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Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams

108 replies on 8 pages. Most recent reply: Apr 10, 2010 12:52 PM by Aye Thu

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Flat View: This topic has 108 replies on 8 pages [ « | 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 | » ]
Kay Schluehr

Posts: 302
Nickname: schluehk
Registered: Jan, 2005

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 14, 2010 3:49 AM
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> Developing teams by quickly weeding out misfits is a good
> way to develop teams. However the title of your post
> "Firing" and references to "poisonous people" do a
> disservice to what should be a strategy for closer
> inspection.

... but everybody knows one who knows one ;)

I admit I actually knew one guy who was not directly considered "poisonous" by his peers but non-cooperative. Since I have some talent for those kind of people we held a 1-1 meeting on a whiteboard for about 3 hours. After that we could continue to work. His actual "fault" is being too cautious and perfectionist to hold deadlines. Every detail becomes equally important and he blocks if he gets the feeling that other people are careless and willing to omit stuff. He can't also shorten reports dedicated to his department leader who gets angry about their length. It is an endless commedy.

Of course he is very useful for people like me who have a bad memory for all sorts of details but are good at structuring things from basic abstractions and finding adequate representations. In a sense I tried to structure his discourse to become useful for the project - not only by noting requirements but also create solutions during discussion. This way he became convinced that nothing is missing.

This happened long ago and we held the meeting exactly once. From what I heard last time he has the same trouble as always with his other coworkers.

Bhaskar Maddala

Posts: 5
Nickname: maddalab
Registered: Feb, 2006

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 15, 2010 2:18 AM
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>
> ... but everybody knows one who knows one ;)
>

:-))

> Of course he is very useful for people like me who have a
> bad memory for all sorts of details but are good at
> structuring things from basic abstractions and finding
> adequate representations. In a sense I tried to structure
> his discourse to become useful for the project - not only
> by noting requirements but also create solutions during
> discussion. This way he became convinced that nothing is
> missing.

Very nice indeed, if you ever need to hire a programmer, give me a holler, will definitely consider it :-)

On the flip side, most project teams which label someone as poisonous/non-cooperative are close to failure and if I do not have the freedom to address it, I'd jump ship. It is not so much a case of the individual being non-cooperative as that of the the team being dysfunctional. Leadership on the team needs to be held accountable, however in most cases "leadership" refuses to hold itself accountable and it is easier to label individuals as non-cooperative.

Robin S

Posts: 1
Nickname: robin7013
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 16, 2010 1:30 AM
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I agree with Bhaskar Maddala. Often someone is labelled poisonous not because of his mistakes but because of the team lead or co-workers. Sometimes a good employee is fired just because that co-workers do not like him for unofficial reasons.

Paul English

Posts: 23
Nickname: kayakcto
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 10:05 AM
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Mike, how is your company doing?

As to hiring failure rate -- as long as we are open with people when we hire them that we have a trial period, and they accept this, and we treat them fairly -- what is wrong with that?

As long as we do the above, and, the people here love working here, and our customers love our product, and our business is doing well -- what's the problem?

Have you ever played on a competitive sports team, one where not everyone can play but where they have tryouts and they cut or trade bad players? Do you watch professional sports?

Paul English

Posts: 23
Nickname: kayakcto
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 10:08 AM
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Kayak pays industry rates. We don't have to pay people above industry to get them to come here or to stay here.

One post here said it would be good to hear from an actual Kayak engineer. I encourage all of you -- find a Kayak engineer on LinkedIn, someone that is perhaps a friend of yours, contact them (or have your friend contact them) and ask them yourself -- in confidence -- what they think of working here?

I'm sure there are a few people here who are nervous, but if you talked to a bunch of people here, I think you'd find that people are pretty happy.

Paul English

Posts: 23
Nickname: kayakcto
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 10:11 AM
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humble/ethical/kind are requirements; are you intimidated by confidence? people can be confidence and humble at the sam time -- i'm extremely confident in the things that i'm good at, and i'm very humble and curious about the very many more things that i'm not good at; and for every skill where i excel, i know there are people who are better at that skill than i am

i seek out such people -- people who have some skill greater than mine or our existing team, and we do "reverse indoctrination" of such new hires -- rather than programming them to think like us, we work hard to learn from them, from their style, from their approach, etc

Paul English

Posts: 23
Nickname: kayakcto
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 10:15 AM
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we have many introverts here; being an "energy amplifier" -- one of our two requirements -- does not mean dancing on tables; it means intellectual intensity, curiousity -- seek good ideas from others, challenge them, amplify them

as to objections to company policy -- as i previously mentioned, it is a *requirement* here for people to voice their opinions -- no silent disagreements -- and if you ask about the people who have chosen to work with me for 15-20 years, you'll find that the very people i choose to recruit are those that challenge me the most -- in private and in public

in our tech team, about half are folks i've worked with or somehow known before -- people i've chosen to work with again, and people who have chosen to work with me again -- the other half are just other exceptional people we have sought out, with diversity of styles, opinions, languages (meaning spoken language -- i don't care about programming language experience), etc

Paul English

Posts: 23
Nickname: kayakcto
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 10:16 AM
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extra hours? you find 40-45 hours a week as being too stressful for you?

as to working in the office vs at home -- we're pretty flexible on that; it depends on someone's role

a ui designer, for example, should probably be in the office a lot when other people are here, as it is dramatically faster and more effective to do ui in person than to try to do it by email etc

Paul English

Posts: 23
Nickname: kayakcto
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 10:21 AM
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people can choose to work the number of hours they want to work; if you can get stuff done in 40 hours, that's great

many people choose to work a few extra hours, they love their work and their peers

if i see someone working "too many" hours, e.g., typically more than 45 hours, i will actually talk with them privately, and find a way to have them *not* work so much -- we want people to have a fantastic work/life balance

also, again, we are very flexible about hours -- some people choose to show up at 7am, other people come in at 11am -- i trust them to decide when to be here, who they need to work with

we also often have a dozen or so people going out for 90 minute or more "lunches" which are often a run (3-7 miles) or tennis, basketball, hockey, volleyball, etc

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 11:12 AM
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Paul- People are going to apply their own context to anything like this. I've personally worked in some really dysfunctional environments where the management talked about work-life balance and excellence but actually ran things like a sweatshop.

Don't take people's comments too personally. I think you've probably intrigued a lot of potential employees. Good luck.

robert young

Posts: 361
Nickname: funbunny
Registered: Sep, 2003

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 12:08 PM
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> humble/ethical/kind are requirements; are you intimidated
> by confidence?

Hardly. I'm not the smartest person I've ever known. But I do know what I know and why that is valuable; that's as good a practical definition of confidence I can conjure.

> i seek out such people -- people who have some skill
> greater than mine or our existing team, and we do "reverse
> indoctrination" of such new hires

OK, this piques my curiosity. My itch is relational databases. What has been your scorecard with regard to database hires? Do they flee early and often? Have you even hired any? If so, do you the coders, enforce your notions of data structures and schemas, or do you cede that to the database geeks? Do you assert that database engines are too slow and irrelevant, and thus keep lots of dumb data in files which you then manage with your code, a la COBOL/68? Yes, this is my itch, and I really do wonder whether the youngsters are all as closed-minded about databases as those I've had to work with in recent years.

The same could be said of UI geeks, by the way.

Concord's a nice little town. Last I was there, almost all residential.

Ko Baryiames

Posts: 1
Nickname: kob
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 3:43 PM
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I am a kayak engineer working in what we call the core team - database is one of the responsibilities.

There are no developers devoted strictly to managing the schema and data access. Granted, some, such as myself spend a high percentage of our time thinking about how to make the databases run more efficiently, but we basically share the pain when it comes down to database development. There is very little data ferreted away in files, we have a very strong commitment to relational database, and our data lives there. We also have the luxury of being able to scale out the databases when necessary, which is more of a specialty and a passion. All told, we have had some turn-over, but not much at all.

We have done a pretty good job hiring youngsters. They ask a lot of good questions, and we encourage them to do so. Specifically related to database development, they figure out pretty quickly who can help explain the access tier or how indexing works, and most importantly - that asking a question saves them from showing up in the slow query log :-). And at the end of the day, we old salts get to see some fresh enthusiasm which is also really not so bad at all.

Eric Weise

Posts: 2
Nickname: eweise
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 17, 2010 10:44 PM
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> Mike, how is your company doing?
>
> As to hiring failure rate -- as long as we are open with
> people when we hire them that we have a trial period, and
> they accept this, and we treat them fairly -- what is
> wrong with that?
>
> As long as we do the above, and, the people here love
> working here, and our customers love our product, and our
> business is doing well -- what's the problem?
>

Actually I didn't understand from the original posting that there was a trial period. I can understand that arrangement then, which is not unlike my current contract to hire arrangement I'm on at the moment. I actually prefer this arrangement to see if the job is a good fit for both myself and the employer.

Why don't you just do a contract to hire arrangement? Seems a bit clearer than "we've hired you but may fire you next month" arrangement and legally safer as well.

Nikanth Karthikesan

Posts: 1
Nickname: nikanth
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 18, 2010 1:09 AM
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> have you ever played on a sports team? one that everyone
> was allowed to play, or one that tried to win and where
> some players had to be cut? do you ever watch professional
> sports?

But no team can continue to win, if there are no superstar players who has been in the team for long periods. The more the no of cooperating superstars, the more likely the team can be a champion.

If the no of team members who are part of the team for longer period is closer to zero,it would mean that the work(environment) is bull-shit and to hide it one has to continuously hire and fire.

Paul English

Posts: 23
Nickname: kayakcto
Registered: Feb, 2010

Re: Rapid Hiring & Firing to Build the Best Teams Posted: Feb 18, 2010 10:47 AM
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our offer letter has been carefully reviewed by our legal firm :)

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