Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

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Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Parsifal » Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:19 pm UTC

http://developers.slashdot.org/story/09/10/11/2028249/Ted-Dziuba-Says-I-Dont-Code-In-My-Free-Time

Personally I don't think it necessarily matters, although people who have significant side projects are often have much better portfolios. Someone who reads math books for fun, does martial arts or plays go at an advanced level may be just a intelligent, motivated or good at problem solving, but it probably won't come off as well in an interview as a polished open source project.

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Xanthir » Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:31 pm UTC

Anything you don't do in your free time is just a job. It's possible to be good at things that are just a job, but it's much more likely that someone who truly enjoys what they're doing will be better.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby spudtheimpaler » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:06 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:Anything you don't do in your free time is just a job. It's possible to be good at things that are just a job, but it's much more likely that someone who truly enjoys what they're doing will be better.


I don't disagree with the logic, but equally if you code 8 hours a day at work, and then go home and code some more, well thats a lot of hours and a lot of days doing one thing. If I were hiring, I'd rather someone who had examples of going out and being a well rounded social creature, rather than a hermit coder. I'm a developer for a living, but I sure as hell don't spend all my hours developing. (Equally I do spend a few hours every so often on my own little bits, but thats more like once a fortnight than every night.)

As an aside, I'm not sure that someone who codes on their own of an evening will necessarily be a better team coder, due to lack of constraints on best practices and code reviews etc. Can pretty much code however the hell you want...
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby gorcee » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:38 pm UTC

Watch Hell's Kitchen. After dinner service, the contestants go back to their dorms and eat... ice cream, frozen pot pies, microwave dinners. Anything that doesn't require them to cook. These are people that can make a mean that customers willingly pay $80 for, but they don't go home and cook.

Keep your hobbies and your work separate, otherwise you'll start to look at your hobbies as work and your work as hobbies, and that's a good way to burn out quickly or become a miserable person.

I'd hire anyone qualified for the job, but given two equivalent applicants, I'd hire the guy that goes home and doesn't do work-related things for fun.

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Xanthir » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:55 pm UTC

spudtheimpaler wrote:
Xanthir wrote:Anything you don't do in your free time is just a job. It's possible to be good at things that are just a job, but it's much more likely that someone who truly enjoys what they're doing will be better.


I don't disagree with the logic, but equally if you code 8 hours a day at work, and then go home and code some more, well thats a lot of hours and a lot of days doing one thing. If I were hiring, I'd rather someone who had examples of going out and being a well rounded social creature, rather than a hermit coder. I'm a developer for a living, but I sure as hell don't spend all my hours developing. (Equally I do spend a few hours every so often on my own little bits, but thats more like once a fortnight than every night.)[/code]
Right, I never meant to imply that the *only* thing you should do in your free time is code. Just that it's bad if you're never coding at all in your free time.

As an aside, I'm not sure that someone who codes on their own of an evening will necessarily be a better team coder, due to lack of constraints on best practices and code reviews etc. Can pretty much code however the hell you want...

True, but such independent coding also gives the opportunity to expand your horizons. I do a lot of exploratory coding on my own that I wouldn't do at work, but after I've gotten used to some pattern I may migrate it back into my work coding.

gorcee wrote:Watch Hell's Kitchen. After dinner service, the contestants go back to their dorms and eat... ice cream, frozen pot pies, microwave dinners. Anything that doesn't require them to cook. These are people that can make a mean that customers willingly pay $80 for, but they don't go home and cook.

To be fair, they just got off the set of Hell's Kitchen. *I* wouldn't want to touch code if I just got off the comp-sci equivalent of that show. I'd go home and veg and relax.

I would be *very* concerned about a top chef who doesn't cook when they get home, at least some of the time.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby stephentyrone » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:58 pm UTC

I'd hire someone who does something seriously in their free time over someone who doesn't. I don't care if it's coding, knitting, archery, plotting to overthrow the government, whatever. I want people who are can take a project and run with it. (well, maybe not if they're going to overthrow the government, but you know what I mean).
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby 0xBADFEED » Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:08 pm UTC

gorcee wrote:Watch Hell's Kitchen. After dinner service, the contestants go back to their dorms and eat... ice cream, frozen pot pies, microwave dinners. Anything that doesn't require them to cook. These are people that can make a mean that customers willingly pay $80 for, but they don't go home and cook.

That's a terrible example (or maybe a great counter-example for the point you're trying to make).

They purposely select the dregs of the dregs as contestants on that show. The contestants in "Hell's Kitchen" are largely incompetent. And that's the point. Any competent chef could bang those meals out, complete a whole dinner service at an acceptable level of quality, and not be fazed one bit. But that wouldn't make for a very interesting show, as Ramsey wouldn't have anyone to berate. Contrast the wastes of space on "Hell's Kitchen" to the contestants on a show like "Top Chef". The contestants on "Top Chef" regularly cook gourmet meals for large groups of people by themselves. Not only that, they set the entire menu while the "Hell's Kitchen" schmoes are just cooking a menu that has already been prepared for them. I guarantee you the "Top Chef" contestants spend tons of their free time inventing and playing with new dishes at home. They have a genuine love for food and really enjoy creating new dishes. I'm not saying this is necessary to be a competent chef, but I think it's unavoidable if you want to be a world-class chef at a top restaurant.

The "Hell's Kitchen" contestants are food-monkeys the "Top Chef" contestants are professionals.

Now as for programming, it doesn't make huge deal of difference to me. I will hire someone if they appear to be competent and it seems like they can do the work effectively. What they do on their own time is their business. However, having a genuine interest and pursuing programming/software in your free time may score some brownie points. It's an indicator that the work is enjoyable for you on more than just an "it pays the bills" level and that you have a commitment to constantly improving your skills.

Given two equally viable candidates, one that programs as a hobby in their spare time, and one that doesn't, I would probably pick the one that spends some of their spare time on programming/software.

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby spudtheimpaler » Mon Oct 12, 2009 4:29 pm UTC

It's worth noting that there is a lot more to professional software development than code as well. I read tons of articles and even a few dead tree books - where such things require a dabble with some code then I give it a play. That said, I wouldn't consider myself as someone who codes at home, at least in the context of this discussion.

Giving the whole idea a second breath's worth of thought, I think there are people who enjoy coding and what have you, but also people who are all about the code. There is so much more in a professional context that whilst I think these people may be good coders, the 5% better code doesn't necessarily make up for all the other stuff they might lack. Coding once in a while at home is certainly an advantage, but someone who has little time for anything else at home will have little time for anything else in the office.

Of course, the world is full of all the wonderful shades of grey, and what goes for the dev team in a bank probably isn't the same as in microsoft. (Did you know that HSBC employs more developers than Microsoft? I'm sure I can't get in trouble for repeating that :|)
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby You, sir, name? » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:56 pm UTC

I think it boils down to what you do in your work time. If you work with coding (or study c-sci, or something coding related), and come home only to spend all your spare time programming, that's probably not healthy. If you work in a non-coding related job, or study something that isn't coding-related, and come home to spend several hours programming, it just means you enjoy programming.

If I wasn't studying physics, I probably would not code as much in my spare time as I do. But as it stands, I get a pent up programming need that what I do for a living does not satisfy, so I have to do it in my spare time.

But in the end, this is yet another form of corporate astrology. It's never made sense, and it likely never will.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby stephentyrone » Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:12 pm UTC

But in the end, this is yet another form of corporate astrology. It's never made sense, and it likely never will.


That's why all hiring decisions should be based in the hard science of Phrenology.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby You, sir, name? » Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:29 pm UTC

stephentyrone wrote:
But in the end, this is yet another form of corporate astrology. It's never made sense, and it likely never will.


That's why all hiring decisions should be based in the hard science of Phrenology.


It wouldn't be out of place, given that qualities are currently being attributed to hair style, body size, accent, handwriting, posture, etc.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby '; DROP DATABASE;-- » Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:19 pm UTC

spudtheimpaler wrote:I don't disagree with the logic, but equally if you code 8 hours a day at work, and then go home and code some more, well thats a lot of hours and a lot of days doing one thing. If I were hiring, I'd rather someone who had examples of going out and being a well rounded social creature, rather than a hermit coder. I'm a developer for a living, but I sure as hell don't spend all my hours developing. (Equally I do spend a few hours every so often on my own little bits, but thats more like once a fortnight than every night.)
Those are kind of extreme cases. Someone who has no social life because they code all the time vs someone who never codes outside of work. You can balance the two, especially when we have so many forms of online communication.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby 0xBADFEED » Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:42 pm UTC

'; DROP DATABASE;-- wrote:Those are kind of extreme cases. Someone who has no social life because they code all the time vs someone who never codes outside of work. You can balance the two, especially when we have so many forms of online communication.

This is definitely true. I personally don't really write a whole lot of code or work on any big projects outside of work. Rather, I dabble and work on little ideas that I have that I think are cool. I don't really have enough time (or energy) to commit to large projects. I spend a lot more time reading about coding and other software topics outside of work than I do actually coding.

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby spudtheimpaler » Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:27 am UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:
'; DROP DATABASE;-- wrote:Those are kind of extreme cases. Someone who has no social life because they code all the time vs someone who never codes outside of work. You can balance the two, especially when we have so many forms of online communication.

This is definitely true. I personally don't really write a whole lot of code or work on any big projects outside of work. Rather, I dabble and work on little ideas that I have that I think are cool. I don't really have enough time (or energy) to commit to large projects. I spend a lot more time reading about coding and other software topics outside of work than I do actually coding.

I also agree completely - I was kinda hoping I had made that point. Coding at home once in a while and reading around your subject is to be hunted out as a recruiter. In the context of this conversation though, I wouldn't consider that the "coding at home" stereotype. Obviously I/we are just falling down on the definition of home coding :)

So, the question could be asked: How much is too much?
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby OOPMan » Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:32 am UTC

I don't code in my free time, although not because I don't want to. I do have some personal projects I'd like to put more time on but I don't actually have a usable computer at home so I spend my free time doing other more relaxing things (Skateboarding, Reading, etc :-)

Still, even if I did have a usable system at home I wouldn't let it cut into my de-stressing time. After a hard day the last thing I really want to do is stare at a screen for a few more hours.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Berengal » Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:29 pm UTC

OOPMan wrote:Still, even if I did have a usable system at home I wouldn't let it cut into my de-stressing time. After a hard day the last thing I really want to do is stare at a screen for a few more hours.

This is pretty much my take on the matter as well. Sometimes I'll go straight from work to coding on one of my personal projects, sometimes I even work on one of my work projects (and charge overtime, or take a day off or something), but only if I like working on those projects. Sometimes I'll just mess around in some weird corner of haskell, trying to solve the halting problem in the type system and sometimes I'll read a programming book (my company provides me with free access to about 8k of programming books). If, however, what I've done at work that day really felt like work I'll at most check my email and the fora but otherwise do something entirely unrelated to computers for the rest of the day.

If you have no personal projects, not tried any Project Euler problems, never considered learning another language on your own and think of coding only as a job... I'd hire you as a code monkey, but all the interesting positions would go to people I've worked with on open-source projects in my spare time.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby gorcee » Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:49 pm UTC

spudtheimpaler wrote:Of course, the world is full of all the wonderful shades of grey, and what goes for the dev team in a bank probably isn't the same as in microsoft. (Did you know that HSBC employs more developers than Microsoft? I'm sure I can't get in trouble for repeating that :|)


Ah, so that's what all my bullshit overdraft fees went to fund.

$25 returned check fee because the morons couldn't figure out that 28-10-04 meant October 28, 2004.

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Xanthir » Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:29 pm UTC

What, did they interpret it as Oct 4, 2028? Or perhaps (shudder) April 10th, 2028?
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby You, sir, name? » Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:35 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:What, did they interpret it as Oct 4, 2028? Or perhaps (shudder) April 10th, 2028?


Well, obviously, 28-10-04 = 14. So it's either January 4 or April 1.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby poohat » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:57 am UTC

This is basically the paradox of modern corporate recruiting. Everyone wants employees who are 'well rounded' and committed to things in their spare time, while also wanting them to work enough hours that they dont really have the time to take any of their hobbies seriously. If its that important to you that programmers have their own projects at home, then perhaps you shouldnt be asking them to sit in an office for 8 hours a day.

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby phlip » Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:40 am UTC

An important note: when you're looking to hire someone, and you ask whether they like programming as a hobby, you're not finding out whether they'd program while away from a job, you'd find out whether they'd program while they don't have a job.

I did a lot of programming for fun before I got my job. Now that I have a job, I still do it occasionally, but I spend most of my off-the-job time as doing anything but programming... I mostly only drift back to hobby programming when the coding at work becomes particularly boring, or we're doing something that doesn't involve much actual code (things like analysis, or configuration). And anecdotally, that seems to be reasonably common, among programmers I know.

If this was bizarro world, and I was in charge of hiring people for a job... then shortly before somehow causing the downfall of all civilisation, I'd want to find someone who would enjoy the job. The whole "do a job you love" thing works both ways. Now, that doesn't mean they had to do it as a hobby... that's a sufficient but unnecessary condition. But I'd be reticent of someone who didn't have it as a hobby specifically because they found it incredibly boring and tedious. But I'd be concerned about someone who had the job as their sole or major hobby, and then continued to have it as their sole or major hobby after they'd been doing the same thing on the job for a while.

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Earlz » Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:43 am UTC

I say programming is an art.

If someone out of college comes in to a graphic designer place trying to get hired and said "here's my college degree" and didn't have any examples of previous work(or stuff done for free/hobby) well do you think he would get hired?

It shouldn't necessarily be the same for programming, but still, a few examples of your code(even small little <500 line projects made for yourself) is still saying I have experience working on projects that weren't just little syntactic tests of language X.

Should it be required? No, but I say hobby coders should be at least slightly favored, especially at the junior programmer level. Coding as a hobby definitely says you have more experience when you go to get your first job. And I believe it should be able to compensate for lack of work history, especially if this is a rather large open source project(which shows you have some team skills)
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby spudtheimpaler » Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:20 am UTC

gorcee wrote:
spudtheimpaler wrote:Of course, the world is full of all the wonderful shades of grey, and what goes for the dev team in a bank probably isn't the same as in microsoft. (Did you know that HSBC employs more developers than Microsoft? I'm sure I can't get in trouble for repeating that :|)


Ah, so that's what all my bullshit overdraft fees went to fund.

$25 returned check fee because the morons couldn't figure out that 28-10-04 meant October 28, 2004.


Is there a flashy font? I don't think bold, underlined etc quite cut it, but I'll try...

I don't work in retail banking :)


Phew.

Anyway - if it was a check/cheque I'd wager it was a case of PBKM - however dates are one of the problems that come up far too often. Hard coded formats instead of using locales crop up everywhere and when they're hard coded into the libraries you're using, it's hard to get out of that.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Parsifal » Wed Oct 14, 2009 12:35 pm UTC

Anecdotally -

I was just hired, and they never asked me about programming outside of work :D

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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Arancaytar » Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:42 pm UTC

I like to code small things (like Conway's game of life) in my free time; it's a neat mental challenge and takes my mind off more tedious work.

However, I wouldn't consider this a qualification, necessarily. At best, it helps me learn more quickly, but at worst, it draws off energy. And health, if done to excess. If I were employing someone like me, I'd probably advise him to diversify his hobbies, watch his sleep, physical activity and social life. (And yes, I'm trying to do that already.)

Yet if I had to pick between hiring him and someone who never touched code at all privately, I'd prefer the hobby coder. Or at least make sure to ask the other guy some probing questions to make sure he actually has the expertise listed on his resume.
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Re: Hire someone who doesn't code in his/her free time?

Postby Parsifal » Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:01 pm UTC

I have yet to convince a hiring manager of this, as I have only interviewed developers as a technical lead, but I would rather hire a hobby coder (somehow codist seems right in this context, think John Wayne) who has actually completed something than a certified senior developer with 10 years of experience who has yet to launch anything.

Yes, that happens, some code monkeys can survive for years by brachiating from one toppling project to another without actually being unemployed. At any rate, I'd consider having a working hobby game or utility under your belt a positive indication, while several years employment without releasing any software, in most industries, is actually a bad sign.


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