work reference and doesn't matter whether its given in writing, by telephone or by Linked in.

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