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How to grow an XP team

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  • Matthew Snyder
    I ve just taken a new position with a consulting firm as the lead developer. One of my first tasks is to construct a development team to tackle a fast
    Message 1 of 20 , Nov 29, 2004
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      I've just taken a new position with a consulting firm as the lead developer.
      One of my first tasks is to construct a development team to tackle a fast
      approaching project. I've already got the President and CEO on the XP
      bandwagon however I feel that XP developers in the area are slim picking so
      finding XP developers may be tough. What is the best way to hire in this
      situation? We're looking for a total of 2-4 more developers and I'm
      comfortable teaching XP practices to new hires that don't have XP
      experience. Which begs the question, how can you tell if someone is truly
      open to the XP mindset or just trying to get a job? What are others
      experience with this type of situation?



      Thanks for the advice.

      Matt





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • J. B. Rainsberger
      ... One person with XPerience might beat six people who need to learn it. Don t underestimate the value of someone aleady with XPerience. I doubt they re
      Message 2 of 20 , Nov 29, 2004
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        Matthew Snyder wrote:
        >
        > I've just taken a new position with a consulting firm as the lead developer.
        > One of my first tasks is to construct a development team to tackle a fast
        > approaching project. I've already got the President and CEO on the XP
        > bandwagon however I feel that XP developers in the area are slim picking so
        > finding XP developers may be tough. What is the best way to hire in this
        > situation? We're looking for a total of 2-4 more developers and I'm
        > comfortable teaching XP practices to new hires that don't have XP
        > experience. Which begs the question, how can you tell if someone is truly
        > open to the XP mindset or just trying to get a job? What are others
        > experience with this type of situation?

        One person with XPerience might beat six people who need to learn it.
        Don't underestimate the value of someone aleady with XPerience. I doubt
        they're /that/ scarce! (I just happen not to want to relocate.)
        --
        J. B. (Joe) Rainsberger
        Diaspar Software Services
        http://www.diasparsoftware.com
        Author, JUnit Recipes: Practical Methods for Programmer Testing
      • William Pietri
        ... The last time I had to fill XP developer positions, I generally didn t ask direct questions like, Are you willing to do test-driven development? unless I
        Message 3 of 20 , Nov 29, 2004
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          > Which begs the question, how can you tell if someone is
          > truly open to the XP mindset or just trying to get a job? What are
          > others experience with this type of situation?

          The last time I had to fill XP developer positions, I generally didn't ask
          direct questions like, "Are you willing to do test-driven development?"
          unless I had already decided to make them an offer.

          Instead, I tried to ask of open-ended questions to get at their attitudes
          to things like testing, communication, collaboration, and incrementalism.
          For example, you can ask them about particular projects on their resume
          that went well or poorly and ask them about the factors that influenced
          the outcome.

          Also, I strongly recommend doing a 2-4 hour segment of paired, test-driven
          development as part of the final round of interviews. You can either work
          on sample problems or on your actual production code; both are
          interesting.

          The last person I hired without XP experience had started doing unit
          testing on his own, even though his colleagues didn't follow his lead.
          When I asked him about the problems at his then-current employer, the
          things he mentioned were the kinds of things that XP would fix. His
          favorite places to work before had been small teams working closely with
          the non-technical parts of the company. And he asked smart questions about
          our business model and our process. He worked out very well!

          William
        • matt.snyder@morelandpartners.net
          ... That sounds like a great idea. Did you find that most people were generally receptive to the idea? ... Curiously, has anyone run into a team size that is
          Message 4 of 20 , Nov 30, 2004
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            >Also, I strongly recommend doing a 2-4 hour segment of paired, test-driven
            >development as part of the final round of interviews. You can either work
            >on sample problems or on your actual production code; both are
            >interesting.

            That sounds like a great idea. Did you find that most people were generally receptive to the idea?

            >His favorite places to work before had been small teams working closely with
            >the non-technical parts of the company. And he asked smart questions about
            >our business model and our process. He worked out very well!

            Curiously, has anyone run into a team size that is just too large for XP? What happens when you reach that size?

            Matt Snyder
            Moreland Partners, Inc.
          • Luiz Esmiralha
            On Tue, 30 Nov 2004 14:31:20 -0000, matt.snyder@morelandpartners.net ... XP was originally conceived with some premisses on its applicability. It was intended
            Message 5 of 20 , Nov 30, 2004
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              On Tue, 30 Nov 2004 14:31:20 -0000, matt.snyder@...
              <matt.snyder@...> wrote:
              >
              > >His favorite places to work before had been small teams working closely with
              > >the non-technical parts of the company. And he asked smart questions about
              > >our business model and our process. He worked out very well!
              >
              > Curiously, has anyone run into a team size that is just too large for XP? What happens when you reach that size?

              XP was originally conceived with some premisses on its applicability.
              It was intended to be used in object-oriented projects with up to 10
              or 12 developers and volatile requirements. Lately, many groups have
              found ways to break these restrictions and use XP under different
              conditions: larger teams, for example.

              ThereĀ“s a fine discussion about Scaling XP to Large Projects in Ward's
              Wiki: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?LargeExtremeProgramming

              One strategy proposed is to divide the project into smaller XP projects.
            • Erik Hanson
              ... For finding people who want do to XP, there s always the xp-jobs mailing list: You can also try local XP groups
              Message 6 of 20 , Nov 30, 2004
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                On Nov 29, 2004, at 6:28 PM, J. B. Rainsberger wrote:
                > Matthew Snyder wrote:
                >> I feel that XP developers in the area are slim picking so
                >> finding XP developers may be tough. What is the best way to hire in
                >> this
                >> situation?

                > One person with XPerience might beat six people who need to learn it.
                > Don't underestimate the value of someone aleady with XPerience. I doubt
                > they're /that/ scarce! (I just happen not to want to relocate.)

                For finding people who want do to XP, there's always the xp-jobs
                mailing list:

                <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/xp-jobs/>

                You can also try local XP groups' mailing lists (like this one perhaps:
                <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AgileBazaar/>).


                Erik Hanson
              • Tony Byrne
                Hello matt, ... msmn That sounds like a great idea. Did you find that most msmn people were generally receptive to the idea? I ve been on the receiving end
                Message 7 of 20 , Nov 30, 2004
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                  Hello matt,

                  Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 2:31:20 PM, you wrote:

                  >>Also, I strongly recommend doing a 2-4 hour segment of paired, test-driven
                  >>development as part of the final round of interviews. You can either work
                  >>on sample problems or on your actual production code; both are
                  >>interesting.

                  msmn> That sounds like a great idea. Did you find that most
                  msmn> people were generally receptive to the idea?

                  I've been on the receiving end of one of these "come in and code with
                  us" sessions and I consider it a splendid idea. From the
                  candidate's perspective it's a great way to demonstrate ability,
                  something which isn't so easy to get across at interview. I found the
                  experience more comfortable than a standard interview and I left with a good
                  feeling about the company.

                  Regards,

                  Tony.

                  --
                  Tony Byrne
                • Matthew Snyder
                  ... How long did you spend with them? Did you feel it was an appropriate length of time? -- Matt
                  Message 8 of 20 , Nov 30, 2004
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                    > I've been on the receiving end of one of these "come in and code with
                    > us" sessions and I consider it a splendid idea. From the
                    > candidate's perspective it's a great way to demonstrate ability,
                    > something which isn't so easy to get across at interview. I found the
                    > experience more comfortable than a standard interview and I left with a
                    > good
                    > feeling about the company.

                    How long did you spend with them? Did you feel it was an appropriate length
                    of time?

                    -- Matt
                  • William Pietri
                    ... Yes. Everybody we asked to come for an interview like that was receptive. It was a great opportunity for them to find out more about us, too. William
                    Message 9 of 20 , Nov 30, 2004
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                      >>Also, I strongly recommend doing a 2-4 hour segment of paired,
                      >> test-driven development as part of the final round of interviews.
                      >
                      > That sounds like a great idea. Did you find that most people were
                      > generally receptive to the idea?

                      Yes. Everybody we asked to come for an interview like that was receptive.
                      It was a great opportunity for them to find out more about us, too.


                      William
                    • Tony Byrne
                      Hello Matthew, ... MS How long did you spend with them? Did you feel it was an appropriate length MS of time? I think I spent around 90 minutes or so in
                      Message 10 of 20 , Dec 1, 2004
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                        Hello Matthew,

                        Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 6:21:26 PM, you wrote:

                        >> I've been on the receiving end of one of these "come in and code with
                        >> us" sessions and I consider it a splendid idea. From the
                        >> candidate's perspective it's a great way to demonstrate ability,
                        >> something which isn't so easy to get across at interview. I found the
                        >> experience more comfortable than a standard interview and I left with a
                        >> good
                        >> feeling about the company.

                        MS> How long did you spend with them? Did you feel it was an appropriate length
                        MS> of time?

                        I think I spent around 90 minutes or so in front of a computer.
                        During that time I had a chance to pair with two developers on a
                        throwaway project and in that context the amount of time spent was
                        appropriate.

                        Incidentally, the same company begins the hiring process by asking the
                        candidate to submit a solution for a small project. This too, is a
                        great idea.

                        I wish more companies would adopt this approach. I honestly don't
                        understand how any company can hire developers using standard
                        interview alone.

                        Regards,

                        Tony.

                        --
                        Tony Byrne
                      • Gunjan Doshi
                        We are currently facing the same situation. We are actively looking to hire XP programmers. We placed an ad in Dice, Hotjobs etc. for XP programmers. We also
                        Message 11 of 20 , Dec 1, 2004
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                          We are currently facing the same situation. We are actively looking to
                          hire XP programmers. We placed an ad in Dice, Hotjobs etc. for XP
                          programmers. We also interviewed a few candidates. I was not happy
                          with the waste generated by traditional interview process. How can I
                          convince myself that an individual is right for my business, by just
                          talking with him once or twice? We decided to change the way we
                          conducted interviews!

                          This is our approach now: We will first talk to them on the phone. If
                          the candidate is promising, we will call the candidate to work with us
                          for half a day. We will pay him the required travel and meal expenses.
                          We will then pair with him and see him in action. The only downside
                          with this approach is that the turnaround time for the interview
                          process is longer. The candidate has to free his schedule to make him
                          available. We may also have to ask the candidate to sign a NDA.

                          Best Regards,
                          Gunjan Doshi


                          On Wed, 1 Dec 2004 11:21:49 +0000, Tony Byrne <yahoogroups@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Hello Matthew,
                          >
                          > Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 6:21:26 PM, you wrote:
                          >
                          > >> I've been on the receiving end of one of these "come in and code with
                          > >> us" sessions and I consider it a splendid idea. From the
                          > >> candidate's perspective it's a great way to demonstrate ability,
                          > >> something which isn't so easy to get across at interview. I found the
                          > >> experience more comfortable than a standard interview and I left with a
                          > >> good
                          > >> feeling about the company.
                          >
                          > MS> How long did you spend with them? Did you feel it was an appropriate length
                          > MS> of time?
                          >
                          > I think I spent around 90 minutes or so in front of a computer.
                          > During that time I had a chance to pair with two developers on a
                          > throwaway project and in that context the amount of time spent was
                          > appropriate.
                          >
                          > Incidentally, the same company begins the hiring process by asking the
                          > candidate to submit a solution for a small project. This too, is a
                          > great idea.
                          >
                          > I wish more companies would adopt this approach. I honestly don't
                          > understand how any company can hire developers using standard
                          > interview alone.
                          >
                          > Regards,
                          >
                          > Tony.
                          >
                          > --
                          > Tony Byrne
                          >
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                        • Luiz Esmiralha
                          ... I find this absolutely wonderful. Any ideas for good example projects? It should be something complex enough to demonstrate analytical skills and simple
                          Message 12 of 20 , Dec 1, 2004
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                            On Wed, 1 Dec 2004 11:21:49 +0000, Tony Byrne <yahoogroups@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Hello Matthew,
                            >
                            >
                            >

                            > Incidentally, the same company begins the hiring process by asking the
                            > candidate to submit a solution for a small project. This too, is a
                            > great idea.
                            >

                            I find this absolutely wonderful. Any ideas for good example projects?
                            It should be something complex enough to demonstrate analytical skills
                            and simple enough to take a day or two to finish it.

                            Cheers,

                            Luiz
                          • Tony Byrne
                            Hello Luiz, LE I find this absolutely wonderful. Any ideas for good example projects? LE It should be something complex enough to demonstrate analytical
                            Message 13 of 20 , Dec 2, 2004
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                              Hello Luiz,

                              LE> I find this absolutely wonderful. Any ideas for good example projects?
                              LE> It should be something complex enough to demonstrate analytical skills
                              LE> and simple enough to take a day or two to finish it.

                              I think one to two days is probably a bit too long for a toy project of
                              the sort I mentioned. Something that could be completed in an hour or
                              two would be better. You can tell a lot just from a toy project of
                              that size.

                              Some examples:

                              1) Write a calculator program that can evaluate simple expressions
                              in infix notation containing any of the following operators
                              ('*','/','-','+'). E.g. "2 * (16 - 4)".

                              2) Write a program that can take a list of money amounts in various
                              currencies, add them together, and express the total in a single
                              currency.

                              3) Write a program to parse a roman number.

                              Regards,

                              Tony.

                              --
                              Tony Byrne
                            • Luiz Esmiralha
                              ... I was thinking about how long it takes to interview people at a big company. It usually takes days to do all the tests, interviews, group dynamics, etc.
                              Message 14 of 20 , Dec 2, 2004
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                                On Thu, 2 Dec 2004 09:39:56 +0000, Tony Byrne <yahoogroups@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > Hello Luiz,
                                >
                                > I think one to two days is probably a bit too long for a toy project of
                                > the sort I mentioned. Something that could be completed in an hour or
                                > two would be better. You can tell a lot just from a toy project of
                                > that size.
                                >
                                > Some examples:
                                >
                                > 1) Write a calculator program that can evaluate simple expressions
                                > in infix notation containing any of the following operators
                                > ('*','/','-','+'). E.g. "2 * (16 - 4)".
                                >
                                > 2) Write a program that can take a list of money amounts in various
                                > currencies, add them together, and express the total in a single
                                > currency.
                                >
                                > 3) Write a program to parse a roman number.
                                >

                                I was thinking about how long it takes to interview people at a big
                                company. It usually takes days to do all the tests, interviews, group
                                dynamics, etc. Maybe using more of this time on a sample project
                                would be more rewarding.
                                But two days is a really long time. Maybe something you can do in an
                                afternoon is enough.
                              • Anthony Williams
                                ... We ve got a candidate doing this as we speak. I ll let you know how it works out. Anthony -- Anthony Williams Software Developer
                                Message 15 of 20 , Dec 2, 2004
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                                  Tony Byrne <yahoogroups@...> writes:

                                  > 1) Write a calculator program that can evaluate simple expressions
                                  > in infix notation containing any of the following operators
                                  > ('*','/','-','+'). E.g. "2 * (16 - 4)".

                                  We've got a candidate doing this as we speak. I'll let you know how it works
                                  out.

                                  Anthony
                                  --
                                  Anthony Williams
                                  Software Developer
                                • Randy Coulman
                                  ... During my last job search, I participated in several come in and code with us sessions. I loved them. It gave me a good sense of the people I d be
                                  Message 16 of 20 , Dec 2, 2004
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                                    Tony Byrne wrote:
                                    >
                                    > I've been on the receiving end of one of these "come in and code with
                                    > us" sessions and I consider it a splendid idea. From the
                                    > candidate's perspective it's a great way to demonstrate ability,
                                    > something which isn't so easy to get across at interview. I found the
                                    > experience more comfortable than a standard interview and I left with a good
                                    > feeling about the company.
                                    >

                                    During my last job search, I participated in several "come in and code with us" sessions. I loved them. It gave me a good sense of the people I'd be working with and how they work. In one case, I even asked specifically to do this. The company was receptive, and it was a good time.

                                    More recently, when hiring for our current team, we did the same thing. We started with conventional interviews, and then brought the best candidates in for a half-day session. We, as the people doing the hiring, really appreciated the extra insight.

                                    However, we were hiring entry-level/fresh-out-of-school developers, and they found the sessions very intimidating. They were pretty much convinced they'd made themselves look stupid and completely blown their chances at the job. We tried to reassure them before and after the session, but I'm not sure it helped much.

                                    On the other hand, they learned a bit about how we worked, and the job offers we made were accepted. Both of the people we hired now understand why we did things that way, and would love to be interviewed that way in the future. But it's intimidating when you've never heard of or experienced anything like it before.

                                    Randy
                                    --
                                    Randy Coulman
                                    Senior Software Engineer
                                    Key Technology, Inc.
                                    RCoulman@...

                                    -----------------------------------------
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                                  • Tony Byrne
                                    Hello Randy, RC However, we were hiring entry-level/fresh-out-of-school RC developers, and they found the sessions very intimidating. They RC were pretty
                                    Message 17 of 20 , Dec 2, 2004
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                                      Hello Randy,

                                      RC> However, we were hiring entry-level/fresh-out-of-school
                                      RC> developers, and they found the sessions very intimidating. They
                                      RC> were pretty much convinced they'd made themselves look stupid and
                                      RC> completely blown their chances at the job. We tried to reassure
                                      RC> them before and after the session, but I'm not sure it helped much.

                                      It's hardly surprising, really. Any process that requires an actual
                                      demonstration of ability is going to feel intimidating to the
                                      inexperienced candidate and I think that such a candidate
                                      would probably be fearful of things that may not be all that important to the
                                      'interviewer'. For example, I feel that as agilists we would probably
                                      be more interested in a candidate's social skills, attitude and instincts
                                      than their preferred brace styles.

                                      Personally, I've always found more traditional interviews
                                      intimidating, but maybe that's just me. :-)

                                      Regards,

                                      Tony.

                                      --
                                      Tony Byrne
                                    • Anthony Williams
                                      ... Just to follow up on this: I felt it worked quite well. It gave us insight into how he works, and what skills he has that I don t think we could have
                                      Message 18 of 20 , Dec 3, 2004
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                                        Anthony Williams <anthony_w.geo@...> writes:

                                        > Tony Byrne <yahoogroups@...> writes:
                                        >
                                        >> 1) Write a calculator program that can evaluate simple expressions
                                        >> in infix notation containing any of the following operators
                                        >> ('*','/','-','+'). E.g. "2 * (16 - 4)".
                                        >
                                        > We've got a candidate doing this as we speak. I'll let you know how it works
                                        > out.

                                        Just to follow up on this: I felt it worked quite well. It gave us insight
                                        into how he works, and what skills he has that I don't think we could have
                                        gained any other way. I'll definitely want to do this again in the future.

                                        Anthony
                                        --
                                        Anthony Williams
                                        Software Developer
                                      • Tony Byrne
                                        Hello Anthony, ... AW Just to follow up on this: I felt it worked quite well. It gave us insight AW into how he works, and what skills he has that I don t
                                        Message 19 of 20 , Dec 3, 2004
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                                          Hello Anthony,

                                          >> We've got a candidate doing this as we speak. I'll let you know how it works
                                          >> out.

                                          AW> Just to follow up on this: I felt it worked quite well. It gave us insight
                                          AW> into how he works, and what skills he has that I don't think we could have
                                          AW> gained any other way. I'll definitely want to do this again in the future.

                                          I'm glad to hear that it worked well for you. If you can share with
                                          us, I'd love to hear what the candidate thought of it all.

                                          Regards,

                                          Tony.

                                          --
                                          Tony Byrne
                                        • Anthony Williams
                                          ... We asked him, and he said he thought it seemed a reasonable request, but didn t necessarily show off his best work. Whether this was a reasonable
                                          Message 20 of 20 , Dec 3, 2004
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                                            Tony Byrne <yahoogroups@...> writes:

                                            > Hello Anthony,
                                            >
                                            >>> We've got a candidate doing this as we speak. I'll let you know how it
                                            >>> works out.
                                            >
                                            > AW> Just to follow up on this: I felt it worked quite well. It gave us
                                            > AW> insight into how he works, and what skills he has that I don't think we
                                            > AW> could have gained any other way. I'll definitely want to do this again
                                            > AW> in the future.
                                            >
                                            > I'm glad to hear that it worked well for you. If you can share with
                                            > us, I'd love to hear what the candidate thought of it all.

                                            We asked him, and he said he thought it seemed a reasonable request, but
                                            didn't necessarily show off his best work. Whether this was a reasonable
                                            representation of his true opinion, or whether he felt that he had no choice
                                            but to say that, I can't tell. I hope it was the former.

                                            Anthony
                                            --
                                            Anthony Williams
                                            Software Developer
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