What makes the beginnings of a good developer? Passion or Qualifications?

On the back of a previous post “Promoting IT as profession”, some of the responses provoked me to ask this question. I don’t mean it in the sense of what methods they apply to their programming. I mean do you need some form of education in the field or can passion and a thirst for knowledge make you a great developer?

Imagine you had 2 people for interview for a Junior position,

Candidate A
A post grad with a high level degree, a constant high achiever. They’ve taken the pre interview test and passed with flying colours. When posed with a hypothetical logic problem at interview they approach in the most efficient and logical manner. However when talking to the candidate they do not seem to be passionate about what they are doing, you get the feeling that they are not that interested in the area, there’s no doubt they are extremely good at the technical side of things but you get the impression their input would start at 9 and finish at 5.

Candidate B
Has no formal training, they have put themselves through some online tutorials and have examples of a one or two home projects they have created. They just managed a pass on the pre interview test and when they are posed with the same hypothetical logic problem that candidate A had to address they are not as efficient. After stumbling a little and asking a few questions they manage to solve the problem but the methods are a bit untidy. When speaking with the candidate they come across as incredibly enthused about developing and show that they take a keen interest in and outside of working hours.

Are good at communicating and have good references.

Who would you employ? Why?

Do the best developers have a formal qualification or are they just passionate about what they do? Is it necessary to take an interest outside of work or can u learn everything you need to while you’re at work?

Filed under: Debate, , ,

3 Responses

  1. Svish Says:

    I would say the best developers have both. A person with with lots of enthusiasm and passion for their craft. Enough passion teach themselves stuff from online tutorials and do home projects and enough enthusiasm to go and put themselves through some sort of degree related to their interests. (That's how I would describe me anyways… not the best developer, but a developer who is enthusiastic and that both have done lots of hobby experimenting as well as going through a formal software developer education) :)

    Posted on September 29th, 2009 at 23:44

  2. Sarkie Says:

    Candidate B every time but in this situation, I’ve seen a Candidate A, because you have to be enthusiastic to get a good degree I feel.

    My ex boss employed the Candidate B, he knew nothing of IT, but he got on with him. It works.

    Posted on October 15th, 2009 at 19:28

  3. Paul Albinson Says:

    You really need a mix of the 2 really as having qualifications without the passion to use them to their full advantage then it is worthless as the person will just do the bare minimum to get a task done.

    Whereas someone with a passion for the work will try to find the best way to do a task. What they may lack in qualifications they will probably have learnt everything they know in their own time because they are passionate about their subject. Also what they don’t know they will learn quickly to create the best work possible.

    So really the passionate person is more likely to increase in value to the company as they will learn more because they want to and will look for the best solution even if it means working late. Whereas the non passionate but qualified person will probably only learn more if they are specifically told to and will look for the quick fix to allow a 9-5 day.

    However these are just assumptions and stereotyping the types of people but it seems to be the way things are as I see them. Then again I am a bit of both types, I have qualifications and passion which serves me well as I have the basis to know my subject and the passion to find out more. I have probably learnt just as much if not more on my own because I wanted to find out more. Also it was my passion for IT that impressed my employer at interview but having the qualifications must of helped too.

    So really as far as who you should employ it really is about the individual not qualifications. You have to establish what they would be like to work with and if they are likely to keep learning to increase their value to the company.

    Posted on December 29th, 2009 at 16:54

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