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Liam McLennan hackingon.net

Over the past twelve months I have been thinking a lot about executable specifications. Long considered the holy grail of agile software development, executable specifications means expressing a program’s functionality in a way that is both readable by the customer and computer verifiable in an automatic, repeatable way. With the current generation of BDD and ATDD tools executable specifications seem finally within the reach of a significant percentage of the development community.

Lately, and partly as a result of my craftsmanship tour, I have decided that soon I am going to have to get a job (gasp!). As Dave Hoover describes in Apprenticeship Patters, “you … have mentors and kindred spirits that you meet with periodically, [but] when it comes to developing software, you work alone.” The time may have come where the only way for me to feel satisfied and enriched by my work is to seek out a work environment where I can work with people smarter and more knowledgeable than myself.

Having been on both sides of the interview desk many times I know how difficult and unreliable the process can be. Therefore, I am proposing the idea of executable resumes. As a journeyman programmer looking for a fruitful work environment I plan to write an application that demonstrates my understanding of the state of the art. Potential employers can download, view and execute my executable resume and judge wether my aesthetic sensibility matches their own. The concept of the executable resume is based upon the following assertion:

A line of code answers a thousand interview questions

Asking people about their experiences and skills is not a direct way of assessing their value to your organisation. Often it simple assesses their ability to mislead an interviewer. An executable resume demonstrates:

  • The highest quality code that the person is able to produce.
  • That the person is sufficiently motivated to produce something of value in their own time.
  • That the person loves their craft.

The idea of publishing a program to demonstrate a developer’s skills comes from Rob Conery, who suggested that each developer should build their own blog engine since it is the public representation of their level of mastery. Rob said:

Luke had to build his own lightsaber – geeks should have to build their own blogs. And that should be their resume.

In honour of Rob’s inspiration I plan to build a blog engine as my executable resume. While it is true that the world does not need another blog engine it is as good a project as any, it is a well understood domain, and I have not found an existing blog engine that I like.

Executable resumes fit well with the software craftsmanship metaphor. It is not difficult to imagine that under the guild system master craftsmen may have accepted journeymen based on the quality of the work they had produced in the past.

We now understand that when it comes to the functionality of an application that code is the final arbiter. Why not apply the same rule to hiring?

Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2010 4:09 PM | Back to top

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