Never ask a developer this question

Never ask a developer this question

I regularly get asked “on a scale of 1-10, how good are you at x technology?”.

What a daft question. Think about that for a minute. On any scale, you have to know all the points and their relationship - is it exponential or linear? And ultimately, you have to know what a 10 developer looks like.

It’s like being asked by screaming kids “are we there yet?” but you’re not sure where there even is.

My answer is always.

“I’ve no idea. I’m a competent developer, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

I genuinely think this is the best than any developer can think of themselves. A good analogy is physics. In 1894, Albert Michelson said:

“…most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established…”

He was a perfectly respectable scientist who received the Nobel Prize - certainly no idiot. But within 20 years, Physics had to be rewritten thanks to the discovery of the quantum world. And the scientific landscape of 2016 is very different to that of 1894.

Development is a science. What you know today is the foundation for tomorrow. You may come back and think “oooh, I wrote that rather well”. You may also think “dear lord, what was I thinking?”

There is only one reason to ask a developer this question and that is to find out their thought process. If you get an answer similar to above, HIRE THEM immediately. They understand development and realise that they are an unpolished diamond. And, crucially, they’ll work at it.

If you’re expecting an answer like “7 out of 10”, you don’t deserve to be in a position to hire developers. You’re asking the wrong questions and you’ll be found out.

And you’ll end up with someone like I was at first, full of the arrogance of youth who thinks they know it all.

Like Prof. Michelson, I didn’t know what I didn’t know…