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Aptitude

You mentioned aptitude briefly in this article*, defining an aptitude-related task that only certain people are able to do.

What is this elusive aptitude to you? Is it important? How can you measure it? Presumably aptitude correlates strongly with Being Smart. How can I as a mere undergrad build my "Being Smart"-ness?

* http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000073.html

Ralph Lee
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

See, that's the trouble: you can't.

My ideal in doing an interview is to find out what a person's true underlying potential is. I don't care what skills they've learned, since I may not need the same skills as they have, and I will almost certainly need them to learn something new, at some point in their career, if not on the first day.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

In my opinion, you CAN build your smartness.

Work on interesting problems, and you will become a bit smarter and wiser every day.

Keep pushing your limits every day.

MX
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

What about seeing a timeline of the person's projects and code?  In a rough sense, you can see how their feature:code ratio improves over time (plus you can probably get a rough idea of how much of a liability their code will be).

My advice would be to work on as many and as diverse projects as possible (if you are starting from a position of very little experience), and work hard at synthesizing the common elements of all of them.

When I interviewed for my first job, nobody cared much about my game programming experience (although they liked the b-spline surface animations), but it came in handy when I designed a program to handle our advertising campaign purchase and analysis work.  Just before I left, the head programmer told me that he thought my having that other experience was a great asset, and that he'd put a premium on that sort of thing when he interviewed the next guy.

K
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I have a lot of wasted potential... can you measure that also?

GuyIncognito
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Come in drunk; that'll show 'em your wasted potential.

K
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

>> My ideal in doing an interview is to find out what a person's true underlying potential is. <<

It sounds like you're hiring caterpillars hoping you'll eventually get butterflies.  I don't think that's the most productive approach to hiring.  Seems to me that most caterpillars wind up as bird food, not as butterflies.  I believe in looking at what the candidate has done recently and can do now.  Trying to predict what they'll be able to do in the future is an exercise better left to people with lots of time to waste.

Jim Grinsfelder
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

There is no universal rule for hiring. Hiring people based on what they did before may make sense in a big organisation with 5 years projects and a specialised workforce. But usually small business owners don't run 5 years projects with hundreds of people with lots of experience in narrow fields. They need adaptive people with a good brain because frankly they don't know what they'll do two years from now.

Saying what you'd do without context is pointless.

lionel
Thursday, February 26, 2004

About hiring people...

I am a (oxymoron alert!) software manager. I have hired a few dozen programmers over the years. An old boss told me: Hire bright and educated people, yes, BUT hire based on personality. You can teach someone (C++, C#, Python etc) but you can't teach them how to be kind and so forth.

It has been good advice. I have come to the conclusion that any technical skill can be learned but if Momma and Daddy did not teach them to play well with others, even if they are a software god, no one could stand to work with them.

Beyond that, hiring based on their friendliness and human side works welll with the customers that are paying for all of it.

Just my opinion.

michael christopher
Thursday, February 26, 2004

"""
I have come to the conclusion that any technical skill can be learned but if Momma and Daddy did not teach them to play well with others, even if they are a software god, no one could stand to work with them.
"""

I disagree:  there are two people on my team that are [mostly] friendly, but in the end, I couldn't care less because they don't seem to care for code quality and guess who has to fix up their mess...  Yes, they can write code, but barely.

On Joel's scale, I would say those two people "get things done", but aren't "smart", at least not when it comes to writing maintainable code, following development procedures/standards or learning new things.

I'd rather be anonymous, thanks.
Thursday, February 26, 2004

On the other hand, we have a brilliant guy who works from home rather than come two miles into the office because he doesn't like people. The office is in a suburban setting so traffic is not an issue.

He writes great stuff but has to be managed quite carefully and eventually pisses off everyone he works with directly.

If he wasn't as talented technically, his inept social skills would doom him

pdq
Thursday, February 26, 2004

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