A bad hire can be one of the most expensive decisions you can make, especially for the programmers in IT. The individual programming mistake can be costly, but the behaviors of the software developer can be even more costly. Just take the example of the person responsible for the bad design affecting the iPhone 4’s antennas (Antennagate), or the example of the engineer that was responsible for the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7. These examples are more the result of several bad decisions rather than a single bad line of code; nevertheless, this is what expensive hires can do to a company in the IT industry.
If you break it down, you’ll start to see patterns in the way that people work and you’ll be able to spot telltale signs of incompetence, non-serious and self-serving attitudes. For someone who has been working in the industry long enough, these signs begin to reveal themselves quickly in prospective candidates. These individuals may seem excellent on paper but can’t quite cut it in the real world. They come up with buggy software, miss obvious mistakes, drained budgets and huge opportunities lost. All this adds up to millions of dollars in damage control over a long period of time.
Here are just a few of these software developers and what they can cost you.
1. The Resume Padder
A lot of IT companies think about expanding into new technology as time progresses. They don’t want to become dinosaurs as the industry speeds ahead and that’s fair. However, companies make the classic mistake of giving into a developer’s wants to try new things instead of considering their viability first.
Here, companies make the mistake of hiring someone qualified to do the job but are more interested in adding new skills to their resume so they can make more on the next project. For all the company knows, the new hire could leave them in the middle of a project without any idea of how to proceed. These resume boosters are some of the most expensive hires in IT. These people simply want to use new technologies, programming languages or new software because they want to boost their resume. They only consider your project and budget as a stepping stone and not a fulfilling project. There is nothing wrong with learning new technology on a project. When developers select new technologies for reasons other than what is best for the company, then it becomes an issue.
For the company, this cost adds up over time as they may not get the results they wanted ending up in a bad investment.
2. The Rewriter
Some programmers have huge egos. It comes with the territory. If proficient enough, the programmer begins to think of themselves as gifted creators akin to Genii. This thought pattern leads them to want to start every project over from scratch. Instead of patching a problem or simply updating a piece of tech or software, they will attempt to redesign everything from the ground up.
These rewriters won’t think of the cost or the benefit of doing this, they will simply go with their gut since it’s obviously the best outcome in their opinion. They may be incredible at their job, very well versed in the subject literature and literal workhorses, however, this doesn’t change the fact that unnecessary remodeling can cost a company millions of dollars in the long run.
There are a million things to consider with the redesign of software. Will the audience accept it, will it serve the end goal well and will there be major problems with it when it is being tested in real life? When you have an egoist at the wheel though, all of that is subservient to the ego.
3. The Chair Warmer
There are some people who simply have the tendency to follow orders and not take initiative by themselves at all. They exist only to be told what to do and rarely have an original thought. They can accomplish tasks well enough, but they must be spoon-fed along the way. If they aren’t given detailed instructions on EXACTLY what to do all the way, they will not spot the most basic mistakes or oversights. Rarely is a developer ever given documentation that is 100% complete. Something is always missing. Good developers get this and can accommodate.
In the field of expensive hires, these people may not result in lost value, but they are limited in what they can add.
4. Negative Utility
Probably one of the worst hires in the field of IT may just be the negative utility. The concept of utility in economics is the differing levels of value one can get from different products or services when they cost the same. I can spend a dollar on dark chocolate or a dollar on Kale. I get a very high taste utility from dark chocolate. I get a negative taste utility from kale.
The Negative Utility is someone you can pay the same as other employees, but they will cost you more in value in the long run. They can singlehandedly bring down the value of the entire team if they are left to their own devices. Think of the chair warmer who takes significant chunks of time from your productive developers.
Let’s hypothetically say a high performing developer averaged 210 lines of clean code a day. They spend seven hours on their own work and one hour helping the negative utility developer. The negative utility developer would average 25 lines a day and needed an hour a day of the high performing person to make that happen. They each take 8 hours of the budget every day. Together they produce 235 lines of code for 16 hours of cost. If you only had the high performing developer and doing just their own work all day, they would average 240 lines of code with only 8 hours from the budget.
Good developers need to help their co-workers and help them get better. Some developers are not so interested in getting better if someone can do the work for them.
5. The Alpha Programmer
There is an expression that goes, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” It holds true in the kitchen as well as in the programming lab. In the IT industry, a team needs to be led by a single vision. A little bit of conflict does produce creative results but too much of it can lead to disaster. Alpha programmers, in this regard, can be the most expensive hires.
Alpha Programmers spend lots of time “architecting” and “developing frameworks”, but do very little to get code into production. Think about the Rewriter and put them on steroids. They can turn a year-long project and change it into a three-year ordeal. They rarely work alone. Alpha programmers may have a team “developing an enterprise architecture”. It is not uncommon they will hide behind their expert knowledge. This can frustrate employees to the point of quitting and cause delays in product release times. The cost of the Alpha programmer is not just their salary and the salaries of the people on their team, it is also the opportunity cost of funding their work at the expense of other projects that can see the light of day.
These people are hard to spot. If you find someone in your organization that fits one of these profiles, take steps to manage them more effectively and put up some boundaries.
About the author: David Moise had a career as a software developer before starting Decide Consulting. Decide is one of the few IT Recruiting firms that is run by tech-based individuals. He keeps an eye on how technology trends emerge in business and speaks frequently on the future-of-work.