I don't want to be your rockstar developer or your ninja

December 20, 2010

It's become a common phrase in developer job posts and interviews, "rockstar". Are you a rockstar developer? Do you want to be the next rockstar developer? What do you need to do to become a rockstar developer? I have no idea how or why developers ever got labeled with "rockstar", but personally it's a label I never want and something that when asked for I take as a negative (a recent phone interview led to this post). To me it says the person asking does not understand their target audience ... developers. Have you ever seen a posting for a rockstar lawyer, doctor or teacher? Not likely, it sounds ridiculous. So why do people seek out rockstar developers?

To me a rock star infers celebrity, partying, passion, an entourage, creativity, self promotion, late night benders, and self destructive behaviour. A few of those traits are certainly things that you would want any employee or contractor to have, passion and creativity to be specific, the rest you could do without. Rockstar does communicate being at the top, but does it mean the best? Are Morzart or Beethoven considered rockstars? Does a rockstar really make the best music or do they simply garner the most hype and attention? If you are hiring a person to develop mission critical software or a flagship website for your company do you really want someone with the traits or behaviour of a rockstar? No? Then stop asking for it.

First and foremost I'm a professional web developer. I take great pride in my work, my education and the effort I put into whatever I set my mind to. It's my business, my livelihood and my passion. To me it's a slight to be asked if I'm a rockstar developer. Why not ask if I'm a code monkey while you are at it?

Quit seeking rockstars (and ninjas, which is even more absurd). Look for professional, pragmatic and passionate developers.