Hire the Smartest Person

In a previous chapter I discussed how it’s OK if you aren’t the smartest person on your team. If you follow that advice long enough the outcome is obvious: you won’t be the smartest person on the team. You might even end up being the least technical person in the group. But that’s OK. So long as you can hold your own with the team, and you are providing the additional help developer’s expect from a software manager, you won’t need to impress people with your technical skill. If you don’t believe me go back and read that chapter again.

A good manager will do whatever it takes to ensure their people become more technical over time. Each organization offers different tools to help achieve this: training budgets, conference trips, book allowances, the list is endless. Whatever tools your organization has, make sure they get used.

But there is another way to help improve your team: hire smarter developers. Every developer you hire will bring new expertise, experience, and knowledge that can benefit the rest of the team. The smarter this new developer is, the more knowledge they’ll bring into your team.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for an established team is to hire a junior developer who is completely on fire. You know the type. They are fresh out of school and don’t have a lot of experience or wisdom, but they are absolutely thrilled to work as a new coder. They have energy, drive and an uncanny ability to get the rest of the team excited about the work.

But let’s assume that energy and drive isn’t lacking on your team. What you are looking for is a senior developer. You need someone who can get up to speed quickly and who can rapidly make significant contributions to the team.

Your job when hiring Senior Developers is to make certain you hire the smartest person you can.

Often this means hiring someone smarter than yourself. No problem. You understand that you can’t, and probably shouldn’t, be the smartest person on your team. But does the rest of your team believe this?

Most developers like working with someone they can learn from, so you probably won’t have any problems. But a few team members may feel threatened by the plan. Just remember that it’s unlikely someone will come into your office and tell you they are afraid of losing their alpha-geek status. Your job as Software Manager is to know your team well enough to find the people who are uncomfortable with this change, and to help them work through it.

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