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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 Reasons not to hire a Rockstar Programmer

There is this constant search for  "Rockstar" developers.  Maybe it's just a myth based in trendy wordplay  but  what would happen if  they are out there and you manage to hire one for your project?  

Bosses and Recruiters make them out to be the ultimate heroes. But what are they really? Do you want one in your project team or on the company payroll? Lot's of caution should be taken when making the comparison of rock stars to developers. Because people forget what rock stars do in the real world.  Let's take Rolling Stones The 10 Most Annoying Rock Star Behaviors and translate them
into the:

The 10 Most Annoying Rock Star Programmer Behaviors 

1. Show up ridiculously late

This is pretty common and becomes annoying very quickly when they show up with no real reason for being late just a mouth  full of donut or a look of complete disdain. Like a real rock star  a programmer might like working from twelve noon to three in the morning. Not the best type of behavior in a company where the Tuesday morning scrum session is the most important meeting. 

2. Exclude key band members

Harassing new team  members making them think their ideas are bad.  Ignoring them so their good ideas are not brought forward. This usually manifests itself as a boss constantly checking in with the "rock star" to get their opinion  and only doing what they say. Because the rock star is always right and everyone else is always wrong.

3. Play too much from the new album

Bleeding edge technology can help in many situations. But rock stars use it without requirements, research or reason. All too frequently they do things just because they can.

4. Only perform the hits

Only using popular open source projects and software.  Go with anything in the LAMP stack even if Windows and .NET it is a better fit. Sticking with the trendy technologies regardless of  the drawbacks of doing so in every situation.

5. Play anything resembling a medley 

This is when  a  programmers writes code that no one can understand. No other programmer can  use the random medleys because there is not enough consistency to understand and missing comments, commit notes or documentation.  Those that follow are not privy to the thought process of the rock star  and so are forced to start over, "write a new song".

6. Ignore the music of your beloved former band

Legacy code becomes something totally different and no longer fits the requirements. Because of the rock stars made improvements without reading those requirements and code history.

7. Play perverse arrangements of your songs

Rock star programmers are not  good code reviewers. Arrogance makes them want to refactor out of narcissistic behavior  rather than need. They never can settle on if  the code works,  is clear, easily maintainable  and meets the requirements. They only bring up design patterns and techniques that should have been used or what they would have done. They also make changes without consulting the originating programmer. They do this regardless of the fact that their changes might make things less readable, introduce performance problems or new bugs.

8. Never vary the setlist

Using a different package or writing from scratch never occurs to a Rock star.  They are experts at what they do in the confines of a known environment. So they protect that environment and are very resistant to making any changes to it.  

9. Solo

 There is a myth of the 10x developer a myth  of competence that some mistakenly start believing about themselves. As one commenter points out. Yes, there may be a number of  "Jimi Hendrix" level developers out there. But that number is very small and the likelyhood of you finding one is even smaller statistically. But  what you can get is a lot of  "wanna-be" soloists very willing to show up with the baggage of the other nine points in this list.

10. Squeeze every possible penny out of fans

This is a poor behavior pattern brought on by paying the rock star too much or above other team members.  Thus they start to feel that they are better because they get paid more and what they say has more importance because they get paid more to say it. This is where recruiters act like music industry managers and are guilty of promoting the behavior.

So  the question is not whether or not you can find  rock star developers. Can you afford to have them in your company or project at any level?  Your  company development team should be like a finely tuned philharmonic orchestra with a highly trained conductor leading them. Where does your rock star fit in to this?

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