How much experience do you need?

Some people foolishly measure experience in years, rather than achievements. Yet the quickest way to garner high quality experience is to work in a fast growing start-up.

 

I laugh when I see a generic job ad for a Java developer or similar. The senior ones require 20 years of experience (or something close to the entire existence of the programming language in question), with the assumption that the older you are, the better you’ll do.

 

Programming is a skill where merit is readily apparent from early on. A 23-year-old has a good chance of being as great a developer as a 40-year-old “rockstar”. The productivity of a great developer probably follows the age curve of an elite athlete, gradually building up to a peak in their early 30s and then drifting down from there.

 

The quality of the experience matters as well. If you are working at a slow moving large corporate job where there are more meetings than lines of code, you’ll probably have bad habits and unusually low standards of success. A year there is not the same as a year at a company like Atlassian, or even a really tiny start-up that hasn’t turned a profit yet but has millions of users.

 

With a start-up, there is a huge need to produce at speed. You do it or it doesn’t work. If you’re working at a fast growing start-up, you’ll be exposed to orders of magnitude of responsibility higher than anything else in the world.

 

When hiring for positions like a developer, hire for their athleticism and ability and not for some arbitrary years of experience inside a slow, lazy corporation. Aside from being cheaper, they’ll likely be better.

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