[LRUG] Juniors

Paul Robinson paul at iconoplex.co.uk
Thu May 22 00:24:00 PDT 2014

On 21 May 2014 21:01, Ed Lepedus <ed.lepedus at googlemail.com> wrote:

Firstly, the word 'junior' has been thrown about so much as to be utterly
> meaningless. The difference between a keen amateur, someone who has a
> couple of years experience but just 'fell into it', a CS graduate who just
> scraped a 2:1 and a top-of-class 2nd year undergraduate is HUGE. Yet they
> all fall into the same category.

Actually, it's not just junior that means nothing. I'm guilty of using
"senior", but somebody who has spent 7 years working for agencies
developing microsites for TV production companies (surprisingly common in
some parts of the industry), has had a completely different experience to
somebody who spent 7 years as a quant developer for Goldman Sachs. They
might understand advanced topics as thoroughly as each other, but putting
them into a real world production project, you will quickly identify very
different strengths and weaknesses.

One of the best programmers I've worked with has been under 20, never set
foot in a University and entirely self-taught. One of the worst had a PhD
in CS, 10+ years experience and was very well-read professionally.

That said, I've worked with so many developers over the years it's not
unreasonable to think that I have encountered programmers who are several
standard deviations away from the mean for their age, experience, etc. on
both sides.

And I measure developers not just in terms of the ability to produce code,
but in their ability to communicate, plan, estimate, work with others,
anticipate change, etc.

I think ultimately what this thread has been trying to identify the core
problem as, is that these job titles don't mean anything.

They are the artefacts of recruitment practices almost unchanged for
several hundred years: give the job a title that indicates where somebody
sits in a hierarchy, list some skills and how much experience they should
have of each and a short job description you hope compels "the right
person" applies. Then get frustrated with numerous applications from people
who are completely unsuitable, and spend a large amount of money on a
specialist who reads CVs for you. :-)

I'd argue that as an industry we need to get a little smarter about how we
think about recruitment, and stop thinking about resources and more about

This thread started by Thayer offering introductions to people knocking
around looking for experience (let's call them "inexperienced" instead of

There have been valid points raised about the problems inherent in taking
on such developers, but rather than saying "well, this person has 6 months
or less experience so is going to be expensive to take on in terms of
mentoring", how about you say "I have budget for a 6-month internship at
£25k/year to get somebody on the ladder, and I have this project I've
wanted somebody to have time to work on that would take me 2 months...
let's see if I can find somebody self-driven and I'll throw that at them".

Allocate a couple of hours a week for review/mentorship. Do not leave them
stranded, but make it clear this is a self-paced programme - they need to
understand development is about learning every single day, so they need to
learn how to do that whilst hitting their estimates.

You don't need to be a big company or have lots of time to spend on
mentoring to make that work. You need a project that is low priority you're
prepared to assign a small amount of budget to. Think of the cost of hiring
them as a possible recruitment fee: you might find somebody you want to
keep on and get working on other tasks.

If you don't, well you've provided some valuable experience that might get
their career started elsewhere. The industry is broad. Not everybody suits
working for a RoR startup, but that doesn't make them a bad developer.

I know I'll be in touch on the other side of the next quarter, I hope
others try and find a way to get more young people into the industry with
real world experience too.
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