Derik Whittaker



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Developer Ramp up time, Reasons some developers ramp up faster than others
What does it really cost in terms of time/money to hire in and train a new developer?  If you were to ask most in management the answer would be not much. However, if you were to ask most developers, I am sure their answer would be, a LOT.

Who is right?  Well, as a developer of course I know that developers are right.  I believe this because we have been there; we are the ones training the new developers, we are the ones spending our time teaching them the ropes of the company/project.  We are the ones who have to watch them grow, answer their questions and in some cases hold their hand.

So, is the ramp time for each new developer the same?  NO.  What can allow one developer to ramp up faster than others?
  • Level of experience
    The general level of experience for a given developer can help dictate their ramp time.  It should be fairly safe to assume that a senor developer should be able to ramp up faster then a junior developer.   This may not always be true, but I would say it is a safe assumption. 

  • Knowledge of the given industry
    If your new hire has a background working in the companies industry (i.e. has been working in the retail sector, or healthcare sector) then they should be ahead of the curve.  This may not be 100% true in all cases, but again, I would say it is a safe assumption.

    Why is this?  Well quite simply they should already have a general understanding of terms, concepts and ideals.  Having this knowledge will allow them to ramp up quicker and become a more effective contributor to the team faster.

  • Knowledge of the technology in use
    Along with ‘level of experience’ comes technology experience.  A developer that has developed using the same or similar technology in the past should be able to get up to speed quicker than someone who has never used the given technology.

    Another way that technology can play apart is target platform.  If  the developer that has been primary a Client/Server developer for the past few years may take them a little longer to ramp up then someone who has been a Web developer, assuming the project is web based.

  • Training provided by the company
    How does the new company train the new developer?  Do have any type of system documentation.  This could be as simple as a WIKI with terms and business rules or could be full blown project specs.  Having this type of information will help the developer to better understand the project.

    Another way is what do they have the new developer do during their first week?  Do they fix outstanding bugs, are they given a training session on the application (from the user’s perspective), are they thrown into a new module and left to ‘learn’ the rest later?

    More about this in depth in a future post

  • Personality
    To me, personality is the most important factor to ramp time.  Is the person a go getter?  Are they willing to ask questions, be the pest for the first few months?  Or are they the type of person to sit back and wait for someone to tell them what is going one.

    It has been my experience that an extrovert tends to ramp up much faster then an introvert.

As my list above points out there are a few different factors that can affect the time it will take for a developer to ramp up.  It would be unfair to assume that every new hire, even if they are the ‘same level’, will ramp up the same.  In a future post, I will explore ways that companies can minimize the ramp time for their new developers.

Posted 06-19-2007 6:30 AM by Derik Whittaker
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Christopher Bennage wrote re: Developer Ramp up time, Reasons some developers ramp up faster than others
on 06-19-2007 11:34 AM

I agree.  I focus my interviewing on whether or not the candidate is a Problem Solver and a Learner.  I can teach C#, I can teach TDD, et cetera, et cetera.  I cannot teach a passion for discovery, a creative spirit or an inclination for elegant solutions.

expresso wrote re: Developer Ramp up time, Reasons some developers ramp up faster than others
on 06-25-2007 3:39 PM

I agreee with 95% of what you are saying.  Only point I'd like to make is

>>Knowledge of the given industry

1) Even if you have worked in the same industry before, sure the concepts may cross over...but the ultimate business process will be different with company a b.  So I believe everyone with or without knowledge of whatever industry your company is in, basically starts off the same foot no matter what.  Sure, you may have a gain in the acronyms and sure, it may help you jumpstart..but you ultimately slow down when you start to have to learn the new company's way of doing things.

2) Some people are faster at learning the business process than others.  I think though for the most part, as developers, we're able to generally jump in and start working, as even if we're coding for months, we tend to do the same exact thing...that is figure out business process the entire time we're at a company.  So the point is at least what I'm trying to make is for me, it doesn't matter what the industry is, I've personally been able to jump in and look at the docs, ask questions whatever, and just start to code and as I go, ask those questions about the process.  This doesn't inhibit my ability to code good code or the ability to determine if what I'm doing is good for the user or UI.  Because ultimately whatever place you are in whether you've been there 1 month or 10 years, every day you are making these decisions and having to analyze the "business process".

Dave Schinkel wrote re: Developer Ramp up time, Reasons some developers ramp up faster than others
on 06-24-2008 9:52 AM

Hey, what about a team Wiki that is kept up to date because the team believes it's a good tool.  If the Wiki has useful info, the developer can start day 1 looking at certain design patterns, certain business processes (maybe there's a link to the PM website where they have uploaded docs), Developer links that the team uses often, yada yada.

I think having a useful and updated wiki where everyone contributes useful info, contributes to not only the team but newbies tryign to "jump in" and start helping.

Derik Whittaker wrote Developer training, a real (non)success story
on 06-30-2008 8:42 AM

About a year ago I created a few posts on the topic of Developer Ramp time and how companies can help

rüya tabiri wrote re: Developer Ramp up time, Reasons some developers ramp up faster than others
on 11-26-2008 1:22 PM

Thank You..

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