Joshua and Kellen discuss how variety benefits a development team, how teams end up with little variety and what you can do to improve the situation.
Oddly, there are a variety of sources for variety! We look at a handful of them as well as things you might be doing when hiring, without realizing, that restrict the points of view you have on your team.
Hey there, welcome to getting apps done, a mostly non-technical podcast with these singular goal of helping you deliver software projects with your host and cto-to-go Joshua Graham.
So in our last episode we were talking about estimation and we stumbled upon a topic that I thought was really great. Hiring people who compliment and enhance your team or add to them.
We were talking about in reference to estimation, specifically, but you see this echo chamber concept all over the place and it's just as valid in the workplace as it is anywhere else.
Having very little variety in your input or feedback or ideas is not necessarily a good thing because it leads you to always come to the same conclusions.
So I wanted to talk about how you find people that add some variety and what value they actually provide to your business.
Yeah, absolutely. So I guess if we're going to talk about, um, kind of the echo chamber of your kind of generic Dev team that doesn't have a lot of diverse skills, um, which ended up seeing it as kind of the exact same solutions from the entire team because they're there, they're all trained the same.
They all come from the same backgrounds. They all have the same job, they've been probably sitting at the same computer writing the same kind of code. And so you start seeing the same answer over and over again, which is obviously not the best. Especially when you start running into really weird problems. I mean technology is constantly changing, so it really helps to have it more interesting background of problem solving skills.
And in order to find that, obviously you're going to want to know how to find people with this sort of variety because you're not, well... You are going to find them right off the street. That's exactly what you find them!
And it is... To a very great extent. You will find these people off the street, but they might be missing other skills.
Well, you know, they'll be fun. And entertaining. I actually had somebody interview for a job once his best experience or closest experience to working as a software developer. He played Thomas the Tank Engine in children's shows and things like that. I also had a fisherman once. They were very interesting people, but I'm not sure if that's the sort of variety we're talking about here.
That's pretty good. I don't know. We, we, we had a... I forget what they were doing. They were like a customer service rep or something, but somehow it got sorted into the bin from a consulting company for developer position and they were honestly pretty close to the final running like, like, well we could, we could probably teach them to code they're pretty qualified otherwise.
That's actually a really good point. Job specs stop putting in stuff that's not necessary! Really. I mean I don't know how many jobs I've looked at and I didn't actually qualify for. I've been in development project management for 20 years now and I don't qualify for some of the basic roles because they put stupid things in the list of stuff that they want.
And don't forget the, uh, you know, the ones that are like, we went five years on a technology that's been around for one. Yeah, there... They all tend to be really specific in ways they don't need to be because I mean technologies especially in the development world don't last long. They're not that different from each other.
I mean even when you start talking about crazy new stuff like, oh, not even that new stuff, but like React where it was a totally different way of looking at building a user interface from previous versions you still could have handed it to it and after a couple of weeks of training, gotten any senior developer to understand what's going on and be able to build things with that tech. So it's, it's not the same as, you know, we need a mathematician, you know, that that takes years to get good at programming. Once you know, one, it's yeah, it's not that important. They know exactly the skillset you're looking for.
So yes, if you do sort out your job specs and you stop asking me for stupid things, the other thing I wanted to bring up is actually a critical one for you because you just recently posted a really great blog post about this and it's about asking really stupid things in interviews or asking questions poorly is probably more accurate and missing out on people who actually really would've been great for the role because you didn't do a great job of interviewing.
Yeah. So I mean that's pretty common. Where did you go into the interview? They have kind of set questions, especially if they're not like they don't do a lot of interviews, you know, you kind of write down whatever questions you think will tell you whether they know a skill or not and you're always wrong. Like especially when you're talking job interviews where people are nervous and scared or whatever. Like you, you really do need to talk to them for a while and get to know like how often have you done that? Have you done anything similar? If you tried things that are vaguely related to this, do you have other skills that you think will help you do that job? You know you have to. You have to kind of dig in for that kind of stuff.
Yeah, I try not to ask too many questions that I have a specific answer for as well. I try to leave it fairly open ended so I can see how they work and what solution they might come up with to whatever I'm asking because I'm going to learn a lot more about them in that situation. In fact, I'll even sometimes leave it open to a situation where they can ask me questions because discovering their learning process and how they figure out what I'm looking for is actually really important because that's a valuable skill and that's another area where I can spot diversity because I may look at it one way and I might come up with one solution, but I want to know if they're going to look at it a different way and come up with something even better
And that's always like the best case scenario for me is when somebody comes to you that you're like, uh, they may or may not be able to even do the job. And then after you talk to them for a few minutes, they come up with this totally different viewpoint on a problem than you had and you're like, oh wow, that's perfect. That'll work great. Yes, yes. You know, that's the epiphany moment kind of thing and that's where you get a lot of value from having people with a diverse background and skillsets.
Yeah, that's good. I love those. I interviewed a woman once. She came around with a solution that I had never even considered and I, I immediately went off and took advantage of it. The solution she came up with was absolutely amazing. It was something I'd never would have thought of because she came from a different background than I did. She had different experience and those are the things to be looking for.
Yeah, exactly. And there is so, I mean kind of unrelated to just like the actual interview process and trying to find people that have diverse skillsets, there is value to and having a team that is in itself has very diverse skills. Like having a designer as part of your developer team can have a lot of value. Like you definitely see with development teams, they tend to be kind of the same type of personality that becomes a programmers.
They tend to be quiet, maybe knocked to communicative, but like adding in more people and strengthening those skills. Even if maybe they're not the best programmer, but hey, they're really good at communicating to management can have a huge bonus on like total team activity.
A lot of people make fun of the concept of synergy, but it's actually really true here because we find people who compliment each other really well. You could bring in 5, 10, 20 developers and they're not necessarily going to get as much done as a paired developer and designer or a developer designer and a project manager or something like that that are taking different skill sets that compliment each other and people who think differently and grouping them together because that group of 20 developers, they're all doing exactly the same thing and you may not need them all doing the exactly the same thing to get the job done. You may need those different skill sets.
Exactly. And there is kind of like, and you can kind of figure out what skills you're missing just by asking yourself, what am I weak at? Like, especially like when I first started, communication skills were a little rough. Back in, what were we? Like 19 when we did those first jobs. Um, my communication skills could have used a little bit of work, but that would have been a good opportunity for me when looking for uh people to join a team to look for people who had great communication skills that could back me up because I could back them up on general development skills and general technology skills. So I feel like that's like a kind of thing as a, as a team member, what you're looking for is someone who can help your weaknesses and your strengths, you know, help their weaknesses.
Definitely and, actually, I've tried to build my career around trying to get experience in different things for exactly that. But if you can find a team that can do that, that's even better because one person can only learn so much of something, but a team of people can learn a lot in their individual expertises.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean that's, that is kind of our, our primary skill set is kind of the jack of all trades and technology world. But that's not necessarily the case for a lot of other people. And it is limiting, you know, we have, there are skills that we know pretty well that are kind of shallow compared to somebody who is a expert in that field or does that full time.
Another thing to look for when trying to find people with some variety is to look outside your usual circles for candidates.
Uh, you might be considering remote workers or actually been following a group on twitter. It's moms who code. And I thought that was really interesting. That's a huge area of really highly skilled workers who have slightly different requirements than your average worker who will come into your office and work all day. They need a little bit more flexibility. They need to be able to work from home and they... Quite a few of them have been talking about how they're struggling to find jobs. And that just amazed me because that seemed like the ideal sort of people you'd want to bring in really highly skilled people who have some special needs and might actually be willing to work a little bit cheaper because of those.
Yeah. And I mean, it's, we're already doing development from home and I don't know about you, but my actual like programming schedule tends to be all over the place depending on the project and the day and like flexibility in programming is pretty normal. Unless you're working on something that has a really specific time constraint, like uh, I don't know, trying to work on, uh, Amazon around black Friday, I imagine it's pretty terrifying. But other than that, most development schedules are pretty flexible. There's plenty of room for remote workers to work on slightly different schedules as long as everyone's communicating.
Yeah, and developers in general work slightly differently than a lot of other skills anyway because I, even when we're not actively in front of a keyboard, our brains are still doing what ever they're doing, trying to figure out problems. I can't get away from them even on a bicycle or on the side of a mountain. I'm still coming up with solutions for problems. So it's not a traditional sit down in your chair, work your eight hours role anyway. It never is for anybody. Even if you are in an office it's not.
Yeah, and I've actually, especially with my last client and I kept coming up with these really strange problems on technological things that I couldn't figure it out and I'd go for a run and I'd be about a half mile into it and I'd be tempted to turn back because, oh, that's the answer. I got it now. So yeah, programming is really kind of a creative skill set and a lot of ways, especially once, once you get past that initial beginners... that beginners hump where you're like, oh no, I don't know anything yet. But once you kind of started internalizing all the basics, you, you really do start problem solving constantly,
Which is fun.... Until you want to shut it down.
Sometimes... Most of the time. Yeah, sometimes it would be nice to just have an nice office, which I know lately I've been a, you know, especially I've been working on... I've been working on the blog and such. I've been hanging out with a lot of writers and it's kind of interesting talking to them because their, their schedule, the way they approach their work sounds really familiar to me. It just kind of they're doing it on their own minus, you know, an agile team or something, but the actual day to day process for what their part and their creativity and how they focus sounds exactly the same problems thats developers have.
That's a really good point thing. Hobbies like blogging, the podcast and cycling, photography, anything like that. Those are also things that can separate people and provide variety because those all have different skills and I being a hobbyist photographer has actually added a lot to my ability to develop and design things as well. And it comes from strange places that you wouldn't necessarily think of.
Absolutely. Actually, that was one thing when we were talking this topic was uh, could we possibly advice for people who are writing interview or writing their resumes, which isn't our normal target audience, but when you're writing the resume, it's pretty common to put on hobbies and such, but I think it's important that people kind of think about their hobby and how they've actually applied it to problem solving skills, so when somebody asks them about it in an interview, they can answer those questions because chances are you have just about any hobby you will have, especially one that you've spent a lot of time at that you have a lot of skill in. Chances are you've used a problem solving skill from that, that hobby in your day to day life. Even if it's gardening. I'm sure something came up one day where you're like, oh yeah, I totally can solve that because I know about X.
Absolutely. In fact, programming used to be my hobby. I was a project manager first, not a programmer, and because I developed that skill and it was helping me with my project management of technical projects in the end that actually led to being more of a developer role and then back into project management and uh, having those skills can help in a lot of different ways.
Oh, absolutely. I mean, yeah, I mean obviously programming a little bit special case because it's like your hobby is also a valuable job skill. Um, so there's kind of bonuses in there, but you don't need to have a valuable, valuable hobby to get a lot of value out of it in your day to day life. Um, your photography example was excellent just because, I mean I've actually used that for work of taking pictures of things and being able to use those in marketing material and such, just because, yeah, I like to take pictures and sometimes they come out pretty good.
Yeah, absolutely. The same. And actually this is kind of leading into the next part of this conversation, the value that these people provide by being different and providing some variety into your company. Obviously we just hit on a lot of different skills that can provide benefit to you that you didn't realize coming into it. Uh, there's also different viewpoints.
I actually, I've moved to the UK from the US. I've been here for. I've been here for... I've been here 13 years now. That's a long time, but when I moved here I actually was the person with a different viewpoint and I found a lot of different ways how that gave me an advantage and allowed me to provide value to companies I was working for, by having different viewpoint, by having different experiences in my life and looking at things a different way than people here necessarily did. And that was extremely beneficial.
That is a really, really good point. Actually a kind of similar story. I moved from manufacturing to healthcare as a industry change and that was, that's generally a negative on resumes when people interview you and such, they want you to be in the same market.
And in this case I came in with all of these different experiences like, oh, no, no, we can totally do this better. We do this all the time better in manufacturing and you know, I obviously can't talk to some of your patient, you know, the back and forth with the patients, but like the way you're tracking this data, we can do better than this. We know how to do this in a different field, so like going outside of the field is really valuable too. Though. You'll obviously have to, like I had took me about six months or so to really get up to speed on how hospitals work since I hadn't worked with them, but prior.
That's helped me as well. Certainly and in fact in particular with the agile processes because the lean manufacturing processes, they were following play really nicely with the agile processes and the startup processes that I help people with now. Even though all of these are financial startups or design startups or fashion startups, they still apply those same things or can apply those same things to get a lot of the same benefits that they weren't manufacturing and that diversity again helps them in ways that they just.... They never really thought about. They may have been looking for somebody who was in the financial market before, but they might have missed that opportunity.
Absolutely, and just having just different people with different perspectives on things, especially with they have deep perspectives like they've worked for a long time in different industries. Those, those viewpoints of knowing all the various problems that they've solved in those different industries and applying them to a different, a different problem set is really valuable.
Not just problem sets. I find that even down to terminology, it can be wildly different from one field to another and by knowing the terminology of another field, it's actually a really powerful thing because that allows you to communicate with them. Obviously, we run a podcast, we think words are important, but they really are. Because when you're talking to other people in other industries and most people have to work with people in other industries. Knowing how they talk about things makes it much easier to communicate with them and that's an extremely valuable piece of skill that you can have and provide to a new business and these people that are coming from different backgrounds. can provide to your business.
Absolutely. I will put a one little flag on that is that a lot of people have to learn the skill of translation, especially when there's. They've been in one industry forever. They're kind of used to speaking what's what's almost a different language of you know, vocabulary and everything's different and when you do switch to a different field, you, you do do a lot of, a lot of translating of what words meant in one industry aren't necessarily what the word means in a different industry or you have a language that's very specific to your job or skill or whatever and some of that doesn't translate to you. Do you have a lot of practice of... Use small words, use words that everyone knows, be a little bit more verbose and your explanations. It goes a long way.
That is absolutely true.
All right, well we will put some transcripts up at gettingappsdone.com to uh let you peruse this at your will.
A be sure to check out my personal website at joshuagraham.info. To learn a little bit more about me.
And Kellen's website. At piffner.com to learn a little bit about him.
Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and to check out our website and if you have some other ideas about how to add some variety or some benefits of adding variety into your teams, please drop us a note and let us know about it.
That's all for today, so thank you and we will talk to you next time.
Thanks for listening. Cheers.