I once interviewed a guy who was pretty good, but not a definite “yes-hire-him-now,” which was what 10gen was looking for. He was a bit careless and indifferent and I’ve noticed that when someone can’t keep their personality quirks down in an interview, they’re not going to suppress them once they’ve been hired. (Which is fine for many quirks: programmers are a quirky lot, but not some, e.g., constantly interrupting or getting angry about being disagreed with.)
A professor who knew both me and the interviewee was disappointed. The professor thought the student was the bee’s knees: they had been a brilliant student. He couldn’t believe 10gen would pass up such a great catch. I was sad to hear this: I really respected this professor’s opinion, so maybe we had passed on a great thing.
The tech scene in NYC is not that big and this guy went on to join my friend’s company. I was curious about whether I had made a mistake and asked my friend how the new guy was. He was brilliant, my friend said, no doubt about that. However, he didn’t really seem interested in the work and didn’t get much done. When he did program something, he wouldn’t test it, he just assumed it would work and left the “cleanup” of actually making it functional to his coworkers.
It’s interesting how different work is from school.