Coder Whisperer or How to Energize Your Dev Team

Haystack

Given my  background, an odd thing happens when I am the only technical person in a business discussion; I am often turned to as the code whisperer. Non-technical founders and board members will ask me how coders will react to something or what would get them excited.

The problem: while many people are extrinsically motivated (from the outside) by things like money or responsibility to the team, most hackers are motivated by interesting problems. Smart people understand this; what befuddles them is what makes a problem interesting to a hacker.

Things that might seem trivial to an end user, a game of boggle or sorting a list of names for instance, can house some very interesting puzzles for a programmer. To make matters more difficult, not all coders find the same types of problems interesting. A seemingly mundane problem may give a hacker the chance to explore a path they are curious about. haystacks Think of Monet’s Haystacks, it is highly unlikely that the painter had an innate interest in the making of hay, instead he used the haystacks as a way to explore the nature of light and how colors changed throughout the day. Programmers can do the same sort of exploration within a problem. For instance, they may use a project to learn a new programming language or explore a new development framework. Some common interest areas:

  • Algorithms
  • Scaling to large numbers of users
  • Using new languages or frameworks
  • Data Science
  • Optimizing an application to run fast

This isn’t to say that you can cleverly wrap up a problem and fool someone into working on it, instead this gives you the best chance of finding problems that your programmers will want to work on. Like most people, hackers want to work with great people. So the best way to get a great team of hackers is to start with one alpha hacker. But knowing how programmers think will give you a huge leg up in the hiring department and let you find projects that will excite the best and brightest.

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