Hiring Programmers When They Are Excited

By Spicer Matthews

From a young age all the way up through college I was completely addicted to snowboarding. Every day I was not snowboarding felt like the world was coming to an end. I used to be on the first and last lift ride up for the day. I was competing. I was talking to possible sponsors. I was working for the mountain as a snowboard instructor. Sadly, in recent years that drive and passion for the sport have gone away. I visit the mountain less each year. I spend less time at the mountain when I do go.

Today I was reflecting on why I lost the passion. I have become complacent in my snowboarding. I have peaked. I don’t see myself landing more complex tricks as life goes on. I am just going to the mountain to enjoy a nice day. I do not have any goals such as to learn a new trick. There is not something new and exciting for me to conquer. I feel I have mastered snowboarding as much as I ever will.

Clearly, the period in my life where I really wanted to grow and progress in snowboarding is past me. This is ok. I will find new challenges in life.

There is, however, some drawback to losing my passion for snowboarding. I don’t think I will be winning any future competitions. I don’t think sponsors will be knocking on my door. I don’t think mountains will be fighting to hire me. As I am no longer bringing passion and excitement to the table my “return on investment” as a snowboarder has declined. Simply put, my snowboarding career is a declining asset.

The same relationships apply to hiring software engineers. I want to hire a programmer while they are still in the growth period of their career. I want engineers that feel every second they are not programming is a wasted movement. I want to hire engineers that are always challenging themselves to learn something new.  After an engineer peaks they are a declining asset; they lose the passion. They stop spending the weekend keeping up on the latest technologies. They stop looking for new and exciting ways to solve problems; they stick to what they know. When the passion and excitement wear off, the employer’s return on investment decreases. 

I am not suggesting that every engineer peaks. I think more times than not engineers lose the passion. Everyone is different. Some peak early and some peak later, some don’t peak at all.

Also, I am not suggesting we fire every employee that has already peaked. I’d rather work with a good employee to give them new challenges and to find areas they have not yet mastered, but for which they can use the expertise from the previous years, such as managing a team of programmers. I am, however, suggesting that, when hiring, years of experience can sometimes be a bad thing, even though not always.

To find engineers who will grow with the company, what I look for when I hire is engineers that consider programming a way of life not just a job - just like snowboarding was a way of life for me.