“What do you do in your spare time?”
Captain Sullenberger (I’m not really comfortable calling him Sully) is a flight fan. His spare time activities, for all of his life, revolved around model planes, gliders, aviation, etc. – you get the picture. Joey sums up: “obsessions are one of the greatest telltale signs of success”. His favorite employee will be, taking after Captain Sullenberger’s curriculum vitae:
- As a boy, he built model computers and network servers.
- As a teen, he took professional programming courses and programmed for open source projects.
- He was a network security consultant for a major company.
- He’s worked with university professors to improve teaching methods and create new “secure programming” courses.
- He runs a consultancy called Safety Reliability Networks, which helps companies improve their safety, performance and reliability.
Pilot vs. Programmer
I’ll get right down to the main difference: a pilot is alone. A programmer works on a team. Well, that and the human lives at stake. In fact, I myself ask the very same question in interviews, and for me, “Programming” is not the right answer. When that person comes to work in the morning, I want him unwound and relaxed, not still thinking about his pet projects at home. When I eat lunch with him, I want to hear about his hobbies, not talk about work. My list of ‘good answers’ includes:
- Building model ships
- Study WWII history
- Role playing games
- Amateur acting
- Spending time with family and friends
All of them, by the way, I heard in interviews. I also heard the answer “Programming”. I tried to find out if there is something else, if perhaps he said that because he thought that’s what I wanted to hear. He was all about programming, only programming. He was a good programmer, but I knew it would be hard for me to work with him.
More than my personal preferences, diverse teams work better. Teams need Doers, Thinkers and Carers. Teams need different perspectives and different modes of operations. Teams need people who are interesting and nice to work with, because when you care about the unique personality of each team member, you get your very own dysfunctional family of a team.