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Benjamin is an independent agile consultant and developer from London, currently working on Devops related projects in the banking and finance industry. He is the maintainer of the DevOps Friday mailing list ( Ben is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 14 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

On Developer Hiring: The Elephant In The Room

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The software industry is obsessed with hiring. Every week we get new articles on the topic on how to snag those mythical 10x developers.

The elephant in the room is that most developers can do most corporate jobs, so perhaps hiring is just not as important as we give it credit for?

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate what a great developer can do, and have worked with them in the past. In certain contexts, these guys can do great things – deliver high quality code in volume that delivers tons of value for the business.

The issue is that a lot of the work we do simply doesn’t require superstar developers. If you are working on some CRUD app or moving messages around then there’s somewhat limited scope for a great developer to apply their talents.  She is then effectively operating at the same standard as their peers.

Even where innovation and high quality code can really benefit the organization, many organizations place a limit on how far the talented developer can go. Be it politics or process, both conspire to slow down the developer and prevent him from operating at full capacity of his talents.

The net result is that even average developers can get by OK in the typical software job, and that the talents of the 10x developer go to waste in the typical organisation.  The range at which we developers all operate is normalised.

When the right developer comes together with the right organisation it can be magic, but I do think that we focus too much on hiring, rather than say solving some of the above organisation problems which could help your existing developers reach their full potential.

Published at DZone with permission of Ben Wootton, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Lund Wolfe replied on Sun, 2013/09/29 - 2:31pm

I agree that most developers are good enough for most jobs, but there are plenty of projects where the developers are in over their heads.

The project, now in maintenance, needs a highly talented developer(s) to both fix/enhance and make it more maintainable.  It is highly likely that the original design/codebase caused the project to get into this state in the first place, and in 20/20 hindsight the talent should have been hired up front.

In practice, of course, talent is rare and hard to find, identify, hire, and retain.  Software development is needed today and businesses have to do the best they can with what they've got or can get in short order.

Developer Dude replied on Mon, 2013/09/30 - 7:45pm

OTOH, I have personally witnessed that there seems to be no limit to how stupidly complex, wrong and hard a -10X developer can make code. Having a good (if not great) developer is necessary even for simple straight forward business apps.

In fact, I am not so sure of the concept of 10x developers. I have worked with/for developers who were smarter and better than I am, but 10 times better? No - not really. Maybe twice as good. I learned from them and I was happy to work with them, but they weren't 10 times better.

But I *have* worked with developers who were 10 times worse than I was - and it isn't that I am ten times better than average (I consider myself average) - it is that I have seen inexperienced devs come right out of college with no experience that write better code than these -10X developers.

Lund Wolfe replied on Mon, 2013/10/07 - 4:00am in response to: Developer Dude

That's a scary thought.  If it's true, then our whole notion of the average developer may be completely wrong.  -10x developers may be barely functional but actually do more harm than good.  Intelligence is unbounded at both ends of the scale.

Maybe there are as many -10x developers as "average" developers and our goal should really be to make sure we avoid the -10x developers.

Maybe our standard of "good enough" is short sighted.  I have also seen too many complex monstrosities that should have been quite simple (based on simple requirements and simple concept).  Unfortunately, "simple" is a relative term.

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