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Recently the question came up from a close friend of mine, "will my PhD help me attain a higher income in the north west?"  I had to tell him, that it might get him a little more, but it won't get him in the top income brackets for the occupation.  Another time, a few days later, someone else asked this too.  Then again, I see a job posting that requires a Bachelors Degree and some other nonsense.  The job posting even states they want "A-Game" talent.

I am almost shocked at how poorly part of this industry doesn't realize how unimportant a degree is to getting real top tier, a-game talent.  (and yes, I get a little riled up about this matter)

You Can't Make Good Software Developers.  No college out there is going to train someone to be in the top 10%, and absolutely not to be in the top 5% of skill levels.  Colleges can NOT do this.  It is up to the individual, and the individual alone.  If top tier talent seems to come from a college, one should check their premise and look at the motivations the individuals have to go to that school.  There is most likely a reason that top tier talent appears to be made there.  The college however, can only guide or assist, but I repeat that "top tier talent is a very individualistic endeavor".

Some might say, well a group is needed, support is needed, this and that are needed.  True, an individual needs a support system and a college can provide that, but it generally ends there.  The support group helps, provides a sounding wall, and provides correlation to good ideas for the a-game top tier geek.  But again, the endeavor is the individuals desire.

top tier talent is a very individualistic endeavor - Me

Hiring Top Tier, A-Game Talent

There are a few things when trying to hire this level of game player.

  1. The first thing is to not require a degree of any sort.  Sure, it looks good, but it won't dictate anything other than the individual was able to go through the regimented steps of college.
  2. List the skills and ideas that you would like to find in an individual.  Think of two people meeting for the first time, what do you want to know about the other individual.  Team fit is absolutely fundamental for top tier talent.  That support group that I mentioned above, top tier talent works best with a solid group of players.
  3. Keep your technology up to date, moving forward, and don't bore your top talent if you manage to get it.  If the company slows down, they will leave.  The more valuable they find out they are, the lower tolerance they'll have for this.  For managers, directors, and leaders in an organization this is THE challenge for them.
  4. Provide opportunities not just for advancement, but ways for them to advance their knowledge such as training, a book budget, or other means.  Even if some software they want to use isn't used ton the project, get it for them (within reason of course ? couple $100 or even a few $1000 for a good software license to MSDN, Tellerik, or other suite of software is ideal).
  5. Don't push them to, and don't let them overwork themselves into burnout.  This, as a leader in an organization is easy to do if one finds themselves actually hiring top talent.  Because top talent just provides results and more results.  But they are human, they will break, don't be the cause of that or you'll lose your talent.

For now, that is it from me on this topic, back to the revenue, code, projects, and pushing forward.

For the original entry, check out my personal blog with other juicy tech tidbits, rants, raves, and the like. Agilist Mercenary

Posted on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 7:28 AM Leadership | Back to top


Comments on this post: Top Tier, A-Game Talent - How to Land em'

# re: Top Tier, A-Game Talent - How to Land em'
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I completely agree with most of what you have written. I however believe that at least a college degree is necessary, however not for the reason most people do. I find that most people really find out who they are in college. This was a key developmental time for myself, and I dread to imagine where I would have been without that.

I am not going to get a Masters. I don't want one, don't believe I need one. As a network engineer I believe I should focus on certifications in my field. This is what will drive me and focus my learning, and at the same time, lead me to expand beyond the normal instruction as I seek to find other ways to do what I want to accomplish, that isn't in the standard books.

Those that want to be managers, sure you need a masters degree, so that you can follow the footsteps of all the managers before you. This is the way, but if you have an ounce of creativity, or natural skill, this model won't fit you, and you'll never really understand why you are always unhappy. Do what you want, become the best, and you will succeed. Trust....
Left by Vanion25 on Mar 09, 2010 9:31 AM

# re: Top Tier, A-Game Talent - How to Land em'
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I by no means am suggesting people don't get educated at college, just that the individual needs to use the college as the tool it is. The college doesn't make a career, the individual makes the career.

College helps, but it isn't a 1 to 1 indicator and hiring managers and others shouldn't look at degrees that way. If they do they are under constant threat to miss the a-game players, and other top tier people that don't have degrees.

...and simply put, there are a ton of people out there without degrees that are far and above better than most of the degreed professionals.

Also, gotta say, LOVE your statement, "Those that want to be managers, sure you need a masters degree, so that you can follow the footsteps of all the managers before you. This is the way, but if you have an ounce of creativity, or natural skill, this model won't fit you, and you'll never really understand why you are always unhappy. Do what you want, become the best, and you will succeed.".

Thanks for reading Vanion25, appreciate the comment.
Left by Adron on Mar 09, 2010 10:14 AM

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