Identifying A Great Programmer

The most complex problem that every company faces is the human one. The process of finding the right person varies widely. The goal, however, is simply to find talent.

Most talented programmers that I know look something like this.

  1. Devoted - This person spends time in and out of a work environment honing their craft. An example would be working on a tech project with friends in their free time or maintaining an open source project.

  2. Driven - This person does not ask "if" the problem can be solved. They are thinking of the most elegant way to solve it. This person needs little to no guidance.

  3. Humble - Development, more than not, involves a team. The ability to admit you broke something, that your idea is not the best, to be told you need to refactor code, or to compromise are common occurrences. All require a level of humility.

  4. Standards - This person has their own measure of quality that they hold themselves to. Whether that is unit tests, coding style, formatting, commenting, or a combination of them all. Mature developers are well aware of their ability to err and that their code will eventually be maintained by someone else.

The fifth point is implied in the previous four. I doubt that you will find someone with the qualities that isn't passionate about their work. This is a great programmer.

I want you to notice that didn't write down a single acronym or degree. Aptitude is worth far more than education. I work with a lot self taught programmers that are awesome. Education merely determines where you can start. It has nothing to do with where you will go.

Education can even get in the way. Stay clear of the candidate who knows everything and needs to tell everyone about it. Rarely does there output in terms of code outweigh their opinions.

Education has its place. I am grateful for mine. In many ways what I gained put me ahead of the game. But going to a university is not a must.

I also want to point that you may find someone with these qualities that may NOT be great. What you need to understand is the that they will get there. Investing in them with pay off big time.

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