I’m Looking to Hire Freelance Ruby Programmers

I’m trying to hire a couple developers. One guy sent a resume that looked great — degree in CS, C++ experience, a year with Ruby in Rails. So I sent him a simple programming exercise. I sent him the testcases.

He shoots back an answer. I open a command-line, type ruby TestCases.rb and see this:

9 tests, 0 assertions, 0 failures, 9 errors

He didn’t even get to the freakin’ assertions! His “solution” didn’t treat the argument as an array.

Once upon a time, I programmed by sliding cards in a box under a window and returning 15 minutes later for the results. Once upon a time, I programmed by writing object files that could take anywhere from a few minutes to overnight to link together. If we still lived in those times, I could understand submitting some text and saying “I think this is a solution.” We don’t live in those times anymore.

This guy was from South America. A lot of the guys I’m dealing with lately have been from outside the United States — we’re a distributed team and, all things being equal, a guy with a CS degree, C++ experience, and a year with Ruby on Rails who’s asking $20 an hour is going to be more appealing than a guy with the same background asking $60 an hour.

I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or a “younger programmer” thing, but I have to say that I’m getting really freaking tired of experiencing this level of incompetence, even for the thirty seconds it took me to see that and respond “Nope. Not even close” to HR. It’s actively depressing to me to experience this crap.

To be clear, this has nothing to do with this guy’s innate talent or intelligence. What it has to do with is this … mindset …. that seems to be entirely at odds with my conception of the activity of software development. I’m not talking about an ignorance of, much less disagreement with, my particular biases and judgments about the niceties of methodology and process. I’m talking about people who don’t seem to “get” that programming is, at the very least, about making programs that run.

And, accuse me of jingoism if you will, but I have to say that it’s depressing that it’s virtually impossible for an American to make a median wage being a freelance coder because their resumes probably look worse than that of these people with CS degrees who don’t freaking bother to see if their programs run.

Of course intelligence is distributed evenly throughout the world, but this level of incompetence has largely been weeded out of the American freelance programming community. If you’re making a living and you have to charge twice what a person in South America or Asia charges, you pretty much have to “get it.” And it is sad to consider a bunch of people who “get it” slowly being weeded out of the workforce because we are unable to clearly and concisely demonstrate value to potential employers.

Update: I’ve removed the name of the fellow’s country, which is one I’ve always wanted to visit and which I’m sure has many fine developers. It’s not relevant, other than to make the point that it’s not just one country in Asia where there are freelance developers looking for work and charging significantly less than their American or European counterparts.