Monday, July 25, 2005

Programmer maturity

On a Saturday afternoon, I & Aditi (my colleague and co-founder at Mithi) were interviewing a candidate for the post of a software developer, and I as a matter of routine asked him (this is after a tech evaluation, which he had cleared), how long he plans to stay in Mithi. He was prompt in his reply - '6 months'. I was quite taken aback by his ‘clear’ thinking (considering that he was fresh out of college). When I mentioned that it takes around 3 months before a fresh join is productive (to be really useful), he very casually said that ‘OK then I will stay until 9 months to do justice to the job’. Such people are very clear that in small and startup companies, they will learn the most and very fast. They believe that such small companies should be used as a stepping-stone to their personal growth. Amazing, this clarity of thought….

I feel that very large organizations are primarily process and system driven, to the point that any body (satisfying basic criteria of intelligence, academic qualifications, aptitude) can come in produce almost immediately and be of value. These people basically run the system/process (created by others), part of which is monitoring and reporting to ensure that these guys are doing a good job. The system ensures that they produce. Such organizations can recruit in large numbers, get work done, and it doesn’t affect them too much if there is a regular and heavy turnover. In fact many such organizations have perfected the art of selection, recruitment, induction, and exit. (Infosys recently had 730 people join on a single day…to get so many people through the security itself is evidence of how process driven the organization is.)

Unfortunately for small companies & startups, who have to first struggle to find the right product, strategy and business model before putting corresponding processes/systems in place, they need to find people who will go through this struggle and set the system/processes, which will be ‘run’ during the growth phase by the type of people described in the previous paragraph. In such an environment, a heavy turnover causes slowdown in the companies progress and can push the start of the growth trajectory. For such companies the primary selection criteria could be people with the right attitude & character, having desire to create something of lasting value, risk taking ability, have deep belief and confidence in their own abilities and possess a natural drive. Such people know that even in the worst-case scenario of the company failing, they will be only be better off personally.

I have to admit that such people are rare…No wonder that only 1 out of 100 guys make through our (Mithi’s) selection process. BTW, we took a tough call and let the 9-month guy go.


heavenlyman said...

now-a-days it's a big deal to HR-recuiters who have good ambitions and targets to win the race. some times they find themselves in deep pit to find a person with right attitude.
SME's are giving new comers a good boost to go higher and higher and become stepping stone to their success.people who are proud of their degrees and greedy about money would not even stay in a company for 1 year, look at the packeges offered by other companies and go here and there until they find themselves in a mess. we HR-people need not to worry about such instances happened around.
for the journey we travel in life is too long. whoever's been recruited is a right candidate who'll give you good push up towards the growth of the company. yes, he'll do.we must look at the good future prosects of the company. then only we'll forget what's been happened around. next we need to keep an eye to those who've been faithfully working for a longer period of time, lest we lose them.
at last whatever step you've taken is right and good for the company.

amol said...

I agree that very large organizations are primarily process and system driven.
But if a developer thinks he can come in and produce immediately in a large organization, it is just an illusion.
Because productivity metrics itself is very different in these
very large organizations from that in startups.

It would take 10-12 developers, 3 Business analysts, 1 project manager and a QA team of 4 to "produce" for two and half years what your team of 5 could do in 6 months.

On a related note, I agree with your earlier post that its not just about the code.
Very large companies have realized long time back that its not just about the code. But at some point of time in the evolution of these dinosaurs who still rule the earth, this realization deteriorated into "its hardly about the code".
It would be good for any startup to always keep this side of the coin in perspective as well and avoid this trap while setting up systems and processes in place.