Most students coming out of university these days are completely clueless when it comes to computer programming. This seems to be getting worse for every year. However, in between all the garbage (where garbage in this context means students not really interested in or capable of programming a computer) there are some really exceptional and brilliant talents that might just need a few more years of experiences to become really efficient superprogrammers. This number is growing. The challenge is to find and recognize these talents, and are they willing to work for you?
I believe the next generation of superprogrammers is to be found in the free and open source software communities. They have little motivation to work with traditional closed source and proprietary software. Why should they? Yes, they want to work on challenging and interesting software projects, but also they want to share their best ideas with others – where the latter is perhaps the most important motivation factor. They want their work to be viewed by others, they want respect, recognition and to be admired by their friends, they want to be part of a world-wide community. In order to hire these people you need to realize that money, internal recognition and a “career” is not enough. You might need to change your business strategy.
Consider hiring a brilliant poet, painter or musician where the message is that their work can only be presented, displayed or heard inside the company – a ridiculous proposal and of course they will refuse. The same thing is true for the next generation of superprogrammers. Given a choice they will work for a company where their work is visible for the outside world, or even better, where their work is a contribution to the software community as a whole.
We see already that many companies have a hard time realizing the impact of free and open source software. Those who do not get it will die. Those who manage to attract the next generation of superprogrammers will win.