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Oak Ridge, TN, 37830
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You Don't Want a Rock Star. You Want a Roadie.

Wade Cantley

How many times have you seen this in a job posting or worse, maybe you have used it yourself.

“Looking for a Rock Star Developer, Programmer, Designer!”

Occasionally this term is punted around the office when looking for a new technical resource who is a veritable army of one, a Rambo of their industry, a David Lee Roth of the cubical. And I get that a company is looking for someone who is awesome; a rising star in their industry. Someone who will take your department and company to the Moon on the way to Mars

But this is an example of how we think we want one thing for the glam aspect, even though it exhibits NONE of what is needed for the job. It is like those romance novels where the hardened biker guy has this soft mushy soft side and a sleeps with a teddy bear named “Crusher”. This is a contradiction between two extremes.

So here are a five reasons why you probably want a Roadie even though you say you want a “Rock Star”.

1)Rock Stars are concerned about number one and your business isn't “number one”. That’s right, a rock star may be in the band but when the lights come on, it had better shine on them. They want to rise hard and fast and ambition drives them. Remember, hiring a Rock Star means that there is a risk that they are going to move beyond their position quickly or simply move on to the next tour manager that can line up a better gig. Or worse, they drag down the team through the need to be the technical center of attention and the end-all-be-all guru.

The Roadie is about the team. They are about the whole production. They understand that it isn't just the band, but the lights, the audio technician, and the ticket vendor. The roadie knows that success is bigger than what any one person can do.

2)Rock Stars do one thing really really well. They are focused on using their primary skill to bring attention to themselves. If you need a graphic designer and a programmer and internet marketing guru rolled into one AND they need to know that really obscure software you have been using for 10 years? You’re going to be disappointed.

The Roadie is cross trained. They might tune up the instruments, rig the lighting, handle the sets, orchestrate other stage hands, and pitch in where needed. Sure, some might be better at some things than others and they may not be a master of any given talent or skill, but they are good, sometimes very good, at doing several things. If you want a designer, graphic artist, programmer, marketing expert, and data architect then fine, but no body is going to be a master of all of them. You are looking for a full stack Roadie.

3) Rock Stars have followers but are rarely good leaders. Part of the reason is because while they know a lot about what they do best, that makes them without equal and respect rarely flows down the chain. This also means that ego can get tied into those skills and questioning the Rock Star can get ugly.

Roadies lead through example and service. They don’t have a following, they have peers that trust each other to get the production moving and the job done. The lead has the trust of his peers to provide direction and keep distractions to a minimal.

4) Rock Stars are expensive. Their focused skill is often in demand and that demand as well as their deep skill comes at a high price. But if you want them to step outside of that skill, well you are going to need to hire someone else for that part of the band.

The Roadie is the jack of all trades which often makes them undervalued but able to get a number of different jobs done well. They may not be as fast at getting the project completed but when the scope of the project starts to sway into unexpected territories, the Roadie often has the cross skills to jump on it. Gaff tape STAT!

5) Rock Stars are short lived. They will move on when a slightly better opportunity is presented, or because a management position opened up, or because they want to go solo. The Rock Star is always a risk born of self serving ambition.

The Roadie knows that the many moving parts secure each other. Their purpose is focused on the greater good of the company, the release of product, and the social health of the team. A good Roadie knows that every cog is important and it is this dedication to the sum of a business’s parts that makes them loyal.


In the technical world, hiring managers often think they want a Rock Star but they don’t. It is just flattery to attract skilled talent but often it attracts the wrong kind of talent for most corporate team-based environments.


Here is a cruise company fishing for a "rock-star" developer.

Luxury Cruise Company seeks rock-star Applications Developer

“ The successful Applications Developer will be indispensable in the attainment of the company’s revenue targets, will contribute to the creation of an unforgettable guest experience, “


If you are looking for a person who is really, really GREAT at one thing, can afford them, and you think you can keep the reigns on them long enough to create what your business needs then yes… you are looking for a “Rock Star”.

But if you want someone who is full stack, who is spread well across a number of disciplines, who may not know all the answers but knows how to find them, who is willing to block and tackle for the team and is willing to focus on the benefit to the company and it’s many parts then what you need, what you want, is a Roadie.