Helpful advice packaged with insults . . .

Mixed Guidance on Recruiting Professionals

Johanna Rothman: Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds
2004, Dorset House, ISBN 0-932633-59-5, 330 pages
reviewed by Conrad Weisert, October, 2004, ©Information Disciplines, Inc.

Shocking title and condescending view


A computer programmer or software technician who has a strong command of the details of hardware and system software. In many organizations this term now has a pejorative connotation, designating a technician who lacks communication skills and a sense of proportion and who, therefore, can't be trusted to exercise mature judgment.

Although techie has appeared occasionally in the trade press as a term of praise, many computer professionals consider it demeaning, and it is best avoided. Earlier synonyms "bit twiddler", "computer jock", and "computer nerd" were similarly considered offensive when applied to a programmer.

Que's Computer Programmer's Dictionary, 1993, ISBN 1-56529-125-5

I was astonished when I saw the gratuitous insults on the cover of this book. How on earth could someone who claims to specialize in recruiting computing professionals, publicly refer to us by such demeaning terms? Should we feel relieved that she refrained from calling us geeks?

Fortunately the actual text doesn't repeat those offensive epithets from the cover. Presumably someone other than the author suggested the title after she had finished writing the book, perhaps figuring that it would appeal to theory-X managers.

Ms. Rothman nevertheless continually exhibits less than sincere respect for people in our profession. Her extensive advice on interviewing assumes that an interview is a one-sided process in which a potential employee ("the candidate") is obliged to respond to interrogation by the potential employer, like a witness in court. For example on page 184:


Ms. Rothman does offer readers some helpful advice on screening and interviewing.

and minuses

On the other hand some of her advice undermines her 20-year reputation:

Recommended with reservations
(but keep it away from inexperienced managers).

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