I’m sitting here thinking about experience. At one point or another, we’ve all been in the position where we see a cool job posting, and think “Hey, that job is just perfect for me!”. Then, we read further and see something like “candidates must have five or more years experience”, where the amount of experience required always exceeds the amount that you have. For years, that always bothered me, because I thought that there’s more than experience that matters, there’s also how good you are at what you do.
For example, let’s pick a technology like perl. I’ve been using perl since 1999. I’m better than probably 80% of perl programmers in perl. So, logically, that means that I should have a skill level of (2007-1999) * .80 = 6.4 skill-years.
However, for a more complex example, I’ve been using iptables since about 2004. Before that, I did a little bit with ipchains, but not much. Suppose I’m better than 60% of sysadmins at using iptables, but only better than 20% of users at ipchains (iptables’s predecessor). Is my skill level (2007-2004)*0.6 = 1.8 skill-years or (2004-2002)*0.2 + (2007-2004)*0.6 = 2.2 skill-years? Obviously, were we to be using this system, I’d put 2.2 on my resume.
You can see how it could get confusing, which explains why there is a lot of “x-years experience in y” notes out there. It’s an easier system.
I think that there’s more to it than that though. I’ve been at Alliance long enough now, that I’m starting to see a pattern. My boss has been with Alliance since he was an intern. Now he’s the COO. That’s a lot of experience in years, but very very few in the technology that we’re using today. In previous jobs with previous bosses, I would draw a conclusion like “yeah, he’s got a gazillion years of experience, but he’s not better than anyone I know at the tech”, leading to (gazillion)*0.0 = 0 skill-years. That’s not how it works in reality though.
We just had a conversation today about backups. We are using a backup technology that my boss doesn’t know. However, he knows how backups worked back in the days of the Vax. He extrapolated from then until today, and we discussed the issues at a high-concept level. See, even though he had 0 experience in his technology, his years of experience in general helped out a lot. And he does this in almost every conversation we have.
Nutshell: Experience is important. Skill level is important. The ability to draw upon both experiences and skill level and apply it to new problems trumps them both.