[thelist] web team leadership...

Christopher Orth corth at nwlink.com
Sun Sep 16 10:27:00 CDT 2001

> I think you're overgeneralizing. The "lone-gunmen" type might be just what
> he's looking for, if the team is like it was at my most recent job. We had

I agree with this to a large extent.  I have found a rather terrible split
between web people I have worked with.  The people that were all about
"collaboration" seemed to never get anything but proposals done and the
"lone gunmen" could build all sorts of things but the products may not be
compliant with what the other lone gunmen were building.  Something in
between is the true goal, and that is where the test of your management
skills will be squarely focused!  My personal preference is to hire lone
gunmen and then inspire them all to share ideas, code, etc.  Its amazing
what a dedicated group of individuals can do when working as a team (only
partly meant as a joke).

You have gotten some great advice here from other people so I wont rehash
it, but I do have some more suggestions.

1 - I always liked to ask a person what they "wanted" to learn next.  If
they told me XML, more advanced ASP, color theory or something like that
then I knew they had a grasp of bigger picture issues.  I was always wary of
answers like "I am going to learn how to make button rollovers this weekend"
or "I'm taking a Photoshop class".  Better answers would be "I'm exploring
new ways of building dynamic navigation structures" or "I'm studying color
and lighting theory and application".  Unless of course button rollover is
just what you are looking for.  ; )

2 - Instead of grilling them about their code, show them some of ours/yours
and ask how they feel about writing to your code standards.  See if they are
uncomfortable or confrontational about it.  If they are open, then ask them
if they have any suggestions for improving what they see.  The end result
will always be enlightening and serve to open up an interesting
conversation.  They will get to see that you are willing to trust them and
their input and they will get to see that they cant make all the decisions
in a vacuum but will be part of any given solution.  Any potential employee
should really be compelled by this, and as a manager you will get to see
right away how that person responds to new ideas, to must do work orders,
and what their style of contribution and communication are.  If they have
some really good suggestions on the spot you know you have an experienced
thinker looking for a job with you.

3 - If you want a better answer ask the interviewee a better question.  For
example, "Describe your process" is sure to get you a crap answer.  A better
question is "Describe your process for communicating a problem or hold-up to
a client" or "Describe your process for completing two weeks worth of
unattended work that may be assigned to you all at once".  This will get you
some dead on answers and give you a lot of insight into that persons
experience and skills.

4 - Always treat interviewee's during the interview just like you would
treat them if they already worked for you.  Be more casual and open and see
how they respond to it.  Tell them to wear to the interview the kind of
clothing they would wear to work.  Also let them know before they get there
how many people they will be interviewing with and who they are.

5 - Never ever ask dumbass questions like "if you were a fruit, what would
you be".  It is very insulting to the interviewee and doesn¹t tell you
anything about them.  It does tell the interviewee that you have too much
free time on your hands.

6 - When reading résumé's always remember that everyone tries to make
themselves look really good, and some people have really great skills but
write really bad resumes.  What you read is almost never what you really get
so don¹t take the actual resume too seriously.  My rules for recruiters I
worked with was "If you cant send me three URLS to professional web sites I
am not interested in the candidate."  The only exception would be if they
had two or more years involvement in one very large web site, like a
Microsoft or Amazon type product.  Look at the web sites first and see if
they reflect quality.  If they do, then investigate the client further.  If
not, move on.  But do be fair to the candidate and look for what they did.
If the site looks really bad but the writing is good, and the candidate did
the writing, don¹t hold the design against them.

7 - There is a HUGE difference between small site experience and large site
experience.  Someone who has built many small Flash based sites is not the
person you want when creating a staff for a corporate intranet.  And
inversely, someone who is used to a 3000+ page collaborative intranet is
probably not the person you want to design a slick movie promotion site all
by themselves.  The skills are different.  The information design alone is a
whole different beast, not to mention the writing, the implementation, etc.
You don¹t need to rule out people who have not had the opportunity to work
on big sites, but do look for the skills that can be applied or developed.

8 - And finally, I would strongly suggest that you sit down and clearly
define what the products will be over the next year.  Then map out all the
skills you will need to produce those products.  Then put those skills into
sets that you can expect to find in real human beings.  This will give you
your job descriptions.  Then write your job available postings and do your
interviewing.  You will have a much better idea of what you are looking for
and wont be swayed when a really good candidate comes along but doesn't have
the skills you really need.  You can also find where you could outsource
parts of work.  For example, if you could hire production and information
design people in house, you could outsource the visual design for only a few
weeks pay rather than having someone in house.  But if design is a longer
endeavour maybe you outsource some of the back end development.  It is rare
these days that you will have a big enough budget to have all the skills you
need in house all the time, and your clients and bosses will really be
impressed when you deliver products beyond your in house skill set.

Ok.. That would be my bag full of advice for anyone.  I hope something in
there was valuable!


Christopher Orth
corth at nwlink.com
Poser Arcana - http://www.awakemm.com/poserarcana/

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