The Eagle Blog

Challenging a "Norm" – Experience

Experience is valued. When we look for new people we look for experience. So … what is experience? Is it really the amount of time you spend doing something.

Malcolm Gladwell believes that it take a certain amount of “practice” 5,000 hours to perfect a skill. But if you are not perfecting skills, or if the difference between the most “skilled” and adequately “skilled” doesn’t matter then the 5,000 hours really is not relevant.

If you do the same thing day in day out for 20 years … is that 20 years of experience?

I might argue that it might just be one years experience repeated 20 times, particularly if the end result produced by the 20 year employee is not much different than the end result produced by the one year experienced person.

Given that logic, why should a bus driver with 20 years of experience be more valued than a bus driver with one years experience (or two years experience)?

Or a labourer (one might argue the younger labourer might be more healthy).

Or a painter (really what does the older painter know that the younger one didn’t learn in a year or two).

Or an aircraft pilot (once you can fly, and have a couple of year’s experience what does another 18 years experience bring).

Or a computer programmer … that should get some input! ( I have seen “junior” programmer deliver as much code as “senior” programmers. Capability and skills might have little to do with number of years doing it).

Its an interesting question … certainly trade unions believe “time in” or “tenure” is valuable. In the context of a global economy where labour costs are through the roof (is an assembly line worker worth $55 an hour, plus all benefits?) does this make sense?

Maybe “EXPERIENCE” should really be a factor of “productivity” or “contribution” as opposed to the amount of time on a job!

One thought on “Challenging a "Norm" – Experience

  1. (Rising to the bait)

    Regarding programmers, you also need to evaluate quality. Junior programmers can crank out a lot of code, but, with rare exceptions, it won't be any good.

    A junior also has trouble debugging code because each problem is new to him. "Experience is the sum total of all the mistakes you have ever made". Once you've made (and fixed!) enough mistakes, then you can call yourself "experienced"

    The difference between a programmer with 5 years experience and one who has 20 lies more in business domain knowledge than pure programming skills.

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