Let's take a break and enter the echo chamber for a moment... I was reading TSS and saw this blog on hiring at startups. It was somewhat interesting, though kind of "duh"-ish. Then I read a response from Don MacAskill, the CEO of SmugMug. There was one thing in here I had to completely disagreewith:
Hire for passion first, talent second.
Now I'm certainly no CEO, but I have been at my share of startups. I've also done a lot of interviewing and helped hire (and not hire) many people at said startups. There is no way I could agree with this statement. It reminds me of when sports broadcasters talk about "chemistry" people. It's a bunch of garbage.There is no substitute for talent.
I have worked with enthusiastic people who everybody loved. These were people willing to do whatever you asked them to do, work ridiculous hours, you name it. But they weren't good programmers. You know what happens? They struggle and it puts a drain on everybody else. Everybody else tries to help them out and cover for them, because they like the person and the person needs help.
I've also worked with very aloof, but brilliant people. These are the kind of people who you can go weeks without saying more than a few words to them. But they always deliver, and always deliver on-time. Often they over-deliver, i.e. they provide extra features that weren't asked for, but are immediately useful to everyone. But they keep to themselves, they don't run their mouths at company meetings, etc. Give me one of those people over two or three "passion first, talent second" sorts.
It's funny, just earlier I had been talking to a friend of mine about "geek syndrome" a.k.a. Asperger's Syndrome. This "syndrome" often suggests a correlation between highly logical intelligence and social "shortcomings." I would guess that such people would often fail the "passion" test.
Now I do have to give props to Mr. MacAskill for following up the bubbly-over-brains point with a much better one:
Passion for the job, not passion for the company.
He stole this from Google's Kathy Sierra, but at least he gives her credit. This is definitely true, and in some ways qualifies his previous false proposition. I'm still not sure if he would hire somebody who didn't care at all about SmugMug's business, but loved to code and was extremely good at it.