Startups are hard. And hiring great technical staff members may be the most difficult and important challenge in a startup.
So how do we hire the right people? Start with the end in mind — i.e., have a clear definition of who you’re looking for before you begin. Most hiring managers start by trying to breakdown the technical “do-er” roles in a company (engineering, product, design) into lists of specific knowledge or behavioral requirements. I don’t think it’s enough to just find people who can check the boxes of “knows Cocoa” or “expert with Photoshop” or “wrote Pivotal Tracker stories”. Founders and early-stage startup team members need to have an extra dose of character because they’re not just building a product, they’re forming a culture. Here are four characteristics to look for in each technical role that has a direct hand in building a startup.
(Note: This post is a follow up and extension to https://framethink.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/five-behaviors-of-awesome-engineers/ with many thanks to Laura Klein and George Lee for inspiration and feedback.)
- Craftsman — pride and deep understanding of work
- Goalie — defender of the codebase, uses test-suite as a protective shield
- Macgyver — builds the minimum viable version quickly and then iterates forward
- Coach — mentors others and is coachable
- Artist — weaves beautiful, delightful, enticing designs into and throughout a product
- Literalist — must get ideas/concepts down on paper or screen-pixels in order to understand and discuss them
Eye of Sauron — notices 1px differences in baselines and kerning
- Toolmaker — creates guides, libraries, templates, etc. for other team members to follow
- Shortstop — covers all the gaps, thinks through corner cases and potential dead-ends
- Occam — cuts flows like a razor, down to the most simple path
Empath — guided by deep caring and viscerally feeling the pain of the user problem
- WeebleWobble — absorbs input/feedback; bounces back from any knock, converting it into action
- Guru — customer use-case and domain expert
- Mad Scientist — sees the big world-altering vision, plots experiments to probe the path forward
- MC — confident and persuasive public presenter
- Logician — skillfully works the development process to deliver on-time, on-budget
It can be a lot of stuff to consider and anyone responsible for launch of a product (e.g., product manager, product marketing manager, or a business unit lead) needs to think about “product design” from multiple levels.
Personally, as a product manager, I like to think about “product design” as the sum of five design perspectives: