Sunday, February 27, 2005

Numbers of Years

The software industry has a strange practice of seeking employees who have a certain number of years experience with a particular technology. A job posting might require "at least 5 years experience with Java" or something like that. At first glance, this might seem reasonable, but it is actually kind of weird. It is easily possible to continue to do something badly for a very long time, so that adding more years will not add any more value.

For example, I know people with over 5 years experience using a VCR who still cannot set the clock. But they can press play, stop, fast forward, and eject, and that is all that matters to them. I think that even after 10 years experience, these people will still not be able to set the clock.

So I do not want to work on a team with someone with X years of experience with a technology. I want someone with X units of skill with a technology, and the more rapidly they acquired that skill, the better. Of course, skill is harder to measure, which is why the industry falls back on years of experience.

5 comments:

Foobario said...

I think it's pretty clear that Experience Points are better units of measurement than years... sadly I find that my view of the world is lacking some sort of HUD that shows me the relative level/alignment/badassitude of the people I meet. It's one of the many disappointing ways in which 'reality' fails to meet the standards we enjoy in video games.

Well, that and killing orcs.

Peter said...

"Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom..."

- Elihu (in Job)

"The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of roguteousness."

- Proverbs

should. if.

Peter said...

Oops. Make that "righteousness" in the second quote.

Foobario said...

Actually I think there's something to be said for rogue-teousness as well.

Thanks for the new word.

Dale said...

The usefulness of the "years" measurement, I think, is that it's so very concrete and it means (to the person who doing the hiring) that at least someone else has made this very same mistake (if it's a mistake) so there's a way to pass the buck, if it doesn't work out. It's not YOUR mistake, it's the mistake of whoever not employed this nitwit at Intel for the last five years --