DEV Community

Cover image for How the Tech Industry Discourages Multi-Passionate Folks
Nadya Primak
Nadya Primak

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

How the Tech Industry Discourages Multi-Passionate Folks

This is a post that was originally published on my blog. See original post here.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how I regretted specializing in a front end development framework because I inadvertently got pigeonholed into working with outdated technology. What I realized I might have been accidentally implying in that post is that the tech industry therefore prefers multi-passionate people. I wanted to correct this implication because it is extremely incorrect, in fact I would argue that it is the opposite.

I don’t know for sure that any company I interviewed at created a report about me, but I don’t know for sure that they didn’t either.

Technical interviews, especially for developers, are grueling. It is not uncommon to have one or two coding tests, sometimes with multiple developers watching you code live and taking notes while they’re at it. I’ve been assigned cognitive assessments, personality tests, multiple choice questions, timed exams, and everything in between. What sucks the most is that almost all of these tests are designed to assess your left brain– how good you are at algorithmic thinking, or logic puzzles, or your depth of understanding a specific programming language.
I don’t know for sure that any company I interviewed at created a report about me, but I don’t know for sure that they didn’t either.

It’s a real frustration for someone like me, who has a mixture of skills in user experience, web design, and front end development. I often find when I’m looking at jobs that the ones which list this mixture of skills as “desired” are also the companies which are very small and basically just want to have one developer that doesn’t mind “working under pressure” (sidebar: if a job asks you about how comfortable you are under pressure, you should probably run away). Then the jobs which specifically want a “front end developer” couldn’t give a damn that I know my way around Photoshop, or that I have an online portfolio that showcases my game development, or that I have interests outside of technology at all.

Of course I wouldn’t be writing this if I thought I was the only one who experienced this frustration. There is a ton of gate-keeping in the industry, which you can read about here, here, and here. Not expressing enough passion about coding or not being up with the latest frameworks can easily cost you the job. As a result, people in the tech industry often feel pressured to give up their hobbies and their other interests and spend both their time inside and outside the office brushing up on trends, researching new tools, and making side projects to stay fresh.

The gatekeeping is real. Probably from StackOverflow.

This is a huge turn off for most multi-passionate folks, who tend to get bored doing the same thing each and every day. Certainly when they first discover they are interested in coding they might become very absorbed in it for a few months or even a year or two. But eventually that intense interest tapers off and is replaced with something else. Emilie Wapnick discusses this phenomenon in her fantastic TED Talk, which I highly recommend.

It seems counter-intuitive for an industry that receives so much criticism for excluding people and ideas to continuously encourage developers to specialize in more and more specific tools when arguably what the industry needs most right now is people who value the user experience and the well being, privacy, and long term happiness of their customers. That means employees who can put themselves in the shoes of their customers. Hiring people who have have diverse experiences and a wide range of interests would certainly help, whereas hiring people for their single-minded obsession with technology will have the opposite effect, and fuel the delusion that all problems can be solved with more technology.
Stats on diversity in major tech companies. Smaller players tend to have far more alarming stats.

Stats on diversity in major tech companies. Smaller players tend to have far more alarming stats.

Some might infer from this that I want to do away with all coding tests and make hiring in tech a free for all. No. I am not advocating for an extreme approach, but I think currently the industry skews very far in demanding employees to live, breathe, and eat code that it is not conducive to a collaborative and open minded workforce. Of course it also relates to the bigger problem of toxic work culture which is another can of worms I won’t get into in this post.

Hiring in tech is broken, and by having a single minded focus on the developers technical skills not only dehumanizes people, it also makes multi-passionate folks feel like they need to fit a very specific mold. I believe it is also the reason why so many companies don’t invest in good UX researchers and designers, because those skill-sets bridge different industries and require a more multi-passionate approach. They simply don’t see the value in anything that is not pure code, that doesn’t follow the motto of “move fast and break things”.
That motto has NOT aged well.

That motto has NOT aged well.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to have an outlet to talk about all of my interests. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to write about a multitude of topics instead of trying to force myself into a tiny niche that I would get sick of after a few weeks or a month. The tech industry is changing, albeit not as quickly as I would like, but I hope this post reaches the people who can spread the message that multi-passionate people should be embraced rather than estranged.

If you enjoyed this article, consider following me on Twitter @nadyaprimak or if you need more tips on breaking into the tech industry, you can read my book Foot in the Door in paperback or Kindle now.

The post How the Tech Industry Discourages Multi-Passionate Folks appeared first on

Top comments (11)

lbayliss profile image
Luke Bayliss

My ‘title’ is a front end developer. Why I do day to day is mostly back end and DevOps. But as far as the business outside of my team cares, all I do is develop UI’s.

This frustrates me to no end. I am comfortable and far more interested in working across the entire stack. I enjoy how everything ties together and being able to build all the pieces and watch them for together.

It seems as though the only places that will let me hold that role are start ups, and while they are fun and highly rewarding, the pressure and stress is high.

I wish larger companies (at least where I am from) would consider roles that are more broad in definition.

khrome83 profile image
Zane Milakovic

Really great write up.

I agree with the hiring issue. As a people leader (always a developer) I look for practical skills that go beyond knowledge of a framework.

I get 10 year veterans that only know one framework. I get junior developers apply for senior roles, because that is what they were, at their previous job.

Safely it is the breath of skills that help.

We do give a technical exam. But it is the same one regardless if level. It is also done over the phone and in a collaborative code pen. And it focuses on practical every day skills.

Junior developers get through it with some communication and support. Mid level developers complete it. Senior developers offer advice to make our “app” better.

Long story short, I believe in rewarding the everyday skills. I also do this because I feel developers are historically bad at resumes. Too often people bloat the skills list, but don’t master any. Because they were stuck in the same tech stack for too long.

ssimontis profile image
Scott Simontis

Companies that are hiring have no idea what the hell they are doing. Uh-oh, I don't have 8 years of experience in some technology, rejected. What does 8 years of experience looks like? How does the number of years I have worked with it demonstrate that I know anything? Hell, if I have 5 years of experience with React, I have to unlearn 4 of those to keep up with the latest changes.

The longer the list of desired skills, the less the company knows about what they are looking for. They're hoping if they bring a ton of trendy technologies into the same room that a great product will magically appear. I think that all in all, recruiters do more harm than good and 98% of them give the 2% that are legitimately helpful a bad name. Job descriptions are the way they are in part so that recruiters can "screen" candidates for the companies. You would think it is in their best interest to get you the highest-paying gig you love, but a lot of recruiters get paid if you show up for work the first day. They'll assign you anywhere in hopes that they get a "rockstar" candidate or that they get a more interesting assignment to fill next time.

I had a typo in my resume (sleep is important!) and sent it to a dozen recruiters before one of them pointed them out to me. I assume that means the other 11 didn't even look at my resume before they submitted it. At this point, I am putting a lot more emphasis on maintaining relationships with a handful of incredible recruiters and bidding the rest of them a good day.

I wish I knew what the solution was. My last two comments were about similar issues in the industry, toxic companies and how I have gone with it to escape reality and hide from other problems and what coding challenges can say about the companies who present them. I'd type more but if I keep sharing all my thoughts on this subject I will have a novel written in a week.

leob profile image

Spot on, also the description of the average recruiter. As an industry we're definitely not making the best choices, see also the naive belief that tech is a cure for all our society's woes.

wysocki129 profile image

Right on. Hyperspecialization creates less creative teams that don't know how to solve their own problems. Many game projects I have worked on have gone to hell because people in the programming team didn't work with people on the design team where a works with programing minded designers or design minded programers would make a better end product for everyone.

leob profile image

I think you have a point here ... tech culture is way too one-sided, too much of a monoculture.

Funny though that in all of my career I never did one single real "code interview". I just talked about my passion for the job and the company I was applying with, and about what I thought were my qualities. Isn't that just what an interview should be?

And yeah sure they can include a technical/knowledge oriented part in it too in order to weed out the wouldbe devs.

But the obsession with code interviews/tests seems to be something of the last decade (you can guess how old I am, haha).

bugmagnet profile image
Bruce Axtens

Okay, at the end of 12 minutes I'm happy to come out as a multipotentialite. It's no surprise to me really, but it's nice to have a label to stick on the inside of my mind to look at when culture tries to make me conform. Thanks for raising the issue and for the link to the TED Talk.

xowap profile image
Rémy 🤖

For sure the interview process is broken in many companies. And we definitely need more diversity. And the more tools you have the further you can go. In fact, I lead a small agency with different nationalities inside, more women than men and where we encourage people on going further than their current skillset (by example with trainings unrelated to their initial job).

Now I'd like however to underline something. No mistake must be made that if we hire a developer we intend that this person's main focus is going to be development. Other skills are complimentary. And for as much as we receive completely different projects all the time, when we start a project we still need to see it through (versus "get bored doing the same thing each and every day"). And that is simply because that's what we're paid to do. I'd love to see a fresh new problem sliding down a rainbow every day but it's not always the case.

So there's this but there's also that. I believe that a diverse culture is essential but on the other side I get the feeling that it doesn't fix as many problems as you think.

In any case, this article is a fascinating insight, thank you for sharing!

jaakidup profile image

This is something that has come up a lot in talks lately.
I'm multi-passionate too and not only in tech areas, but many other areas too.

So what I've seen is that, the larger the company, the more specialized the employees. Smaller companies have the employees fill a wider array of functions.

Going from a smaller company to a much larger specialized corporate outfit is quite an adjustment unless it's specifically structured to operate as a small company or startup.

You mentioned about having the freedom to write about a multitude of different topics without being forced into a niche. I feel this way about development work too.

The real problem solving an creativity happens way outside the lines of code that are finally written to solidify an idea. That is far more precious to me.

alfiedarko profile image
Alfie Darko

Made me think about my attempts to specialise and how my tendency to jump from one interest to another over the years have played against each other lol.

Great article!

dietertroy profile image

Really well written article, with a lot of very concerning truths regarding hiring in the development sector.