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Joel on Software

Upgrade your career

by Joel Spolsky
Thursday, November 05, 2009

Do you like your job?

Do you enjoy the people you work with?

Would you want to have lunch with them? Every day? Alex Papadimoulis thinks that Fog
Tyler Griffin Hicks-Wright
Creek’s free lunches are “cultish,” but everyone at Fog Creek loves them. Maybe it’s the mandatory brain implant we install in each new worker, but I like to think that we just enjoy eating together because we genuinely like each other and like spending time together. If you can’t imagine eating lunch every day with your coworkers, I hate to break it to you: you might not like them. Is it OK to spend most of your waking hours with people you don’t like?

Do you actually enjoy doing your job? If you wake up an hour early in the morning, do you think, “Yay! I can go in early and get another hour of work in!” Or does that sound ridiculous to you?

Are you learning? When was the last time you had to learn a new skill? Is this year kind of like last year, or are you doing something new, stretching yourself, challenging yourself to be better?

At one of the recent DevDays events, I asked the audience (almost 100% programmers) how many of them were incredibly satisfied with their job, found it fulfilling, and were treated well by their employers. Only about 25% of the hands went up. I asked how many people either hated their job and couldn’t wait to find something better, or were actually actively on the job market. Again, about 25%. The rest were somewhere in the middle: maybe they can tolerate their job, but they’re keeping an eye open for something better.

Who is this DevDays audience? They’re the elite of the elite of the best programmers out there. They’re the people who participate in Stack Overflow, the people who read, the people who are constantly trying to learn more about programming and software development. More than half of them paid their own money to attend a one day conference. They’re the most desirable software developers on the planet. And 75% of them are not delighted with their job.

That’s unacceptable. I’ve been saying for ten years that the top developers have a choice of where to work, and the top employers need to work harder to attract them, because the top developers get ten times as much work done as the average developers.

And yet, I still keep meeting ridiculously productive developers working in shitholes.

We’re going to fix this, right now. Thus, Stack Overflow Careers.

We’re going to completely turn the job market upside down, for the best software developers and the best companies.

This is a talent market. Developers are not even remotely interchangeable. Therefore, recruiting should work like Hollywood, not like union hiring halls of the last century.

In a union hiring hall, downtrodden workers line up like cogs, hoping to make it to the front of the line in time to get a few bucks for dinner.

In Hollywood, studios who need talent browse through portfolios, find two or three possible candidates, and make them great offers. And then they all try to outdo each other providing plush work environments and great benefits.

Here’s how Stack Overflow Careers will work. Instead of job seekers browsing through job listings, the employers will browse through the CVs of experienced developers.

Instead of deciding you hate your job and going out to find a better one, you’ll just keep your CV on file at Stack Overflow and you’ll get contacted by employers.

Instead of submitting a resume, you’ll fill out a CV, which links back to your Stack Overflow account, so that you can demonstrate your reputation in the community and show us all how smart you really are. To a hiring manager, the fact that you took the time to help a fellow programmer with a detailed answer in some obscure corner of programming knowledge, and demonstrated mastery, is a lot more relevant than the Latin Club you joined in school.

Employers can see how good you are at communicating, how well you explain things, how well you understand the tools that you’re using, and generally, if you’re a great developer or not. And they can see your peer reputation, so all that hard work you’ve been putting into helping people on Stack Overflow can karmically come back and help you upgrade your job to the latest, state-of-the-art, great place to work.

Stack Overflow has grown incredibly fast. After a year in business, it gets over a million page views most weekdays and currently stands as the 817th largest site on the Internet, according to Quantcast. It reaches 5.2 million people a month. But Stack Overflow Careers doesn’t have to be massive. It’s not for the 5.2 million people who visit Stack Overflow; it’s for the top 25,000 developers who participate actively. It’s not for every employer; it’s for the few that treat developers well and offer a place to work that’s genuinely fulfilling.

Read the FAQ, then go file your CV now, and upgrade your career.


Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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