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George Clingerman       XNADevelopment.com

BinaryBoy I try to spend a little time every day brushing up on my developer skills. Some days I have more success than others. I might attempt to brush up on my skills by reading a tech book (currently working through "Working Effectively with Legacy Code" by Michael C. Feathers, I'm loving that book!), practicing some new language features (I'm still wrapping my head around lambda expressions and LINQ) or just browsing tech blogs and listening to tech podcasts. I do this partly because our industry changes so rapidly that you HAVE to do this just to stay relevant but mostly because I just like learning new things. I love what I do.

Well, yesterday I stumbled across an older article by Scott Hanselman. It's not the first time I've seen it. I've read through it before. It's called What Great .NET Developers Ought To Know (More .NET Interview Questions). Last time I read through this article, I took it as a challenge. In fact my small little team started meeting to work through these questions so we could try and answer them. The ones we didn't have answers for we were researching. We were able to meet about twice before the pressures of deadlines and heavy workloads caused us to abandon the goal and the meetings just kind of died out. We had barely started on the list.

It's been over a year now since I last read that article and started on that goals (maybe almost 2 years?). I'm a better developer than I was two years ago. I know this. However in just reading that first section of questions, the ones in the "Everyone who writes code" section, I realized I couldn't answer ANY of them off the top of my head.

Sure there were a few I could probably bluff my way through. I might "generally" know an answer, but in an interview type situation if anyone leaned on me to speak a little deeper about my answer it would be pretty apparent that I really didn't know what I was talking about. I don't REALLY know the answers. And that's just for some of the questions. For other questions in that little "Everyone who writes code" section I wouldn't even know where to start answering the question and this is with me dimly remembering that we had almost covered all these beginner questions in those two meetings years ago with my team.

What does that say about me? The post says "Great" .NET developers. Kind of a blow to my ego, but I can deal with that, I'm not great. But then these questions are also suggested as interview questions. So am I not worth hiring as a developer? I mean I couldn't even get through the first section of questions.

I have a Math/Computer Science degree. I went to a fairly well respected private school and it's a pretty tough one academically (we even had Saturday classes!). So I think I'm at least semi-intelligent (maybe? pretty please, at least give me that!). I've also been programming in the work force for just about 10 years now (so I have some experience doing what I do). And it's not something I do just for a day job, I code at home as well for hours every night (so I'm not just a clock puncher). It's something I love to do. I even managed to snag a Microsoft MVP award for a few years (although to be honest that has less to do with you as a developer and more to do with you as a community member!). And like I mentioned, I try to learn something new everyday, I like to think I'm staying current with the industry (so I'm constantly actively trying to better myself!).

Yet I can't answer the questions in the "Everyone who writes code" section of a list of questions for things every Great .NET Developer ought to know and might be interviewed with at their next job....

So what does this mean? Are those questions really representative of things every .NET developer should know off the top of their head or is Hanselman just so awesome he no longer can identify with "GREAT" .NET developers and has instead made a list of questions for What FANTASTICALLY INCREDIBLE GOD LIKE .NET DEVELOPERS Ought to know?

To be honest I'm not sure. I personally think I just learned I'm a sub-par developer. Guess I have some more work to do...

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:06 AM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Learning you are a sub-par developer...

# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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I would say some of the items on that list are very dependent on what type of programming you are engaged in. If you are a web developer who is tasked with writing controls and pages, you will probably never need to know the difference between a Process and a Thread. You may know how to use threads, but simply knowing the difference isn't enough.

I think that taking the list as a general guide of what you should probably know is better than taking it as a simple black and white checklist of how good of a .NET developer you are. It is entirely possible that you and others know more in the higher level lists than in the first simply because the first list is topics covered in college textbooks rather than every day use items.

Personally what makes a developer is not necessarily what they know currently but how able they are to adapt to a changing environment and whether or not they have a hunger for knowledge. While a developer who knows the answer to every item on that list could certainly be a great asset, the answers are also only a few clicks away (Bing it!). I much rather have a developer who is constantly excited about learning new things and ready to tackle problems that are just outside their range of "greatness."
Left by John Sedlak on Aug 27, 2009 10:25 AM

# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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If it makes you feel any better, as one of the comments pointed out Einstein said: "Never memorize what you can look up in books."

Cheers
Left by SanjayU on Aug 27, 2009 12:59 PM

# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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@John - There's a lot of truth in what you say! I actually didn't look further on the list, but you're right there might be some things I know later on the list. I know I don't use any of the stuff in that "Ever Developer" section in my day to day job.

@SanjayU - I like that perspective! Seems like some very good advice from Mr. Einstein :)
Left by George W. Clingerman on Aug 27, 2009 3:55 PM

# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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I think you're under selling yourself. I've seen the work you do and the advice you give on the XNA forums and your tutorial series. You know that stuff. It may not be on the top of your head to fire off at a snap question, but it's in there.
Left by Stewart Paton on Aug 27, 2009 7:29 PM

# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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Your most definately underselling yourself, I have never seen a client or been interviewed on such arbitrary knowledge, I did answer most of the questions but some of them were actually pointless and subject to change.

I suspect you suffer from the same problem as myself in that you do not work exclusively with any one technology and .NET is your current flavour, I regularly flit from C to C++ to Java to .NET and even to scripting languages like PHP, Python, Javascript etc the main point is that you are well enough grounded in these areas to understand the subtle differences so you can comfortably work through, I myself have a glossary of terms on my laptop and workstations where I can write most of this stuff and suggest maybe you do the same.

Dont take one guys opinion to heart who knows maybe he can't answer all of your questions.

Left by Lewis Cowles on Sep 29, 2009 2:45 AM

# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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I am the big fan of this book, Michael Feathers offers start-to-finish strategies for working more effectively with large, untested legacy code bases. This book draws on material Michael created for his renowned Object Mentor seminars: techniques Michael has used in mentoring to help hundreds of developers, technical managers, and testers bring their legacy systems under control. The topics covered include Understanding the mechanics of software change: adding features, fixing bugs, improving design, optimizing performance Promotional Items Getting legacy code into a test harness Writing tests that protect you against introducing new problems Techniques that can be used with any language or platform--with examples in Java, C++, C, and C# Accurately identifying where code changes need to be made Coping with legacy systems that aren't object-oriented Handling applications that don't seem to have any structure
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nd whether or not they have a hunger for knowledge. While a developer who knows the answer to every moncler
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# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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If it makes you feel any better, as one of the comments pointed out Einstein said: "Never memorize what you can look up in books."
Left by maplestory mesos on Sep 27, 2010 3:57 AM

# re: Learning you are a sub-par developer...
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A lot of those questions (which I also struggle to find an answer for) seem aimed at a developer who has worked with every little back-alley facet of the .NET framework there is. Whatever happened to learning on the job?
If I were hiring for a .NET-specific job then fair enough, but I'd take a career developer any day of the week. There'll be a new language on the horizon soon enough and some .NET'ers will be clinging onto the syntax and keywords of yesteryear just like the VB6'ers of their day were (and still are!).
Left by A. Murray on Oct 26, 2010 7:34 AM

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