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The Moderately Enthusiastic Programmer

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the i'll-get-to-that-after-dinner dept.

Programming 533

An anonymous reader writes: "Developer Avdi Grimm posts about the trend throughout the software industry of companies demanding that job applicants be 'passionate' about programming when hiring into ordinary development jobs. Grimm says, 'I love code. I dream of code. I enjoy code. I find writing high quality code deeply satisfying. I feel the same way about helping others write code they can feel proud of. But do I feel 'strong and barely controllable emotion' about code? Honestly? No. ... I think some of the people writing these job ads are well-meaning. Maybe most of them. I think when they write "passionate" they mean "motivated." No slackers. No one who is a drag on the team. But sometimes I worry that it's code for we want to exploit your lack of boundaries. Maybe it's fanciful on my part, but there's a faintly Orwellian whiff to the language of these job ads: excuse me comrade, I couldn't help but notice that man over there is not chanting the team slogan with sincere revolutionary conviction.' Is it realistic for employers to expect us to be passionate about software we're hired to build? If they're looking for the head of a major product, then maybe it's warranted — but for everybody, even the grunts?"

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Dreaming of code? (5, Insightful)

JLennox (942693) | about 9 months ago | (#46122127)

I don't get this psudo-nerd bragging right. I've worked jobs I hated and had dreams about them, too.

Re:Dreaming of code? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122167)

Not all dreams are pleasant.

Re:Dreaming of code? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122193)

You know what makes workers happy and proud to work for your company and chant its slogans? Bonuses, good salaries, good benefits, reasonable metrics, pizza during long meetings and seminars, holiday parties; you know, all that shit that costs a few extra pennies that most corporations don't want to spend.

More likely is that corporations you're working for are pissing on your head and telling you its raining.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Alan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122365)

That may be what keeps them happy, but money is what causes most to change!

Re:Dreaming of code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122401)

pizza during long meetings and seminars

Lebanese food FTW.

Re:Dreaming of code? (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 9 months ago | (#46122441)

Pizza was invented in Leban.

Re:Dreaming of code? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122465)

Actually, that's (proven) not true. Money only works up to a (surprisingly low) point. Beyond that, what matters is that they enjoy what they're doing, and think they're making something worth selling. Investment in the product is what matters really.

Re:Dreaming of code? (5, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | about 9 months ago | (#46122569)

| Actually, that's (proven) not true. Money only works up to a (surprisingly low) point

I've heard a CEO say exactly this in response to questions from an employee about bonuses and stock compensation.

Notably, it didn't seem to apply to him, when applied in much much larger quantity.

Re:Dreaming of code? (1)

j35ter (895427) | about 9 months ago | (#46122581)

yeah? Well, try cutting "their" bonuses, Mr. Manager!!!

Re:Dreaming of code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122239)

I still have nightmares from getting a backup solution working at one job...

Re:Dreaming of code? (1)

BreakBad (2955249) | about 9 months ago | (#46122303)

I see you've done code for Uncle Sam as-well.

Re:Dreaming of code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122367)

I've dreamed about minesweeper and sudoku (*).
I don't love either of those; they're just little mind-exercisers that I spent too much time on at one point.

* = not on the same night; I've got standards!!1

Re:Dreaming of code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122663)

Who hasn't woken up in the middle of the night with the solution to some coding problem badly needing to be jotted down?

Non coders, that's who.

Its across the board... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122143)

Did you think that those personality surveys pushed by MBA's for gas station attendants wouldn't reach Engineering?

Sorry, pseudo-science has now become all encompassing. The problem is, being passionate about code, doesn't have anything to do with being able to code. Just how much you enjoy your profession (Without the added benefit of pay).

Passion is an overstatement ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | about 9 months ago | (#46122561)

Did you think that those personality surveys pushed by MBA's for gas station attendants wouldn't reach Engineering?

We did those at work and school and the programmers did fit into a couple of predictable buckets. It was fun to watch one manager say this test is wrong, my observations would put you into a different bucket.

This is not to say a person must be in one of the predictably buckets to do well at a particular job, just that there is something to these tests. Some people with certain dispositions find some jobs more attractive than others.

The problem is, being passionate about code, doesn't have anything to do with being able to code. Just how much you enjoy your profession (Without the added benefit of pay).

Passion is buzzwordish and an overstatement. However the better programmers that I have known over the decades have been those who have a genuine inherent interest in programming. They will read about software development, learn new languages and write some program on their own for nothing more than their own amusement or curiosity. Those who have never written any code outside of work or school tend not to be the better programmers. When someone uses "passionate" I interpret it as distinguishing the former from the later. Granted there may be time periods where those interested in programming may not have the free time to do so, like when they have a new child. However when free time and circumstances permit I've seen a little reading and coding creep back in.

That said, my first job out of college was to take a custom designed board for an embedded system that the hardware guys just got working and to write its firmware: a kernel, its drivers and software that would load and host a C-based application. I don't know if "passionate" would apply but as someone who likes assembly language and low level programming I was pretty damn excited and really enjoyed my day to day work an awful lot. I suppose a buzzword compliant manager could have described me as "passionate" although I would have sued different words.

What about me? (4, Insightful)

xevioso (598654) | about 9 months ago | (#46122145)

I'm 40. I love what I do, I love building websites and I love doing front-end development. Do I live and breathe it? No. I go to work, work on great sites, and then go home for the day and enjoy my evening doing non-coding things.

Re:What about me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122181)

Yes, but the question is, do you projects that just, suck... Do you have days when that door is looking pretty nice? Have you worked with good people, who weren't necessarily "bubbly" or enthusiastic about everything? To me, it seems like managers are just sick of people asking questions, and they are finding the most malleable.

I don't always code, (5, Funny)

schlachter (862210) | about 9 months ago | (#46122295)

...but when i do...i prefer to do it with passion.
stay passionate my friends.

Re:I don't always code, (4, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 9 months ago | (#46122451)

You are the most interesting programmer in the world.

Re:What about me? (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 9 months ago | (#46122357)

I'd agree that's normal. What's more, this "passionate" is without a doubt a code for "exploitable".

Here's why: for various cultural reasons, self-taught geeks who code from the love of coding are a far higher percentage of American-born coders, than of e.g. India or China, simply because "software developer" has a far higher social status (and relative pay) in other countries, such that parents push their children to become developers there in the way that some American children are pushed to become doctors or lawyers. Therefore, if you actually filtered on "loves to code" instead of "good at coding", you'd be illegally discriminating against a protected class, in a way that's not-at-all subtle to anyone who spends time on hiring in the field.

The goal of this "passionate" business isn't crypto-racism (it would be too obvious, if nothing else), but simply trying to find people who are not only good, but willing to work far longer than a professional work week at management insistence, and those qualities can be found in young and/or desperate people from anywhere.

Re:What about me? (5, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | about 9 months ago | (#46122359)

I'm 40 --

Thank you, we've heard enough. Next applicant please.

Re:What about me? (2)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 9 months ago | (#46122535)

This is major bullshit. I bought into that /. ageism paranoia until I got on my first dev team (I used to be in infrastructure...yuck)...most of the people are over 40...just had a guy retire from the dev team. This is at a very young, small company with high dev standards.

Re:What about me? (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 9 months ago | (#46122701)

Depends on where you go, I've seen age-ism cut all four ways, for and against me, in my 20s and in my 40s.

Re:What about me? (1)

j35ter (895427) | about 9 months ago | (#46122633)

40 years here! Switched companies last month!

Re:What about me? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122435)

Building websites are considered coding now?

Re: What about me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122677)

You clearly have no inkling of how modern websites are created. Is it rocket science? No. But the days of a website being a bunch of HTML files. on a server connected to the Internet are long gone.

TMYK

The eight hour workday is too short (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122157)

If you don't eat sleep and breathe their corporate paradigm at all times you're not the person they're looking for. They don't want you to forget that they own you, even when you're not physically at the office: your personal work belongs to them, your future employment opportunities (non-compete) belong to them, your personal activities (social media et al.) belong to them... And they wonder why people get disgruntled.

Re:The eight hour workday is too short (2)

Coffeesloth (669850) | about 9 months ago | (#46122345)

I wish I could moderate your comment up. I work for a company that doesn't officially have this policy but sometimes at the lower management levels this seems to be the mentality.

Strong and Barely Controllable Emotion (5, Insightful)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | about 9 months ago | (#46122169)

I feel this way about the current codebase I'm working on right now, but they only give me the nerf-type of weapons, so no one needs to worry.

It's fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122179)

I am a good coder, I am happy to not apply for your job that requires I be "passionate".
It is like a hat worn backwards, it indicates with a fair degree of reliability that I don't want to interact with the marked person or organisation. The level of bull I would have to cope with in such a company is way above what I consider comfortable.

I feel you. (5, Insightful)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 9 months ago | (#46122183)

I like software development. But when I go home, I do other things than write more code (write/record music, write/shoot/direct/edit short films, cook foods, breed fish, exercise/martial arts, spend time with my SO, etc). Apparently, to some developers, this means I don't take my job seriously and I shouldn't be in the industry because I'm not spending every moment living and breathing code. I don't even own a github. And frankly, if that's the expectation, I'd rather not work in that sort of environment.

Re:I feel you. (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 9 months ago | (#46122253)

Apparently, to some developers, this means I don't take my job seriously and I shouldn't be in the industry because I'm not spending every moment living and breathing code.

Probably not to other developers but to wothless HR people yes.

Re:I feel you. (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46122573)

Even to other developers, when I was job hunting a significant number of them held up hobby programming as a metric for how good a fit you would be. If were not involved in your own projects it was a sign that you didn't care or would not keep up with new trends or otherwise just not be 'enthusiastic'. Non-programming hobbies were sometimes acceptable, but only if they were robotics or something just barely one-off.

Re:I feel you. (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 9 months ago | (#46122307)

I've had projects at work that I felt passionately about. I would think about and study up on things I was working on trying to get ideas or troubleshoot. I actually miss that feeling but they brought in a new "lean" system and now I could care less. I think management has to build an environement to foster that kind of feeling and most of the time they actually stamp it out.

Re:I feel you. (2)

rlwhite (219604) | about 9 months ago | (#46122393)

These ads make me feel this way too. To me, leaving coding at my job and doing other things in my off time is very important to avoid burn-out. Pursuing something else I'm passionate about is refreshing, and being knowledgeable in other subjects should further a programmer's career because programming is ultimately about codifying knowledge. This career field is fundamentally cross-disciplinary.

Maybe they have a problem (4, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about 9 months ago | (#46122199)

People will do things for love that they won't for money, including endure abuse, or attempt the impossible.

Re:Maybe they have a problem (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 9 months ago | (#46122437)

I think that comment is quite revealing. Thanks for sharing.

You're reading too much into it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122207)

I think they just want someone for whom it's not difficult to extract the work they need done.

Free overtime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122213)

The word "passionate" is management code-speak for "free and boundless overtime".

Re:Free overtime (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 9 months ago | (#46122609)

Indeed. I work any amount of hours in order to do a good job--no a great job--and I enjoy it. I consider myself passionate, and good luck competing with me. Most do not have the ambition.

Re:Free overtime (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122645)

You also don't have a life. Good luck trying to recapture your youth when you're a burnt out middle-aged husk.

Passionate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122215)

I think it's better to be passionate about the domain and channel that passion with programming. Being passionate about coding itself is short sighted. Coding, by itself, is a waste of time. Using it for solving complex problems or even saving lives...that's worth it.

Well You Know... (5, Interesting)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about 9 months ago | (#46122229)

What management actually means by, "We want people who are passionate!" means that they live in a fantasy world where truly passionate people will come work for them for meager pay, lousy benefits, and an average work environment. It's the ultimate delusion of entitlement. Because why should talented people settle for them?

There is good management. But most of the time you see poor management who blame their own inadequate and incompetent leadership abilities on their employees. Many seem to look at subordinates as nothing more than a monkey there to churn out code -- like it's such an inconvenience that they have to deal with actual humans who have like, squishy innards that need nourishment and rest.

Add it to the list...
"Fast paced work environment!" We're understaffed.
"Opportunity for advancement." We have a high turnover rate.
"Flexible hours!" You'll never be able to predict the next week's schedule.

Re:Well You Know... (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 9 months ago | (#46122503)

"Flexible hours" can also mean "You know that sign-off you need? They might show up at 2pm, or they might work from home today"

Or it might mean "We're okay with you coming in late so long as you put in 12 hrs each day"

Yes it's Code (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122231)

It's Code for we have no respect for your boundaries and we will pester you all day and night with whatever we can think of however fanciful or unrealistic and you had better be available whenever we have these brain farts, or else.

8 hours a day (1)

BisuDagger (3458447) | about 9 months ago | (#46122233)

I spend 8 hours a day loving what I code in c++. When I leave work I generally focus on my hobbies like writing news for competitive gaming. If I leave work with a problem unsolved sometimes I'll think it through while I'm driving. Long story short, I love code development at work and couldn't imagine a job without it. That's always been enough for my employers.

Re:8 hours a day (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about 9 months ago | (#46122249)

Do you know what lawyers do if they spend time thinking about your case? They charge you.

Always looking for passionate programmers (3, Insightful)

Dracolytch (714699) | about 9 months ago | (#46122241)

So, when managing, I'm always looking for passionate developers. Here's why:

Where I work, there are no grunts. There are no people who mindlessly grind out code. We're not building yet another website: We're solving hard problems, and we want everyone to contribute. To contribute with value, you need to not stagnate in one technology for half your career. You need to be well-read about software. And while we work very few weekends, sometimes there are longer days (like anywhere).

When I mean I'm looking for a passionate developer, I'm looking for someone who cares about their craft, not just someone who shows up to close bug tickets and collect a paycheck.

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (4, Insightful)

zenasprime (207132) | about 9 months ago | (#46122311)

Yeah but are you willing to pay for that level of commitment?

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (4, Interesting)

Dracolytch (714699) | about 9 months ago | (#46122449)

I work for an academic non-profit, been there about a year. Happier here then I've been anywhere else in my career.

The salaries are on the low-end of competitive. However, there is a point at which more money no longer truly motivates me, and I passed that years ago. Now, there are other cultural things which do motivate me. They include:

I'm not the only person who's at the top of their game. It's nice to be able to really learn from others.
I get to go home on the evenings, and the weekends.
I can work from home when it's practical.
I don't have someone hawking over me.
I have a large amount of freedom to execute the work in a manner which makes sense to me (This is why people who care about their craft are important!)
I have interesting and very difficult problems to solve.
The problems I solve aren't just about lining someone's pockets with money. There's more purpose here.

There are lots of places that survive off of hiring mediocrity, and have controls/standards in place to help hedge that (Extensive code standards, technology restrictions, other bureaucratic controls). Some people are VERY comfortable with that level of constraint. In those kinds of places I have quickly grown frustrated and unhappy. Of course, those places that survive off of mediocrity ALSO think they want passionate developers... But very often they don't really, they just want people who will work super extra hard but not ask questions nor challenge the system. It's up to the candidate to distinguish between the two.

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122683)

I work for an academic non-profit...The salaries are on the low-end of competitive

So to answer the question: No. You are not willing to pay for talent, but expect it anyway.

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122477)

Perhaps a better question would be: /Can/ you pay for that level of commitment? I tend to doubt the idea that throwing more money at a person can make him or her more passionate in the way Dracolytch describes. I even tend to doubt that caring for one's craft could engender that kind of commitment. A person really has to internalize the mission of the project, of the organization, in order to be willing to sacrifice for it. It seems likely that unimpassioned, uncommitted employees are a symptom of a poorly-communicated mission (or complete lack), or of not prioritizing finding people who share that mission when hiring. (Disclaimer: I'm not a paid developer [though I am a hobbyist], nor do I work in HR or business management.)

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122675)

Not the poster, but share the exact same views. Yes, the problem are the 9-5 ers want that money too, and separating wheat from chaff is time consuming. Simply code monkeys are worthless. The time it takes me to spell out exactly what the code they need to write should do and how it should be written and structured, I could have written it myself. Its hard to find good reliable candidates. Almost everyone I interview has several years of experience, yet I see programmers with java or c# experience that clearly don't understand object oriented programming. I see web programmers that don't really understand the difference in ajax and a form submit, they have used it cause they copied it from somewhere, but they don't really understand, they bang on code until it sorta does what its supposed to do. They end up designing software that loads with ajax and has jquery dialogs posting then reloading the page (along with the ajax that loaded it in the first place). I've seen programmers with 5 years of experience that can't write fizbuzz. Often times if they aren't passionate about it, it means they haven't taken the time to learn how it actually works and instead just put together pieces they found on the web.

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (3, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 9 months ago | (#46122405)

I'm always looking for passionate developers. Here's why: Where I work, there are no grunts. There are no people who mindlessly grind out code. We're not building yet another website: We're solving hard problems...

But that's what they all say, including the companies just building yet another website.

Not to mention, there are 10 "yet another website" companies for every 1 "solving hard problems" company, and even programmers who start out passionate lose that passion if they end up at one of the former.

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#46122491)

This is true. I used to be like the guy above, who only wanted 'passionate' programmers. But then I met programmers who weren't passionate, but were still very good at what they did.

Now I look for programmers who are good at what they do. I would rather have the guy with a good work ethic who is committed to completing a task; not the guy who passionately writes a thousand lines of code, working into midnight, but gets disinterested when it comes time to debug (both real people I've met).

Basically you want someone who can do the job, that's all that matters. People who say they want passionate programmers say so because they think only passionate programmers can do the job. I used to be one of those people, but it is a sign of lack of life experience.

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#46122531)

From the other side, when you go into a job interview, it's always better to at least pretend to be enthusiastic. If you can't even act like you want the job, too many people will be reticent to hire you.

Re:Always looking for passionate programmers (1)

kwiecmmm (1527631) | about 9 months ago | (#46122629)

Where I work, there are no grunts. There are no people who mindlessly grind out code. We're not building yet another website: We're solving hard problems, and we want everyone to contribute.

While I don't mindlessly grind out code all the time, there are times when I work on a problem and I have to mindlessly grind out parts of it. I am pretty sure this is the same with most projects.

I love writing code and working on hard problems, but do I feel like working on them for 80 hours a week, every week? No, I enjoy having a life outside of work and a separation of work and home life is necessary.

Be careful what you wish for (5, Insightful)

tempest69 (572798) | about 9 months ago | (#46122255)

Honestly, most managers would be clueless as how to deal with a passionate programmer.

The meetings, conference calls, the coding conventions, the documentation, making hard choices that hurt the deeper beauty of the finished product. This is poison to the passionate programmer. Other people doing substandard things to her code. This isn't ok to do to someones passions. It would be like letting a person bring a pet to work, and the staff kicks it at a whim.

They want people who pretend to be passionate. But really their looking for employees that want a paycheck, and a good portfolio when they leave.

Re:Be careful what you wish for (2)

Akratist (1080775) | about 9 months ago | (#46122497)

I completely agree with this. When I started at my current place, I was like "Hey, we can fix X, change Y, and implement Z," all of which would have slashed the time spent on maintenance. As a result, I got off on the wrong foot with my boss, who is conservative, almost cautious, about changing code. I understand his perspective, that they are happy with a system that works, and that incremental improvements are what people are used to and want here. One of the other guys I work with here is the same way as me, wanting to improve the app, but not being allowed to start making substantive changes. I understand my boss' position, and I don't actually have a problem with it, because it is what is expected of him and what suits the company. At the same time, it's not an environment I'm actually happy in, so it's just a matter of good and bad fits for each type of coder.

Re:Be careful what you wish for (1)

Jakeula (1427201) | about 9 months ago | (#46122533)

I have worked a few jobs programming. I have also interned at many tech related companies. While I agree the big company that has a couple hundred employees, with management everywhere act very much like how you described. However I have been part of smaller teams from 4-100 people and I find that those companies are a lot more willing to listen to the tech team about how to do something. Don't get me wrong they still want feature X by date Y and look like how these guys did it, but when my teams have voiced their opinions at these smaller companies they were actually talked about. So I think some companies actually want those passionate people who want to do things right, and in my experience they are willing to pay for them. This isn't always the case, but I think its becoming far more common.

you're just a programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122557)

and not an engineer. Everything you posted is so worthless to anyone trying to ship real code that it should be discounted for anything other than hobby projects.

Calling a spade a spade. (1)

zenasprime (207132) | about 9 months ago | (#46122257)

I think the summary nails it. Employers are mostly looking to exploit their "human resources" anyway they can to make a buck. That includes grinding your passion to a pulp why they reward themselves to the fruits of that hard labor. Everyone should stop pussyfooting around and just learn to not feel bad about calling spade spades.

Easiest way to promote passion (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 9 months ago | (#46122265)

Is to just establish a culture that rewards going the extra mile with more money. If a developer helps develop business, cut them a commission check comparable to the sales guy. If they have a reputation for rapidly solving customer problems, throw them a bonus.

Feelings, nothing more than feelings... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122269)

Your company should really only be concerned about what you DO, not how you feel about it.

Their interest in your feelings should only go so far as to make sure you are happy enough there to do your work, and get along with your teammates.

Don't you get it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122273)

Do you like fishsticks? That sort of thing. It's gay code, to get fresh, young fish. Like yourself.

Build Mastery (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122293)

Mastery and Passion go together. Without Passion, Mastery will not result.

I've been writing code since the '60s. I'm still the best in any team I join. When I'm not, I refactor, relearn, rebuild, etc. my skills. Then I'm the best again.

This doesn't diminish the other dimensions, but this is where it's at. If you're not passionate, you won't think about it night and day, and you just won't reach that level of Mastery.

Nor will you gain the satisfaction from having done so.

Employment for idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122301)

The people writing those ads are the English and History majors who don't have a clue what they're writing about and often are the ones on the front line tossing out perfectly qualified resumes because they don't meet some insignificant checkbox criteria.

Much ado about nothing. (4, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | about 9 months ago | (#46122305)

I think this is being read the wrong way. There is a huge demand (sometimes real, sometimes perceived) for coders out there. Companies feel like they need to attract coders who, in most cases, already have a job. A lot of these coders are in jobs that are not very challenging, and/or they have bosses who are like the PHB in Dilbert. Basically, a lot of coders are unhappy. Their jobs are tedious and they don't get recognition for doing good work. By using words like "passionate" employers are creating the illusion of a job that will be more challenging and exciting than whatever job the coder is currently in. In reality, businesses could care less whether you are "passionate" about coding or not, so long as you can get the job done and you are halfway competent they're okay. There's nothing really Orwellian about it. They're just trying to use language that will catch the attention of potential candidates.

It is code for WARNING: Dumbass Managers Ahead (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122309)

Managers and HR want only the best coders, they solve this by the following:
Taking 10+ random and duplicate hour long interviews of which the person must pass all with flying colors
Must be really good at puzzles, because programming is soo much about pulling novel tricks out your ass on the spot
"He" must fit in with our culture and be cool and hip
And lets not forget paying them:
Be willing to be paid in free fruit and soda or pay us to work here because we are an awesome fashion subscription next big thing and women buy anything
OR we are a post IPO social company with a 200 P/E ratio and we will give you a wheelbarrow full of our stock options
OR he must have wet dreams about coding elaborate medical billing systems, because oh yeah that is the boring shit we actually do

i don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122337)

Well, I kinda like it but I'm not sure. I centrally don't like just one language or OS. I really can't decide. Oh! I though it said the moderately agnostic programmer. My bad.

I think you over estimate non-engineers (4, Funny)

netsavior (627338) | about 9 months ago | (#46122343)

Anyone with any lick of coding ability is passionate about programming. This is equivalent to hiring an artist to draw logos and saying they must be passionate about art, of course they are, or they wouldn't be an artist.
Compare that to other "less creative" positions... The average call-center person is probably not passionate about call centering.
Consider this:

public String getSum(int numA, int num2) {
if (numA == num2)
{
return "" + numA*2;
}
return ""+(numA + num2);
}

If that was painful for you, congratulations... you are more passionate about programming than 99% of people are about their job.

Re:I think you over estimate non-engineers (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 9 months ago | (#46122379)

Yeah, I come across some wacky code like that every now and then.

Re:I think you over estimate non-engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122571)

And typically when you bring up the issue and want to fix it, you get turned down and a red mark put next to your name for wasting time and resources...

Re:I think you over estimate non-engineers (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 9 months ago | (#46122511)

Wish I had mod points. That literally made me LOL.

Re:I think you over estimate non-engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122643)

Lick Orangutan Lips?

It's a fun job, but it's still a job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122347)

I make it clear that I enjoy what I do for a living, and that I appreciate that I have a job I like so well. But I also wouldn't be at my job if I wasn't getting paid, nor would I spend nearly as much time coding.

What they're really after (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 9 months ago | (#46122373)

What they're saying they want is people who will happily be in the office 100 hours a week, plugging away and barely stopping to eat.

In other words, it's a red flag, and I'll pretty much reject out of hand a contact from a company that makes a big deal about it.

Depends on the job and person (3, Interesting)

Akratist (1080775) | about 9 months ago | (#46122375)

Truthfully, there are a lot of jobs which basically require a person to show up and write competent code according to decent instructions, then shut it down and go home for the day. There are some jobs which require a high, if not manic, level of commitment to the job, because it's difficult, the tech is hard to work with, the requirements or deadlines are insane, etc. A high-performing coder is going to get bored at a 9 to 5 maintenance job...while an average code is not going to be able to take on the latter kind of job, but will do fine at maintenance. I worked for several years at a place that was a start up with a lot of big dreams and long hours, then it basically folded and I took a job which is a 9 to 5 maintenance job. When I get out of here for the day, I go home and start coding for fun, while keeping an eye out for the next high-pressure, high-demand gig. I get bored in this kind of environment, and so do most of the people I used to work with at the start-up. It's just about the right person and job and not some latest buzzword or ideal about who a candidate should be.

Re:Depends on the job and person (1)

Akratist (1080775) | about 9 months ago | (#46122605)

One thing I forgot to add to my post is that the passionate, high-performing coder is more likely to run into issues with burnout at some point. They don't realize when they've crossed the line, most of the time.

In the Name of Love (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122377)

Kind of reminds me of this recent read:

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/01/in-the-name-of-love/

I don't really trust people who claim to be "all in" on their jobs.

Congrats at noticing code words (2)

k8to (9046) | about 9 months ago | (#46122387)

Corporate speak is full of nonsense code words use to mean things other than what they mean. Job postings are nearly the thickest.

"Need Passionate Self-Starter who is a rock-star team-player who wants to change the world!"

This stuff has been nonsense since before I was born.

Balance (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 9 months ago | (#46122403)

A healthy passion for something includes a well-balanced diet of other activities not related to your passion. Any place wanting to hire otherwise is only going to get a sociopath. That said, it's frustrating and time consuming to get a pile of resumes where most are such an impossible fit, they could not have possibly read the posting. You tend to get a little "over specific" next time you list just to weed out more of the static.

Passion is its own antonym (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 9 months ago | (#46122407)

The meme "be passionate about something" always bothered me, because beyond it's intended surface implication that working hard towards a goal produces results, it suggests that satisfying one's passions is a worthy goal -- i.e. the purpose of life is self-satisfaction of one's own passions.

Then I researched the etymology of "passion". Passion comes from the Latin passio which means "suffering," which is why Jesus' suffering leading up to His crucifixion is called the "Passion of Christ." Jesus did it for others, not for Himself.

Over the centuries, the meaning of the English word "passion" morphed into meaning suffering due to desire. Thus, "passion" is in some sense its own antonym, in terms of serving self vs. serving others, when comparing the modern definition against its Latin root.

This ambiguity is being exploited by these hiring companies. Because the word "passion" hides whom one is serving, hiring companies are hiding that what they really want you to do is suffer while serving them.

IT Bravado at its best.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122413)

Everyone is out to change the world these days. So, you had better be, or else you are a slacker.

Mostly, it's just marketing bullshit, but it's amazing how many 20-something hipster types believe it.

Don't forget, the only passion the company founders have is for their own bank account. They may say otherwise, but they are lying (perhaps to themselves, too).

The flip side of passion (3, Insightful)

swm (171547) | about 9 months ago | (#46122415)

Most of the code that I see exhibits what I can only describe as a kind of aggressive indifference.
It's not just that they don't care.
They *totally* don't care.
And they're going to make sure you know it.
And suffer for it.

After a while, dealing with this stuff is just depressing.
Especially if you do care.

Application for telephon sanitizer position (4, Funny)

sinij (911942) | about 9 months ago | (#46122431)

I love sanitizing telephones. I dream of sanitizing telephones. I enjoy sanitizing telephones. I find high quality telephone sanatization deeply satisfying. I feel the same way about helping others sanitizing telephones so they can feel proud. Please hire me so I can buy food and shelter.

The message (4, Insightful)

Spiked_Three (626260) | about 9 months ago | (#46122443)

I saw a big change happen in the industry, while I was briefly at Microsoft.

My manager, and Microsoft in general was more about delivering a positive message, as opposed to having a positive message to deliver.

The problem with that is, if you encourage everyone to do it, they eventually begin doing it even to the company and not just the customers.

"How is that new version of windows going?"

"It's going great!!"

And we all know now, it was terrible, horrible, full of in fighting, self promotion, bad decisions.

"How is that new web site that all America will use, and a presidency depends on?"

"It's going great!!"

See the pattern here?

You really want passionate developers? You are an idiot if you do. As a boss, I did not want surprises, and to me the worse thing in the world a company could do was sell something that was broke. Companies today do not seem to share that philosophy. Consumers tolerate crap and beg for more. So, I guess it really is not just the companies to blame.

Bolerplate requirement (4, Funny)

floobedy (3470583) | about 9 months ago | (#46122447)

Perhaps this "passion" stuff is just standard bullshit which is not really expected.

A few jobs ago, I worked for a company which had a job opening. They posted an ad for the job, in which they described the ideal candidate as someone who was deeply "PASSIONATE" about their work. However the position itself was in accounting--specifically, in payroll. Obviously nobody is passionate about payroll. Nevertheless, they asked each interviewee if he was "passionate" about payroll, and each candidate answered that he was.

Yes - it is code for "we want to exploit you" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122455)

I saw this being a hiring manager and having had others pressure me to find ways to get my reports to sacrifice their own lives in order to make money for the Company with little to no additional compensation in return. What I personally ask of my reports is "be professional, live up to your obligations as an employee, be mature, find ways to solve problems and increase productivity". But there is definitely pressure from others around me to get people to give without receiving in return.

It's an art form (2)

Floyd-ATC (2619991) | about 9 months ago | (#46122459)

If you want to paint a barn, you hire a painter. If you want to decorate the ceiling of a cathedral, you hire an artist who is passionate about her work. The painter will usually have more predictable working hours and make enough to support a family. The artist is the one who will be remembered :-)

I love this article! (4, Insightful)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | about 9 months ago | (#46122473)

I like coding. I don't love it. I have a wide variety of interests in my life, such as family, movies, reading about other topics.

I have met a very few coders who are really all code all the time. And you know what? I find them insufferable.

A person should be well rounded and have many interests.

Don't question anything. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 9 months ago | (#46122487)

In my experience when a company says they want someone "passionate" what they mean is that they want someone willing to work overtime on a regular basis. Secondarily, they want someone who doesn't question overtly stupid decisions.

Just do what you're told and be enthusiastic that you have a job.

Only once, never again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122501)

I tried to have sex with a floppy disc once. The only problem was that it never got hard and I think I got a virus.

Passionate == Enjoys programming (1)

PackMan97 (244419) | about 9 months ago | (#46122549)

What I look for when hiring someone is someone who likes programming. Who wants to get better at doing it. Who wants to work with other people who like programming and want to get better. Someone who treats their work like a craftsman.

I think a lot of these job ads are so over the top because the folks doing the hiring have no idea what they want in a developer. Somewhere along the way someone wrote a blog post on somewhere site that talked about hiring folks who have a passion for their work.

However at the end of the day, do you want to hire a zookeeper who doesn't like animals? an accountant who hates math? a lawyer who can't stand the courtroom? No you don't. You want to hire someone who goes in does an 8-10 hour day and at the end of it says, "I'm proud of what I've done. I can't wait to do some more of it tomorrow".

I think moderately enthusiastic would be just fine for most position. What I don't want is someone who views the job as a grind or a bore. I will fire you for a bad attitude. Fake enjoying it until you actually do :)

I know where to find some passionate programers! (2)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 9 months ago | (#46122551)

Better hurry up while supplies last [slashdot.org] !

you have to have passion (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about 9 months ago | (#46122575)

It doesn't mean "live and breath" like it is worded IMO. You should love what you do and be happy (most of the time) to be at work though. I get very frustrated when working with people that have the opinion: who care's? Good enough it runs and passes unit tests. Refactorablity/beautiful code is a "nice to have". Business has a value on all metrics of a implementation of course but a lot of things are determined by giving a damn/having put in effort to learn new skills and thought to actually apply them in your work. When creating a generic solution would be just as performant and time consuming to implement but you don't bother because that wasn't in the feature description and isn't the way you learned how to do it 10 years ago in school and you can't be bothered to learn something new, you fail.

Part of being a professional is applying your special skills in the best interest of the client even when they might not be able to properly articulate all the intricacies of what they want. You need communication skills to get them to nail down exactly what they want as best as possible then you need to apply your judgement to make the best choices you can (as determined by their best interests). If you don't care you might as well be an if/then/else monkey because you add no extra value.

On the flipside of the issue: your employer shouldn't expect to dictate your personal interests: as in why are you spending 10 hours a week riding a bike when you could be using it to work on FOSS projects and learn stuff you can use here? Work is work, home is home. You should have passion at both and both will likely have some overlap but how much work blends into life isn't their business (though the opposite is since they are paying you for that time).

Arms race of words. (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#46122639)

I know a lot of people are suggesting it is just a way to find people willing to work extra hours or put in their own time, but I think it might actually be something much simpler and less sinister, an arms race in adjectives.

How do you describe people who are into coding. Well, you can say you 'like' programming, but then the next person says they 'really like' programming. Well, now it sounds like they are more of a programmer, so you up your description to 'uber-like' programming, which then others do to seem baseline. This sets up an expectation in both reading and writing resumes regarding how one describes perfectly normal levels of caring about your work, with increasingly extreme imagery being used because everyone else is doing it to, and anyone who doesn't get into the race looks unenthusiastic in comparison even if just a year ago the same description would have looked good.

As someone regularly asked to grade applicants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122661)

I'm often asked by my boss to read the resumes of applicants and to ask them questions at their job interviews.
As someone who started to learn programming at the age of 9, I think people who have avoided "the technical details" until they finished high school and had to choose a career path have a big disadvantage compared to those that tinkered with computers as kids.
And in our business it really pays off to know what it happening in the open source community. If you don't follow news sites or read magazines in your spare time, you become obsolete very fast.

Good little Stakhanovites (1)

Animats (122034) | about 9 months ago | (#46122681)

What some employers want are Stakhanovites. [wikipedia.org] Most don't really want "failure is not an option" types, who want off-site backup systems, fail-soft recovery, a Q/A organzation with the authority to delay deployment, expensive testing tools, automatic code analyzers... Most don't want programmers who polish their code until it's beautiful, like MIT students are taught.

Investment vs Passion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46122685)

"But am I really expected to be passionate about something I’ve been hired to help build? Do we fire members of construction crews if they don’t show a strong enough emotional attachment to the office complex they are building? Do we even fire architects for that offense?"

If you are not even minimally invested in the product you are building the results will show in your work - are you a code monkey or a software engineer? The most capable engineers are the ones who care about the craft and the results of the application of said craft. They know the domain, they know the business, they know how to construct a solution well that meets the technical and business cases. The days of crap-out-code-to-specs-that-are-thrown-over-the-wall are gone, someone can do that for 1/10 of the cost. If you're invested in an Agile process, there is no getting around it; you're asking the customer to make an investment in the product and you're not going to?

I'd hate to live in a house built by someone who thought the job was dull and forgot to properly brace a support. I'd hate to see houses designed by architects who thought houses were dull. I'd hate to see the customers who bought either. But I guess that's how we ended up with McMansions.

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