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On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.

I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.

As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.

And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born with. Not something to learn. Not something that a person can be taught. Not something that comes with hard work and dedication.

All of which lead to a big problem - lack of programmers. Lack of programmers. Because of the high standard we have for programmers, we end up saying No to a number of applicants, who, with training and time, might just become the next God.

There might be a number of reasons why a person wasn't exposed to programming in high school or college. But, they applied to a position at your company. Now, what you should be checking for is not their programming skill or innate knowledge of software development. No. You should try to understand whether or not the person is interested in learning. Whether or not they can and are willing to put in the time to learn the necessary skills and get better at the job, on the job.

You want an example? Here is an article by Joel Spolsky - Many consider him God-like. Heck, even I idolized him at a point in time. Alas. While I don't have a problem with most of what he wrote, this paragraph summarizes his view of interviewing AND what I don't think interviewing should be about.
The bottom line in my interviewing technique is that smart people can generally tell if they’re talking to other smart people by having a conversation with them on a difficult or highly technical subject, and the interview question is really just a pretext to have a conversation on a difficult subject so that the interviewer’s judgment can form an opinion on whether this is a smart person or not.
I am not going to tell you who to hire or who not to. I have no authority to do so. What I want to tell you is to take a risk. Not all the time. Maybe every once in a while. Maybe with that candidate who is willing to put in the time and effort needed to get better at a job in your organization. And I agree. This is a risk. But I think it's one worth taking. Atleast everyonce in a while.

In conclusion, I don't think there's anything special about Programming. It is just another skill acquired through sweat and tears. But, in this day and age, there are one too many, who are being or have been discouraged from taking up programming, for irrational reasons. And if you see someone who isn't confident in their ability to program, help.

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