I have recently been on a lot of interviews. When I say “a lot” I mean something like 15 a week for a few weeks (after I weeded out the dregs via phone and I bet Verizon Wireless now wants to have my baby in appreciation). My marathon interview sessions are now over but they made me think of a few things.
- Small companies are much more fun than larger, established companies
I have done a lot of work with New York City and financial companies. Not to imply that there are not cool people working at these places but the red tape and fear of management sends the message that no one can do things as they know they should be done. Instead employees often opt for “the old way” simply because it will make the fewest waves. If we do not innovate we will never have anything innovative. Perhaps the business of money does not change much from day to day but how we store data relating to money? Priceless.
- People love wacky projects
I have written a few things about projects that I did for the sole enjoyment of it. Because of the fact that someone told me I could not, I set out to prove my theory that they were wrong, wrong, wrong. One such project was my crazy RAID array. As I admitted in the article, it serves no practical purpose. It helps no one (except teenage boys hiding their porn collections) but it was just cool. I enjoyed working on it and the people I have shown it to loved looking at it. They love them because it proves I am not just a pretty face– artistic license– but that I can create new, creative methods which they can use. Depending on the project the wow factor alone may be worth an idea man (read: manager of some kind).
- College is a waste of money
Yes, yes, this is the dirty secret no one wants to admit after they wasted ~four+ years of their lives. The fact of the matter is that years ago when my parents were getting ready for their live in the American work force college looked great on paper. It set them apart from their peers because not everyone had the chance to attend. Here we are in 2011 and the government has social programs up the whazoo. These programs sound great when you are deciding who to vote for until you realize, “hey… if everyone goes to college now I am getting deep into debt and spending years of my life just to break even?” It may not make me popular among parents but I say go for the experience with something to show for it right away (no, a degree is not proof of anything other than you can sit down and shut up so stop asking).
- New college graduates do not know anything
To my last point, theory is great. Theory allows us to stand on the shoulders of giants, build on their work, and gives us a spring board to jump off of. Of course, what you can do with theory is just that. There is nothing you can not learn on your own with an Internet connection and a tiny amount of spare time here and there. I just came across a great article which explains my point very well and argues that the new college graduate that looks great on paper has not really done anything yet. They do not yet understand that the several kinds of sort algorithms they just learned do not matter nearly as much as the ability to write understandable code. Every problem is going to look like a nail to them since their lack of experience only gives them a hammer.
- Smart employers will fight over talent
I do not mean to imply I am smarter than most. What I mean is that penny-wise equals pound-foolish. If you find someone you love but choose not to hire because they are $5,000 a year more then someone you just like you may be screwing yourself in the long run. This would need to be decided on a case-by-case basis but good talent pays for itself. Bad– or no– talent means unmanageable code that needs to be rewritten down the road. This also speaks to my experience point above: Some of us are more expensive because you get more employee for the price. If you are a small company who can not afford to hire specialised people that programmer with the strong storage background is going to come in handy when you need to upgrade your NAS array at the extra cost. Good people are called such for a reason.
For the record New York City had some of the best people I have ever worked with, bar none. They knew their stuff, they were down-to-Earth, and they were loyal and hard working. Anyone would be so lucky to have any of them.