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Gabe Newell on hiring modders: official credentials have no 'predictive value'

For Valve's Gabe Newell, a person's degree or list of credentials isn't always the best predictor of how successful an employee they will be, according to his recent interview with The Washington Post.

In response to a question about the company's penchant for hiring mod makers, Newell said he believes "traditional credentialing" has little "predictive value" to how successful someone will be or what they can do with their skillset.

"You can give ten people the same set of forum posts and only one of them will actually take it in a productive direction," Newell said. "So the fact that somebody has been able to build something and ship it and not get sort of bogged down and give up and then deal with the gush of responses you get, filter through that in a useful and productive way and iterate is really the core of product design and development in our world."

Newell suggested that proven ability should be taken more at face value rather than scrutinizing a diploma or list of grades, giving the example of an Ivy League Ph.D. not being a guaranteed mark of success within Valve's space.

"Most people who end up being successful have good grades, but it's orthogonal — there's no extra information than if they put together a website and have bunch of fans who love coming and seeing what they're doing," Newell said.

Valve's boss added that the company's decision to foray into multiplayer games was largely the result of employee decisions on how to spend their time. This also led to the company's decentralized command structure and decision-making processes — while one group of people wanted to continue working in single-player titles like Half-Life, another group chose to try and make the jump to multiplayer games and build Steam.

"There were a bunch of people internally who thought Steam was a really bad idea, but what they didn't think was that they would tell the people who were working on Steam what to do with their time," Newell said. "So the key thing was that people bear the consequences of their own choices, so if I spend my time on it the only persons time I'm wasting is mine. Over time, I think people sort of recognize how useful it is for people to vote with their time. There is a huge amount of wisdom in people's decisions about what they personally want to work on next."

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