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why people bother to interview here – if you can’t teach (Part 2)

Part 1 was a technical question that I ask because so many “strong” developers cannot answer that technical Java question. Part 2, is more about the valuable soft skill of teaching.

One of my standard questions that candidates constantly struggle with is the most simple and yet the most subtle:

Teach me something you know.

If a candidate cannot teach “something”, then they have not completely thought through and learned the subject. Someone who claims to be “strong” in Java, databases, or cooking is only strong if they can articulate the core essence of their knowledge in a way that a beginner can understand.

When developing code at a startup, a good “teacher”:

  • understands that it is the teacher’s responsibility to reach the student. If the student doesn’t understand, then a good “teacher” patiently retries until the student does understand. In a startup, the “student” is a new hire, a sales person or the customer;
  • writes excellent code comments (for the student),
  • is patient and not egotistic when others don’t “get it”;
  • can articulate their own problems so that others can help;
  • can give presentations to non-technical people;
  • is empathic;
  • is motivated to do their own learning.
  • is enthusiastic

So what can you teach?

Posted in interviewing, starting a company.

2 Responses

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  1. Naveen Kapoor says

    Ans: This is really an interesting question. Let me teach you one of the technology used to get data from the server without loading complete page means changes on the page without reloading complete page. This technology is knows as AJAX.
    You see these days in webpages that values changes automatically without even reloading page that is done through Ajax. For learning Ajax you have to know JavaScript and another server side language i am supposing that you know that.
    In technically words if i say Ajax is a way to call server side code from JavaScript and get back the data at runtime. I hope you understand what Ajax is and how it work. As far as code is concerned you need to run at least one program if you know the required technologies.
    If you still have any doubt about what is Ajax you can get back to me.

    Thanks and regards
    Naveen kapoor

  2. Sanju Thomas says

    Dear Sir, Though I agree with most of the points written above, one point is not something new age developers agree.

    “writes excellent code comments (for the student)” : we write code that clearly tell the story. According to me comment is an excuse to express yourself clearly thru code. If at all comment is required write a unit test case to communicate the story to other developers. Public APIs are different, in those cases we have to write proper language doc and comments, because the user of the API many not have access to source code.

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