The George Hotz resignation kept part of my subconscious engaged for the past few days. I have seen some of his traits in other people I have dealt with. But George combines a couple of red flags that are not as uncommon as one might think.
The first one is that skills in one area don’t make them transferable to another. George is a well known hacker - you can check his wikipedia. A lot of people believed that he would have an impact when joining Twitter. I didn’t, like many others. The reason is simple: George is a hacker. A lone wolf. A guy that likes to work on his own, doing his thing. The length of his tenure at both Facebook and Google is a telltale. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. People should chase their dreams and what makes them happy. More power to George, as they say. Because of his past and skillset the outcome was quite predictable. I could see him succeeding in a smaller company and codebase. Twitter is the opposite of that.
The second reason, now revealed by a few, has been his attitude. Without looking too much into it, this, this, this, this, this and this are pretty good indicators. George’s opinion is of technical supremacy and that the best idea should win. It just so happens that his ideas are the ones that fit that box. George belongs to a particular breed of engineers that when they join a company, they shit all over others code. They do it, because they lack the context and the empathy to understand why certain decisions were made. But it’s not only that they think other people’s code is bad. They also feel they are better than them. And once people get rightfully defensive, they draw the “the best code should win” card. That stunt might work in tiny teams - where the damage area is small. It might work when people have really thick skin. But this is rare. People get annoyed. People don’t want to deal with you and your ego. You are left on your own.
These two reasons combined, left George in a no-win situation. On one hand, he lacks the ability to navigate in large, legacy codebases. On the other he lacked the support and respect of his peers. He was unwilling to eat a humble pie and take the necessary time to understand what’s going on. So he took the easy way out.