Monday, June 7, 2021

You are not doing the proper assessment.



I have been in leadership roles for at least 14 years now, and when I have a hiring need, I personally weigh my hiring decision 50% based on soft skills and 50% on hard skills. The reason is straightforward; technology is constantly changing. I have been in places where X technology was used 100% of the time, therefore very relevant for the job, and in a matter of a week, you are using a totally different technology. 

I look for candidates with the passion and desire to learn, candidates that can adapt to the constant technology changes, that are open to sharing their knowledge with the team, that are a cultural fit with the organization, candidates that are enthusiastic and excited about the work they do. 

So, if technology is constantly changing, why do we fixate on the technical skills as if that was the most critical element?. 

I give you an example; 20 years ago, I was working for an International Software Company leader on mobile communications, I was a Database Administrator, and I got asked to create a C program based on pseudo-code given to me by a brilliant R&D director that happened to be my boss’s boss (Let’s call him Bob); I was good at SQL and PL/SQL, I also had previous coding experience I gained while earning my bachelor degree (COBOL, Fortran, REX, Basic, etc.). However, I had no prior experience with C, so once I got the task, I told Bob that I could do it, but It may take a little time since I have no previous experience coding in C. 

I could see that Bob had more faith in me than what I had in myself at that time. In my mind, I was estimating two weeks to code the program as it was not trivial ( a database fail-over routine that used a heartbeat technique to check that the database was healthy and responding to calls in less than 5 seconds; otherwise, the program will shut down the ill database, start a different database, reconnect database sessions to the new database and start the heartbeat process on the new database).  

I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated by Bob approaching me with this request; Bob was a brilliant man that mostly kept to himself, he was very respected in the company, and previous to his request, I do not recall we interacting directly ever, but as part of group meetings. 

I was excited and worried at the same time, but once I started, I was able to complete the code in 3 days; just after three days, I went from not knowing C to code a relatively complex C program. Bob, was surprised as he was expecting it would take longer, he asked me to demo it to him, which I did, and he was happy with it. 

My point is that sometimes hiring managers are fixating on technical qualifications, to the point that it looks like a contest of who knows more about a specific technology, and if they know more than you, then you are not qualified, they often do not evaluate well the soft skills of the candidate, and ignore the potential benefit that the person can bring to the organization. 

Ask yourself, how long will it take for a person with X technology to transition to Y similar technology? I will be surprised if you tell me more than 2 or 3 weeks, however getting a person in the team with the wrong soft skills can significantly delay work, demoralize the group and create a management nightmare for you. 

One of my old mentors and friend always says, “It is not the technology; it is the people.”