Vish Vishvanath is the CTO of London/Singapore-based Starcount. He's also a photojournalist, biker, frisbee player and crack roller-skater, and has no idea how he got into this position. He blames Nick Bennett, the Head of Digital, for talking him into it over many German beers. Nick is an ace chef, Partner at Steel and has led some of the best campaigns ever invented, anywhere.
Starcount is the definitive measurement of global popularity. Providing daily charts that curate and order the trending world of social media by genre and region. Culminating in an annual Social Star Awards show.
They're looking out for Senior- and Mid-Level Ruby devs, as well as Java/Scala/Groovy developers. And a devops/sysadmin.
How important is the choice of languages and platforms to you when it comes to getting a job done well?
Communication between disparate systems is pretty mature and well-understood now. Integration with, say, Apache Camel, or by means of REST, is straightforward. So ideally, I would take the approach that we should use best-of-breed tools and worry about integration later. But, as I said: ideally. Not everyone has Facebook's resources to do just that, so it all comes down to your priorities. Mine are reliability, stability, performance and being able to find the staff. Computer languages are quite similar to spoken languages, in that linguistic constructs in the language enable us to understand the reality - think Steven Pinker's wonderful RSA talk on turning a finite language into infinite meaning - and how a computer language's expressions push us into certain ways of understanding a problem - now think about creating a text parser, and how a developer using a statically-typed language would compare to one using a LISPy language. Both approaches will provide a solution, but one might better fit those priorities I had.
What is your favourite interview technique and why?
Conversational and honest - and face to face. We are looking to build a team of people, who believe in our product and vision. For us that's as important as the skill. So we will be very open with the opportunities as well as the challenges. Equally it saves eveyones time if both sides are honest about their skills and needs.
How important is a Computer Science degree in todays market?
It's dependent on the domain. The more abstract the problem, the more of an advantage I would perceive that degree to give. Why? Because learning on the job, as many developers have done, is commercially-driven, with little scope for working out problems without an immediate application. The point of this is to improve the interpretation of problems that might arise in the future.
The Daily WTF frequently publishes "reinventing-the-wheel" scenarios, where a common problem is roughed up by a few zillions lines of redundant code, found at some unspecified date in the future, and replaced with a bite-size chunk. Computer Science begins the process of problem interpretation and while it's straightforward enough to learn without the degree, we have proof that it doesn't generally happen.
The problem with the market right now is that there a shedload of demand for skills, programmers can't be spun up like EC2 instances, and the hot skills like Ruby and NoSQL aren't taught at college.
The aim of anything you do should be this: Be Good. Really Good. And Prove It. I wouldn't turn away a candidate for wont of a CompSci degree. But I respect them.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone applying for a job with your company?
Bring your own seatbelt - we are gearing up for a hectic and exciting 12 month ride. There is a lot of freedom to make the difference here at starcount, we believe in empowering smart decision makers. So if you are not afraid of shaping a vision and not afraid to light the gas. Welcome.
How much value do you place in a Developers personal projects such as github & demo sites when they apply for a job with your company?
Huge value. Massive. Untold.
Big Debate: What is the optimal length for a CV?
That's an interesting question. But to us a CV is like a story, if it's well told the length is not the question. For instance Hemingway's 'Old man and the Sea' vs Henri Charrière's 'Papillon' both incredible, vastly different in length. Our advice would be to focus on the things that make the difference, not the things that come as standard. In most instances that makes for a shorter resume. 2 sides of A4 clearly separated - one side full of the standard 'tick boxes' - burn after reading! The other side should focus on how you have/and will set the world alight.
What are your thoughts on the Tech Recruitment industry?
It's diversifying. Personal recommendations have always been the holy grail as it pre qualifies. But the social channels are starting to extend that beyond your own circle to a few degrees of separation - that said it also opens up the possibility of noise over signal. Also the new meet up scene is starting to make a change, the face to face informal first meeting is key to chemistry and team building. Organised folksonomy is no doubt the future, it's led by the larger social web scene and is already playing out in recruitment. These digital marketplace models are founded on mutual respect and mutual benefit between organiser and the two recruitment parties.
In your opinion, what is the difference between a 'Hacker' and a regular programmer?
Confidence and hunger. The skill base may well be the same. But how far will you challenge your limits. We know who we'd hire.
What has been the most exciting technological innovation you've witnessed in the last 12 months?
Skype in the classroom. While there have been many pure technical innovations. For us it's where a simple technical gem, fits neatly into a human need state. Skype in the class room is just the most epic of ideas facilitated by technology and through understanding of people and needs. Create a digital marketplace for scholars to share their time across the world - educating a generation with out the barriers of class, time and distance. Australia has been doing some great work here with The School of the Air, getting education to kids in the outback. It's inspirational stuff.
10. If you had the opportunity to address the entire Development community in the UK, what would you say?
Let's put a challenge out to the great engineers of the world to develop full colour LCD screens that can operate in direct sunlight and lets get outside and code.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to add?