The mindset of a hacker

Swordfish, yeah right!

The glorified media definition of a hacker is wrong; a hacker isn’t Swordfish [1]. A hacker enjoys what he/she does and is motivated by the willingness to learn not for profit. It is important to identify if you have a hacker in your business because you need to approach them in a different way then if you were trying to motivate your sales staff for example.

Motivation problem

Why am I writing this? Because I’ve worked at companies that simply don’t understand the mindset, I’m constantly frustrated by management who think motivation == money. The main problem a hacker has isn’t the difficulty of the task in question but more the motivation to do a task that they think isn’t a challenge. If you ask a hacker to do something, you have to remember that a hacker will analyse what you say and decide if it is worthy of their time. Hackers want to learn and if you give them something to do that they have done before or even that they find boring, you will find that the task takes much longer then if you gave them a problem that they enjoyed.

Think of the impossible

The main problem management has is understanding what is given to their hacker, they may think that what they have set sounds like a good challenge but it may be the complete opposite. The key is reading the hackers reactions and asking for alternatives, generally a hacker won’t speak up or question management but simply do the task in the quickest way possible in order to concentrate on something more challenging. You need to give the hacker coding that they will enjoy, it needs to be clear, it needs to be flexible but above all it needs to be a challenge. Think of the impossible and it won’t be.

How do you identify a hacker?

It isn’t easy. Hackers generally don’t know who they are. They just know everyone seems to be wrong :) , the key is finding out what they enjoy. If a programmer is purely motivated by their pay packet it is a clear indication that they are not a hacker. A programmer and a hacker are completely different, a programmer is logical and wants to get the job done and hopes nothing breaks. Hackers want to break things, they approach tasks in unusual ways they learn from their mistakes and are always evolving their code and skills.

[1] Swordfish, don’t rent it. You’ve been warned.

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