I feel the need to confess that I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with The Nerdery.  They do quite a bit of wonderful philanthropic things for the community including (but not limited to):

  • The Overnight Website Challenge
  • Generously hosting (and providing food for) several tech-based meetups including MSPWordPress

I in no way am trying to burn any bridges here.  As of 2012, I have participated in the web challenge for 4 years, and plan to for years to come.  It’s one of the greatest programs for non-profits that has ever been conceived.  However, I feel I need to address the importance of first impressions.

The Pitch

I was first introduced to The Nerdery in 2008 when they ran a campaign where if you could solve a code challenge your reward was a cash prize.  I gathered that this was really a two-fold publicity stunt:

  1. To launch their new brand “The Nerdery” – rather than being known for their somewhat boring “Sierra-Bravo” incorporated name.
  2. To solicit developers

It was a clever idea, and while the prize wasn’t outrageous ($100 IIRC), it sounded interesting enough for me to try it.  I assumed they were soliciting developers because at one of my earlier jobs we had a standard practice of sending job candidates a code challenge, and if they successfully completed it, we granted them an interview.

I think any code challenge, with or with without a prize incentive, is worth examining.  Some people (non-developers) wonder why.  Mostly it’s to self-satisfy my ego – to prove that I can do it.  Even if I don’t press one key, I’d still like to examine the problem.  I might work out a viable solution in my head and that would be satisfaction enough.

So, in the spirit of intellectualism (with the added bonus of some beer money), I thought this would be a worthwhile endeavor.  This is where the bait-and-switch happened.

The Switch

To apply for the code challenge, I had to submit a résumé.  It seemed fair, as I had assumed the end-goal was to use the publicity stunt as a recruiting tool.  This is where the stunt ends and the ruse begins.  Upon learning that I was a local candidate, the “Client Relations Coordinator” wanted to schedule me to come in for an interview – no mention of the code challenge.  After informing her that I would only be interested in part-time and/or telecommuting positions, she politely turned me down for the interview (and subsequently the challenge) by stating that

We are hiring full-time, on-site developers for our Bloomington office […] to meet our growing business needs.

It’s not really a big deal, but I somehow felt like I got scammed.  Maybe I’m just giving them a bum rap because from my viewpoint all they did was take the “1) code challenge 2) interview” process and “flip-it and reverse-it.”  In their defense, at my old job we eventually changed our process the same way to get more candidates in for interviews – however, we weren’t selling it as a code challenge with a cash prize.

This all happened in 2008, and the only reason I’m posting this now is because I recently received a head-hunting email from The Nerdery inviting me in for an interview.

Do you still have that code challenge?  I’d just prefer to do that instead, no cash prize needed.

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