July 09, 2018

Bigfoot understood—as I came to understand—that character is far more important than than skills or employment history. And he recognized character—good and bad—brilliantly. He understood, and taught me, that a guy who shows up every day on time, never calls in sick, and does what he said he was going to do, is less likely to fuck you in the end than a guy who has an incredible resume but is less than reliable about arrival time. Skills can be taught. Character you either have or don't have. Bigfoot understood that there are two types of people in the world: those who do what they say they're going to do—and everyone else. He'd lift ex-junkie sleazeballs out of the gutter and turn them into trusted managers, guys who'd kill themselves rather than misuse one dime of Bigfoot receipts. He'd get Mexicans right off the boat, turn them into solid citizens with immigration lawyers, nice incomes, and steady employment. But if Bigfoot calls them at four in the morning, wanting them to put in a rooftop patio, they'd better be prepared to roll out of bed and get busy quarrying limestone. - Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

One of the guys on my HOA board owned a trailer park for a decade or two, and before that a few restaurants after a stint in the Navy. When we needed to hire a new manager, this is how he went about it: character first, everything else second.

It struck me that this isn't how we hire in Silicon Valley, where a typical job description reads, "3-5 years experience with relevant technology X", "graduated from a top school", and "culture fit".

I guess it depends on what you think it takes to succeed in a job.

There are some jobs, like digging a trench, where performance is a matter of discipline and willpower. Law, architecture, and other professions, not so much; you go through a lot of academic training to do these jobs and it really does turn you from someone who can't, to someone who can.

I still think Silicon Valley could learn from Bourdain though. Character might not be everything as it is in the restaurant industry, but it must count for something. Some of the laziest developers I ever worked with were a couple of guys several jobs back who'd gone to MIT. Fancy degrees aside, they had no sense of ownership for their work. Intelligent, sure, I just think there's more to hiring than intelligence and how much Python experience you've got.