The number one developer qualification: Can build from scratch

Posted by Andy Singleton on Nov 8, 2007 6:24:00 PM

We received this comment today from a candidate developer: "I'm not interested in build from scratch apps".  That candidacy didn't go very far, because in my world, an ability and an inclination to design and build a software application, by yourself, from scratch, is the single best indicator of success.

If I ask a candidate "have you ever designed and built a piece of software by yourself", and they respond enthusiastically with a description of the project, then it is very likely they will succeed in a trial.  If not, then there is some probability that they lack the ability to design software.  However, it is almost certain that they lack the creative joy that comes from laying down whatever kind of code you want to lay down, and the rush that comes from conjuring something out of formless bits.

Sometimes I see resumes (often from India) that show a developer has worked for years on a series of team projects that involve five or ten team members.  In this case, you often have to go back to some college project to dig up the evidence.  If you find an individual, from scratch project that the candidate is excited about, no matter how old, that is a good sign.  If not, the probability is very small that the candidate will succeed in a distributed team trial.  You might think that being a good team player is a valuable skill, and it is.  It's a great addition to a foundation of development talent.  It might even be a requirement for enterprise work.  But, it can't compensate for a lack of development talent and enthusiasm.

People who like making software, and are good at making software, will do it.  They will do it on their own because they want to make something.

Topics: staffing

Written by Andy Singleton

Working on Continuous Agile and Accelerating Innovation, Assembla CEO and startup founder

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