[Baypiggies] Perot at NASA - Sr. Python Developer

Alex Martelli aleax at google.com
Wed Jul 1 20:29:40 CEST 2009

On Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 3:58 PM, <tpc247 at gmail.com> wrote:
> looking for my next opportunity.  Alex, normally I'd be inclined to agree
> with you, and given that I'm no longer gainfully employed, you'd think the
> last thing I'd try to do is burn my bridges or make powerful enemies, but I

It's OK, what fun would life be without some powerful enemies to spice it up;-).

I know perfectly well that Facebook has managed to attract a number of
my ex-colleagues, particularly because several of them are friends and
people I worked closely with -- and note what it implies: obviously
the Facebook recruiters and hiring managers were *NOT* such incredible
idiots as to require social networking API-level experience, or they
would have hired none of them (nor, presumably, would they have kept
head-hunting me so aggressively as they have).

So, your following analysis:

> have to say in light of the following fascinating article about the coming
> war between Google and Facebook, your response to Travis taking him to task
> for having social networking as a must seems to come off as a bit of a
> tantrum, if you'll allow me to use such a term with someone whose talks I've

appears to me to be incredibly superficial and so obviously flawed
that you would probably have saved yourself the embarrassment of
posting it, had you stopped for a second to reason about it. Just
THINK about it...:

1. there is something of a neighbors' rivalry between Google in
Mountain View and Facebook in Palo Alto,
2. in particular, Facebook has hired some strong technical people away
from Google
3. and of course Facebook is not an utter bunch of morons, so they did
NOT put "social networking API level experience" as a MUST in those
hires sub 2,
4. ...therefore, you claim, my entire agreement with Facebook's
policies on this point is a "kind of tantrum" against them?!?!?!

If I was putting together a tiny startup where absolutely everybody
MUST be able to cover absolutely every role (including user experience
design, user interface design, product management, etc, etc), from day
one and with no time at all to ramp up, I might, reluctantly, demand
as a MUST skill, familiarity, and experience with every one of these
aspects, and the vertical(s) in which the startup means to operate, as
well as every technology and tool that the startup means to use.
"Reluctantly" because by setting such a huge number and variety of
constraints I'd be no doubt excluding the vast majority of extremely
skilled and productive developer, because, as others have ably
reinforced, *MUST* means that missing even ONE of these qualifications
makes it absolutely impossible to hire the person (if it meant
anything else, it would *not* be a MUST).

Even in the tiniest startups I've ever worked in, I've never been in
such an absolutely dire situation -- indeed I could not possibly have
been, because any startup (or other company) requiring me to possess
any ability in designing graphical user interfaces, for example, could
definitely never hire me.

As long as the company has a couple of people who are qualified to
appropriately decide feature sets and user experience features (and,
of course, business model, market positioning, channels, etc -- not
necessarily the _same_ couple of people for all of these;-) there is
no need to deem it a MUST to have experience in specific verticals for
every hire -- that's also what invalidates Alec's defense of Perot
Systems (which is far from a tiny startup) and their recruiters: his
anecdote about inappropriate Twitter use would exclusively apply to a
company that had NO people at all with the ability to evaluate such
issues, it doesn't require for _every_ employee to be an expert in

I believe my career shows off well how, in practice, a developer can
thrive and contribute solid achievements even while repeatedly
switching to new application areas (in each of which, every time, he
had no previous experience) -- apparently the recruiter in question
agrees, since (perhaps trying to mollify me?) in a private response he
says I "would qualify by a landslide". Well, if I'd qualify by a
landslide while violating one of their "MUST" conditions, then it
absolutely HAS to be wrong for them to express that condition as
"MUST" -- "you violate a MUST but of course you would still qualify"
is entirely absurd and self-contradictory.

As the same recruiter says more publicly, the purpose of the "MUST"s
is (supposed to be) to stop unqualified people from applying -- so
anybody who is missing even one absolutely has to be unqualified,
otherwise calling them "MUST" (instead of "highly desirable traits")
is utterly, totally WRONG.


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