How companies shoot themselves in the foot while recruiting

This SOOOOO reminds me of the 1980s :)

In 1985, after I graduated, I looked for a job in Mumbai and Bangalore. I had, for the past 4 years, learnt a number of “computer languages”, but I was most productive in dBASE II and III. I had already written full applications, and I could see that this would become a common thing soon (Clipper and Foxbase were still a while in the future).

Not a single job offer. Not one of the “computer companies” knew what dBASE was, and hence I was rejected everywhere.

I was so disheartened that all my abilities were going waste that I joined a “computer course” at DataPro to learn COBOL and stuff like that, which was the only thing in demand.

Then I saw an ad in the papers for programmers, and one of the languages listed was dBASE. The ad was for qualified programmers with a couple of years of professional experience, and of course I didn’t qualify as a fresh mechanical engineering graduate, but I wrote to the advertiser and thanked him for at least recognising that dBASE was a “computer language” that could be used to write business applications. I sent off the letter (snail mail, no less!) and promptly forgot about it.

A week later, my dad called me saying that there was a letter for me. It was a reply from the CEO of the company I had written to, asking me to drop in.

Not expecting much, I hoofed it to Cuffe Parade, and met up with the man.

I walked into his office, and he looked at me, and asked me who I was, and I told him and reminded him about my letter. He spun around in his chair, handed me a bunch of papers, and said “I have been working on this problem for the past 24 hours [and he looked it!], see whether you can crack this in dBASE”. He pointed me at a free machine, spun around, and went back to what he was doing.

Not having anything better to do, I sat down, and went to work. By nightfall, I had cracked the problem, written out the app, tested it against test data, then live data. All that time, the CEO of the company sat on the desk next to me, working like a maniac on another problem.

When I was done, he checked my code, showed me how to correct my coding style, corrected a few things I had assumed wrongly, showed me how to speed up a few routines, etc. Then, with both of us near collapse with exhaustion, he asked me to come back in the morning.

We didn’t speak about salary or anything else for nearly a month after that. We just worked. And I had the time of my life. I learnt new stuff, and was introduced to Clipper, and used my dBASE skills to the hilt.

A month later, I was handed a cheque – my first salary – which was far higher than I had ever expected for a first job. And my boss, seeing my surprise, told me “I have been looking for someone like you who understood how important dBASE as a development environment was – I don’t want to lose you over a silly matter like money”.

That was 1985 – 24 years ago.

And I owe my entire life and career to the foresight of Ashok Hingorani, the CEO of Compu-tact. Whatever I am today, whatever you know me for, whatever spirit you see in me – it is because this man had the vision to recognise that something that no one else here had heard of would become something very important in the future. And he was right.

In 1985, my skills at dBASE were the thing that made me better than others.

In 2009, it is knowledge of python and other tools from the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) world that show you who the smart guys are.

A company that doesn’t know that a python developer is usually more productive, proactive and knowledgeable than a cookie-cutter “C/C++/Java” programmer who has done a 6 month course at some “computer institute”, is a company that will forever be doomed to be mediocre, non-innovative, and a place I would never recommend to any student as a place to work.

Wake up, corporate India! You need to re-evaluate your evaluation criteria if you want to remain relevant! Do you have any idea how many competent developers you are losing because you don’t have a clue what development in the 21st century means, or what its tools are?

p.s. This rant is a spur of the moment thing, and I am going to refine it after a couple of hours. But I needed to get this point out NOW.

p.p.s. This is NOT a rant against C/C++/Java devs, or FOR python devs – it is a rant against companies whose recruiting policies don’t recognise that a person who teaches herself python (or any other kind of 21st century development medium) is precisely the kind of progressive, self-starter, innovative developer that you are so desperately looking for!