The Affable Badass

I’m hiring again. It’s time once more to reflect on what I’m looking for in a software developer. It turns out that it hasn’t changed. I’m after the same person I’ve been after for years, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so. I’m still hunting the elusive Affable Badass.

The Natural Badass

We all know and work with at least a few natural badasses. Some workplaces are more badass-rich than others. Badasses can be a lot of fun if they’re handled with care. Badasses are on the constant watch for things that offend their badass sensibilities. Little things that you would expect to roll of the back of any rational person can sting like a splinter to the badass. (Inefficiencies can be particularly galling: slack meetings, redundant data entry. Bureaucracy is kryptonite to the badass.)

Care and Feeding of the Natural Badass

Badasses often require some unusual special treatment–they really like being literally exceptional. It is the manager’s role to provide it. A decent manager must carve out a territory for badasses to play without undue distraction even within an organization that doesn’t support badassery well.  I have had to move a badass’s office out of the main flow of traffic because the way he works does not look to others like working–he’s always got at least part of his screen devoted to cartoons or retro game console hacking. Everybody who works closely with him knows he’s a badass, but it’s hard to defeat an ambient misperception.

The badass is constantly weighing one thing against another and judging correctness. The rawest badass is often very poor at conveying these judgements to others in ways that are effective and palatable to them. We have reached the limits of what a non-affable badass can provide: exactly as much as any one single person can do sitting alone typing.

The Affable Badass

The rare affable badass has all the talents of the raw badass but with added political and personal sensitivity. The affable badass has an interest in human organizations that extends beyond software. Talking about a problem to an affable badass makes you feel heard and satisfied that an acceptable resolution is in the works (even if it doesn’t remotely resemble what you thought you wanted).

The affable badass is able to tackle problems that require the coordination of multiple teams and individuals. Managing an affable badass is a true pleasure. The most they require is raw materials, humane conditions, great problems, and space to explore.

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