One of the challenges of being a CTO is finding quality people for your development team. When the search began for employees for our new venture, the pickings were slim. What we needed was a star. We also needed someone that would trust us, and not be argumentative about new concepts. It's pretty easy to pick out the "bad eggs."
In theory, PHP developers come a dime a dozen. People that call themselves PHP developers do; skilled developers with an appreciation for more complex tasks aren't quite as well-stocked. Through all the searching we decided to take an entry level programmer. Someone fresh out of school (where, not surprisingly, they used Java). Our platform was going to be built on PHP (via Symfony), Perl, Ruby and PostgreSQL. How you meld that all together requires some open thinking.
Our staff has grown to 3 engineers (myself included), and 5 developers. And the hardest lesson to teach is the difference between confidence, ego, and entitlement.
Confidence is knowing you have the knowledge and wisdom to take on a challenge with enough modesty thrown in that you'll ask for help if you're stuck. Well, the question is "how is having to get help confident?" The answer is quite simple. Confident people are very secure. Asking for help is not an admission of weakness, it's a sign of that security. Confidence is not gloating at your own success, but knowing that sharing the credit doesn't diminish your standing or the success.
Ego is the enemy of confidence. There are two types of ego to deal with. First, there is the type of ego that most people are familiar with. The person who thinks everything he says is right, and everyone else is wrong. The other kind is the one who's been told his whole life about how great he is and has been babied through every situation. The truth about this guy is that he doesn't realize that real-life is actually real.
This leads me to entitlement. Confident, or egotistical, the result is often a feeling of entitlement. Some people feel that they are owed respect, attention, or recognition. Confident people aren't really confident if they need constant approval. And I don't really have the time to hold their hands so that they feel good. Egotistical people, I must admit, are the hardest to cope with. Often, egotistical people expect the attention and when they don't get it, they get angry.
So, am I writing this just to vent?
Actually, no, I'm not. What I really want to do is help those people struggling to find real confidence in themselves. My hope is they can identify themselves, and improve their views.
If you want to be an asset to a company, you need to work hard. That much is obvious. When I was young there were all kinds of stupid acronyms describing how to be successful. The one I remember most is "You're not good at what you do until you've ACED it." ACED stood for Assertiveness, Confidence, Exploration, Determination. It meant that you had to be assertive and confident, but understand that you don't have all of the answers. You have to explore options, and when it seems they've run out you have to stay determined to overcome the challenges.
In order to be a good developer and move up to engineer you have to be truly confident. You have to broaden your problem solving options. You can't tie yourself to just one solution. It's not about Java, or PHP, or Perl, or C. It's about finding the most robust solution you can using a combination of tools. It's not about fanaticism, or zealotry. It's about working with others towards a similar goal. It's about taking your job seriously and loving what you do. It's not about brownie points, and recognition. It's not about posturing, or politics.
Ditch the ego. Don't expect to be respected. Earn what you need. We all need approval, acceptance, recognition, and respect. Those things have a price: you have to work for them.
All good things must be earned. If people are simply given those things they have no appreciation for them. That just leads to stagnation. I can't think of a single CTO that has any use for stagnant creative people. I certainly don't.