Take Home Test05 Oct 2017
I had Wednesday off work to run Z to the airport and thought I would have time after to do some work on the monitor. I did not so the promised pictures will not appear today. I will have some time this weeks so that post is bumped to Tuesday.
I’m sure no one here is surprised that the idea that you can have interests outside of developing such as woodworking or music appeals to me. That is a big part of what drives this blog. However, sadly, like Marc Anthony I come to criticize Ms. O’Brien as well as praise her.
She talks about the need to not convince people that working on an Open Source after hours is not a requirement to get a job. Ideally it is not. However, for developers the best jobs will tend to go to those with off hours projects. The reason is they are practicing.
While the 10,000 hours study have been overly applied there is an important grain of truth in it. Intentional practice of a skill improves your skill. Intentional practice has to stretch you. Ideally you will consistently meet the level of challenge that puts you into Csikszentmihalyi’s flow state. The more time you spend doing that the better you get at something.
Jobs rarely put you there. You are usually hired to work well within your skill set. Certainly, you find some challenges that stretch you but as I realized a decade ago there is a big difference between a given year of experience five times and five years of experience. Some jobs do have you on the edge more often than not and those are generally the most lucrative jobs.
They also tend to go to those with the most experience.
If your day job does not often provide tasks that force you to grow and stretch where do you get it? Working off hours is one way and there are few fields where that is easier than software development. All you need is a computer powerful enough, which every computer is outside of certain performance fields, language tools which are generally free, and time.
So while we might not want to force developers to work off hours the fact is the ones who do get the most experience. The guy who spends a few hours every Saturday building something will have an edge in an interview.
Of course there are trade-offs. The woman who spends forty hours kernel hacking probably finds herself with other useful job skills lacking, especially soft skills. However, the woman who spends four hours a week writing a new mail management system for herself and intentionally chooses to do so in a functional way will do okay in the soft skills and still have a wedge technically over those who never do the take home test.