Saturday, April 19, 2008

A working definition of the skills scale

Have you ever done a "skills matrix"?

It entails writing down all your "skills", i.e. API's, technologies, languages, whatever might be relevant and putting a number from 1 to 5 next to them, and maybe a time length in years of your experience on the topic.

It is to get a prospective employer and idea of how valuable you could be.

The problem however, has always been, what does "1 to 5" mean. What is the reference point? You might regard yourself as an expert in Swing because you've built some funky table structure where you can edit the cells and render the cells according to their contents, you might put down 4, maybe if you're brave 5. But then what if one of the interviewers is a contributer to the swing API? In comparison to them you're only a 2...

I have thus always been skeptical of someone who puts down 4's and 5's. I'm going to make sure they're backing that up with something real. In fact, I'd love to interview someone who puts 4 or 5 for hibernate, it could be fun to show up their lack of skills.

Now what about if we come up with a more absolute definition of what the numbers 1 to 5 actually mean. So they're more than just mere numbers. Here is my stab at it...

1 – only read about and played a little with. I have indirect knowledge or experience (was on a project where they used it but I was not involved).

2 – shallow understanding, worked with by duplicating other work.

3 – becoming familiar, able to work with and beginning to understand what is going on. Extensive experience programming with.

4 – Understand the inner workings of the technology. Thus can solve problems where they appear. Extensive deep experience in working with.

5 – Extensive understanding of the whole technology. Totally knowledgeable and experienced with everything about the technology. Possibly spotted and fixed bugs in the API if applicable.

Is this helpful, or relevant? If you apply this grading system to some of the technologies you know would that change your score? I don't think any ranking method would be perfect, maybe people can comment on how it can be improved. Maybe there's a totally different solution.

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