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Kristina Chodorow is a core contributor to MongoDB. She has written several O'Reilly books (MongoDB: The Definitive Guide, Scaling MongoDB, and 50 Tips and Tricks for MongoDB Developers) and has given talks at conferences around the world, including OSCON, FOSDEM, Latinoware, TEK·X, and YAPC. Her Twitter handle is @kchodorow. Kristina is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 52 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

The Professor, the Interviewer, and the Coworker

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I once interviewed a guy who was pretty good, but not a definite “yes-hire-him-now,” which was what 10gen was looking for. He was a bit careless and indifferent and I’ve noticed that when someone can’t keep their personality quirks down in an interview, they’re not going to suppress them once they’ve been hired. (Which is fine for many quirks: programmers are a quirky lot, but not some, e.g., constantly interrupting or getting angry about being disagreed with.)

A professor who knew both me and the interviewee was disappointed. The professor thought the student was the bee’s knees: they had been a brilliant student. He couldn’t believe 10gen would pass up such a great catch. I was sad to hear this: I really respected this professor’s opinion, so maybe we had passed on a great thing.

The tech scene in NYC is not that big and this guy went on to join my friend’s company. I was curious about whether I had made a mistake and asked my friend how the new guy was. He was brilliant, my friend said, no doubt about that. However, he didn’t really seem interested in the work and didn’t get much done. When he did program something, he wouldn’t test it, he just assumed it would work and left the “cleanup” of actually making it functional to his coworkers.

It’s interesting how different work is from school.

Published at DZone with permission of Kristina Chodorow, 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, 2013/10/13 - 5:35pm

It looks like your judgement was proven correct. Personality should be less important because we can adapt to such differences. I think it's best to be honest and yourself at the interview, WYSIWYG.  You should probably expect some maturity and professionalism, though.

The guy may be a genius but that doesn't mean he will be a valuable employee.  A good fit in both directions is important or neither of you will be happy and well utilized.  Your values should be somewhat aligned, too, or there will be more conflict/tension.

Maybe he's an ivory tower architect and should be used to do design to the interface level.  Even in school (at least in programming specific courses), your programs had to be basically functional, and any good developer finds satisfaction in seeing the end result working before moving on to the more concrete parts of the next challenging project.  It's also faster and easier for the original developer to finish/test/fix his own code, regardless of how well designed and coded it may be.

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