“E-commerce” just doesn’t have the ring it once did. The best-qualified hackers in the world used to fall all over themselves to work on the next Amazon or eBay, but now? A job maintaining the back-end of an online store isn’t likely to lure this generation’s rockstar ninja coderz, which explains why Inicart ended up hiring Jay.

As far as Colleen could tell, her boss had been trying to add a developer to their team for at least a year. Scott was always on his way to interviews, second interviews, phone screens, and follow-up Skype calls… but summer turned to autumn turned to Christmas, and Inicart’s dev team returned from the holidays to find only their waistbands had increased in size. But then came the day Colleen walked in to find the long-empty cubicle next to hers brimming with a brand-new task chair and workstation. She ran down the hall.


“’Morning, Colleen.” The team lead was leaning back in his chair with the grin of a satisfied hiring manager.

“So you… you found someone?”

“That’s right.”

“And they’re… good?”

“Right again. He’s very good.”

Colleen didn’t know what to say.

“He starts next Monday,” Scott said. “You guys should get ready to do some onboarding.”

Colleen flipped a mock salute, and scampered off to do just that. A new developer! This was huge: Colleen and her team might finally be able to take a break from fixing bugs and actually deliver a new feature!

With all due respect to Scott’s hiring prowess, it wasn’t immediately obvious to Colleen what he’d seen in Jay. The new developer was sociable enough, joining the team at their various outings, but he wasn’t big on eye contact, and tended to wander around whatever point he was making until you just lost interest. Colleen didn’t want to write Jay off on his social skills alone, however; they needed someone to fix bugs, and pretty soon he was doing just that.

Week three was when Colleen started to worry. Jay was tearing through the bug backlog, but, for a developer new to the team, the company, and the codebase, he asked very few questions. That is to say, no questions. Not wanting to be unreasonable, Colleen confirmed that her teammates were also concerned.

She brought those concerns to Scott. “I mean, I’ve been on this project for years, and I have questions.”

“Well, he is very good. He interviewed at Google, you know,” Scott said. “If you’re worried, though, maybe you could do a code review?”

Like everything else about Jay, his changes seemed fine at first glance. His taste in variable names tended towards the unusual- booThu stuck in Colleen’s mind as one example (an abortive attempt to summon the Great Codethulhu?)- but Jay seemed to know more or less what he was doing. Then they found Jay’s proclivity for write-only properties. A bunch of classes had sprouted these strange properties, properties whose value couldn’t be accessed, properties that did weird things to the classes’ internal state, more like they were a function call than a property- it was like Jay had never learned about void methods.

When challenged, Jay said, “Well, when I interviewed at Google, they thought that was a really clever design choice.” Of course, Jay may have interviewed at Google, but according to his resume, he never worked there.

As the checkins piled up and the team dug deeper, worry turned into alarm. Large sections of code had vanished from the codebase. According to Jay’s checkin comments, the swaths he’d erased were “inefficient and useless”. Colleen would have been willing to argue the point about efficiency, but the missing code was better described as “handling rare but important corner cases in shopping cart processing”.

Jay was obstinate when questioned about his unusual coding style. “I’m writing compiler-efficient code,” he cried. “If you don’t understand how the compiler turns your code into machine instructions, you’re never going to write an efficient program! That’s why I’ve been cleaning up your code.”

The outburst that ensured Jay a place in Inicart legend forevermore took place when, in the wake of The Case of the Missing Corner-Case Code, Scott told Jay they were letting him go. After security had shown the raving developer out of the building, Scott let the team in on their final conversation.

“I told him, ‘I’m sorry, Jay, but we have to let you go,’” Scott said.

“You can’t do that!” Jay had replied. “I’m brilliant!

Scott had been so taken aback by this assertion that he’d been unable to stop himself from saying “Uh, no! You’re not!”

Scott admitted this hadn’t been his most-professional moment. But the rest of the team forgave him: from then on, Colleen and co. had a new catchphrase whenever a teammate found a bug in their code.