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Thursday, 24 January 2008

Don’t Be a One-Trick Pony

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 18:00

Jeff Atwood blogs about screening programming job applicants. Essentially, by asking general questions about different aspects of programming, he’s trying to weed out the one-trick ponies.

I was a bit shocked that an article he links to mentioned that 25% to 35% of people applying for a programming job at Amazon couldn’t propose any solution at all how to do a relatively simple pattern search through a large set of text files.

It would only take two minutes to take the phone number regex from RegexBuddy’s library, and edit it to the exact specifications given. And another two minutes to have RegexBuddy search the server tree. Okay, give it 15 minutes to edit and test the regex if you’re rusty on regexes, and 3 minutes for the search if the local network connection to the Unix server is congested.

This isn’t about Java programmers vs. Perl programmers. This is about programmers with broad skills and a rich bag of tools, vs. programmers who crank out code from 9 to 5 trying to appear productive. It’s working smart vs. working hard.

Since JDK 1.4, which is like 3 major versions ago, Java’s regular expression support is just as comprehensive as Perl’s. Java needs a few more keystrokes to instantiate a few classes, while Perl supports literal regexes as a language feature. But that hardly matters. What matters is if the programmer knows what he’s doing, and all the available tools and technologies.

If you’re applying for a job and your interviewer is a Coding Horror fan, spending a little on RegexBuddy might just be the ticket to a better-paid job.

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