God gave me my computer to show me that I am not in control.

–Jean Nordlund

It is true you are never too old to learn anything. God has been here for thousands of years. Even though He is very old, He learns a lot of new things every day. It is like doing a school project. God’s project is us. We have to do research for a school project. He also learns new things like we learn new things when doing a school project. For instance, He learns different things we are doing that He probably didn’t know we would do before–because He is interested in our lives.

Paraphrased quote from nine-year old daughter before bedtime.

technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource

William Stanley Jevons, 1865

What if that resource is time, of which we have a finite amount? Time does not really exist on its own, but is really an abstraction of each person’s life.

In her prize-winning book, The Incredible Journey Sheila Burnford uses the term “companionable silence” to describe the hours spent in a canoe between two brothers during their annual vacation; and the time a father and son spends walking along a forest trail.

Is companionable silence lost forever to the generation growing up with social networks and cyber-relationships? What replaces companionable silence in the online world?

I’m still waiting for Americans to realize that being in constant communication is not an advantage, but a short leash. Cell phones have changed us from a nation of self-reliant pioneer types into a bunch of men standing alone in supermarkets saying, “Okay, I’m in the tampon aisle, but I don’t see it.”

John Gierach, Fool’s Paradise, p5.

No one runs untested code on a network server, for the code may crash and take down the server. Likewise, no one puts old format data files into new databases. The new database will be corrupted, and the data will be lost. No, you put new-format data into new databases (Matt 9:14-17).

(excerpted from Parables for Modern Academia by Deborah and Loren Haarsma)

Apparently, there is a skills shortage in the Canadian IT industry. Well, it all depends on what hiring managers are looking for–specific skills or the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn? According to Diana Oblinger, the keynote speaker at UBC’s 2007 e-Strategy Town Hall, the future jobs we are preparing our students for do not yet exist! The world is moving from “command and control” to “collaborate and participate.” To meet that challenge, problem-solving abilities involving pattern recognition and metacognition will be highly sought after. Isn’t it interesting that Google’s approach to hiring talent is to place ads with complex problems, challenging job seekers to solve them? This flies in the face of the common approach requiring a few years of AJAX programming experience, without which the screening database would not even highlight a resume.

How then should employers look for the ability to learn and problem-solve? Instead of having an initial phone screening interview, ask your most talented developer to design an open book test. What problems have been solved in the past year? Recast them in the form of questions. Invite shortlisted candidates to the test. Give them access to the Internet, let them call their friends, refer to manuals, and ask questions of the examiner. The level of difficulty with each progressive question or task should increase exponentially.

The basic aim is to identify candidates’ foundational skills. Beyond that, the most important part of this test is to hear the questions asked by candidates. Those questions will reveal strategies used by candidates to problem solve. The examiner may give hints to nudge people along. Because talented job seekers may interview poorly, the results may be surprising.

On one occasion, a college educated programmer who spoke poor English completed a series of programming problems in 5 minutes when a university graduate was still stumped after an hour. The college guy was hired!

We sometimes get HRDC grants in the summer to hire student trainees. This is usually awarded in the beginning of summer, but after all the best students with the highest grades have secured internships. Using this testing process, we have identified and hired a few promising programmers. Some are children of immigrants who are studying in community colleges and seeking transfers to university in their 3rd or 4th years. One student in particular performed so well that we could not give him enough work to keep him busy.

There are lots of job seekers out there who may not have skills but have talent, who may not have credentials but have the ability and desire to learn, who may not have experience but have innate passion. We’ll talk about passion in the next post–hiring passion!

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