Russ Thomas – SQL Judo

The Art of SQL Server Database Administration, Development, and Career Skills for the Technically Minded

Experience Is Overated

Be careful not to read too much into the title.  It’s not a global statement.  Experience has value, but this is my blog and I reserve the right to go on a little bit of a rant from time to time.  Today is that day.


The more time I spend in the position of a hiring manager the less I am impressed by how many years someone has been doing something.  In fact, my number one complaint the more resumes I review and people I work with is that most people who claim to have 15 years experience really only have one year… 15 times, but still think that I should be impressed.  That’s like saying because you’ve fished the same drain ditch behind your neighborhood with a bobber and a paper-clip for 15 years that you’re automatically an expert fisherman.  Today however is not about people with 15+ years “so-called” experience but something more aptly described as 15 years of baggage.

There are a handful of phrases that really push my buttons:

“Well, at my old job… we used to… “

Hey, I don’t know if they told you this while you were filling out the W-4 form or not, but this isn’t your old job.  Don’t get me wrong – I would love to hear about things that worked great in your past, but only if you are going to take the reins and make that same thing great here.  If you are just hoping that by complaining enough someone else will magically make that wonderful thing about your last job appear out of no-where, you need to take a step back and ask yourself, why is it that you are no longer at your old job?

“I refuse to learn <something new>, <something old> has worked great for my entire career, I don’t need to learn about it now”

Seriously?  I am constantly confused by people working full time in any technology field who refuse to learn something new.  If I was a storage person for example, I would be geeking out about advances in PCI BUS based storage and flash trays – even while happily supporting SAN or NAS or whatever.  Newer isn’t always better, but dang if it isn’t most of the time.  This field is ALWAYS changing.  There is ALWAYS something new to learn.  I don’t care how long you’ve been in any scientific field, the rules are always evolving.

“I’ve done this for 15 years – I know what I’m talking about”.

My response is usually, oh really, well I’ve been doing it for 20, and you can file that under stuff nobody cares about.  You know the statement I will actually take note on.  “Hey, Russ, that same server error happened to me last week – I found out that….”  Now that’s experience I will immediately pay attention to.

Fifteen years in “tech years” is a really long dang time.  How much of the stuff you learned 15 years ago still applies?  Sure, your foundation has expanded and built, but chances are you weren’t even very good at your job 15 years ago. I can state emphatically that code I wrote 15 years ago was absolutely horrible.  I hadn’t discovered the danger of sql-injection yet, cursors seemed like a great idea, and every line of VB.Net I wrote was riding on a foundation of procedural CLIPPER that I had taught myself.

One of the main questions I ask in every interview is first:  What new feature in the upcoming (or just released) version of SQL Server are you most excited about?  I really hope you have an answer… any answer.  I want people who are excited about where their product is headed and what they do for a living.

The second one I’ll follow that up with is… tell me about the geekiest thing you’ve done on your own time?  I don’t care if it’s fixing cars, tuning queries, or building RC planes.  I want to see that you think like a problem solver, troubleshooter, engineer, scientist, or geek of some kind and frankly that you aren’t lazy and can pick things up and then apply them on your own volition.  If you’re the type of person who will only attend training if work is paying for it – you confuse me.  I love learning new stuff.  I want to work with people who do as well.

To be clear, I do value many types of experience, but if as a new employee or on a resume you start telling me how long you’ve been doing something – forgive me if I have related concerns that will need to be clarified before I put much value on it.  If I haven’t decided you could be a great hire in the top 4 inches of your resume (which for the love of Pete better be recent) you’ve really missed your target audience – because the chances of me making it to page two are pretty low.

“Log shipping just works – why would I switch to something else for offsite DR”

Well, that’s a pretty good one actually.  I like log shipping too.  It DOES just work.  Thanks for letting me rant a little bit,  Now check back in a couple weeks for my next career related post entitled: EXPERIENCE, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE.


One comment on “Experience Is Overated

  1. Pingback: SQL New Blogger Challenge Weekly Digest | The Rest is Just Code

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2015 by in Career Skills.
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