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Attitude vs Experience: What’s more important for developers?

When I was looking for my first software development job, I kept hearing the same thing: “you don’t have enough commercial experience for this role”…

I kept persisting and eventually I got a job at a startup, where I worked for two years.

When I decided to go freelance I was surprised that, after having two years experience as a developer (which in my eyes is a like a century in the fast-changing technology world), I was still hearing the same thing: “you don’t have enough experience for this role…”

But I kept on trying. I worked on my own projects. I published them online. I kept reading and learning new things…

After a few months I got my first freelance contract working with Python.


It happened quickly; I got the call from the recruiter on a Wednesday, did their coding challenge the same day (you can see it here), had a telephone interaction on the Friday, and I went into the office on Monday.

Hack: Always publish your job application coding challenges on GitHub, but never put any details to identify the company name or challenge name, otherwise it allows other candidates to cheat.

At first I was worried. I kept thinking “what if it’s true and I really don’t have enough experience!?”.

Then I started my first project and got it done in a few days. Then I worked on the second project which took 2 weeks. Then they extended me another two weeks to work on different projects…

After I left I got a positive LinkedIn review and they contacted me a few months later seeing if I was available (I was in another contract at the time). I must have left a good impression.

Later on, they contacted me again and I was available.

This time, the project involved a lot of AngularJS and NodeJS.

Before I accepted, I made it clear that I didn’t have a lot of “commercial experience” in these areas but I have worked on a couple of personal projects using Ionic (which is based on Angular), and had done a bit of work on a NodeJS app at a previous job.

Despite the lack of commercial experience, they still hired me back.

At first it was challenging, but I managed to figure it out and deliver both the AngularJS and NodeJS apps on time. They were happy with the work, and extended my contract longer.

It made me wonder, what had changed between being told I “don’t have enough experience”, to them hiring me to work with a technology I had only used a bit before?

The answer is Attitude.

Having a great attitude beats having any number of years experience any day.

Once you get your foot in the door, show you have a good attitude towards work and they will hire you back.

Employers don’t want someone who has 20 years of experience doing the same thing with a bad attitude. They want good, positive staff with a positive attitude towards work. The “not enough experience” excuse is just that, an excuse, because you didn’t show them that you have a good attitude.

What is a Good Attitude?

Here are some traits of developers with positive attitudes:

  • Know where to get help when you need to figure things out quickly.
  • Build up your reputation online by answering questions on Stack Overflow, IRC and Forums.
  • Read books and articles to stay current.
  • Learn other technologies even when you don’t need to.
  • Have an open mind and respect peoples hardware preferences (example: PC vs Mac).
  • Show up on time.
  • Look smart, if you work in a casual office, you don’t have to wear a suit, just make sure your clothes are clean and fit well.
  • Admit when you don’t know something and make sure you find out the answer for next time.
  • Seek advice from other developers and don’t assume you are always right.
  • Always be looking for ways to improve your code.
  • Take responsibility when something goes wrong and focus on finding a solution before blaming others.
  • Take pride in your code and always be thinking “would this be clear to another developer?”.
  • Help others around you, the final stage of learning is teaching.

So that’s it, have a good attitude and you will shine amongst the rest.

Thanks for reading.


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