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Managing Difficulties.

The single biggest speedbump on my transition from Individual Contributor to Manager is the realization that I need to hire people that have skills that I don't have, but I'm not sure how to test for those skills to make sure I'm hiring correctly.

Listen, hiring is HARD. It's hard, y'all. Interviews are difficult and as far as I can tell don't actually give a good measure of how a person is going to react or what a person knows. Technical interviews can only do so much, especially when you're hiring for niche positions. Eventually, you just have to make a call and trust you do it right. Sometimes, you get to take a chance on someone who maybe doesn't exactly fit the background, but you like their spirit and you want to give them an opportunity and so you get a great self-learner who is eager for each task and really knows her shit and is working actively to learn more. And that's great!

And then sometimes you give into time pressure and you go with someone who you feel is "fine" and it turns out they don't have the technical chops and for whatever reason they don't trust you enough to just say so, but instead he quits five days into the new job and leave you without a serious technical resource. And that's... not great.

Having conversations with recruiting about who and what to watch for, while trying not to trip over huge landmines around legal liability and bias, can be hard. How do you say to someone "I want you to look for women and people of color, because they consistently over-perform" without getting a call from HR about discriminatory hiring practices, despite the fact that the statement is both true and basically the opposite of discriminatory?

I understand better than ever why the IT industry works on referrals. This is a business where there aren't any good yardsticks for technical expertise other than "I know this person and I know they can do the work I need done". And while it's great that the people I know and the people I trust all have jobs they love, that makes it difficult for me to find people that fit the "I know..." recruiting / hiring mechanism. And I feel like I've made an extra effort to reach out to professionals who don't look like me and who I feel would work well with me, but getting the "available" windows to match up has been a trick and a half.

I wonder, how do other creative / investigative industries do it? Because whatever one may think, IT (and Ops/DevOps in specific) is mostly a creative field: there are very few situations where the problem being worked on is something that can be solved by rote; if it was, it would already be solved and automated. So I wonder: how does, say, the LA Times, or the Kansas City Star, or for that matter the Gresham Local Reader, handle hiring new reporters and editors? What does that industry look like? How is it changing? And is there anything we can learn from the mistakes being made there, without making them ourselves? And can we do it without remaining a terrible industry for diversity, inclusion, and work/life balance?


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