Where the hell are all the great senior software developers and hands-on engineering directors?

As someone who first learned what real pairing is from you and L4rk, and has since embraced the craftsmanship ethos, here’s my take.

I think that in the majority of companies, especially startups, the things you value are actively selected against. People who want to succeed and be told they are great learn to keep their head down and accept phony agile rituals, and move-fast-break-everything coding styles.

I was told straight out that the technical founder and CEO of a well-respected product company “did not believe in refactoring”, and the code and team processes reflected this. In fact, I think management, from the very top down to middle management, is mostly to blame for this as they reward based on bullshit metrics like velocity and number of commits, as well as on things like “willing to stay all night to fix a problem that a real senior developer would have prevented in the first place.” One place I worked at started with a great craftsmanship culture, when the team was 8 people. They were successful and grew quickly, though, and brought in middle management from a free-to-play game company. Soon they lost their culture as well as their original engineering stars.

I’m very lucky to now be doing modern agile, as principal engineer of a growing startup, and I’m not sure there’s any amount of money that would get me to move at this point, since I’ve been burned by promises of agile/craftsmanship/etc. before. In this case a friend I’ve known, trusted and worked with for many, many years endorsed my current CEO and his team. If not for that, I might have missed out on a great opportunity.

Unfortunately, this is not much help to you as advice on how to find people, it’s more of a reason you might not see as many as you’d hope. I think they are out there, but if they’ve found a good team, they’re going to be hard to pry loose.

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