I am aware that the services are needed and can bring some tremendous results when well executed, but at this point I've settled to learn some of this stuff on my own, rather than investing too much time in finding someone to trust with the responsibilities.
Don't get me wrong, it would be absolutely awesome to find the rare pearl that the article mentions. But it's choosing between either continuously peruse for some Master of her domain, or rather investing all that energy into learning to do things myself.
Obviously, some things are more sensitive than others and I still gladly defer to the experts (I won't touch the legal stuff without consult). For others however, I've noted that there have been times when I sat with someone who was supposed to advise me on marketing or BD, and they ended up learning more about these than I did by the end of our meeting.
The whole thing reminds me of this post http://thinkvitamin.com/user-science/user-experience/ux-prof... where the author claimed that "UX Professional" isn't a job title. Ensues a torrent of comments with basically the same arguments that the present article emphasizes it's because you haven't seen a great one yet.
I guess the question is then, how to find greatness?
2) It appears you don't value those positions much. If you are the one doing the recruiting, I would say that explains it.
3) Marketing, PR, and BD make a lot more sense in industries where tech isn't the dominant factor. Just look at consumer packaged goods, movies, etc. Almost no tech worth talking about in CPG, but some amazing marketing and biz dev people. Those industries (and others) attract the best business people because they have a lot of impact on the success or failure of the product. In startups, if the developers suck there really is nothing the marketing guy can do about it.
I won't disagree, but I'd be wary of overstating the importance of that point. Marketing definitely matters for technology (esp. when you take a broad, holistic view of what 'marketing' is). There are more than a few stories in the annals of the tech industry where a nominally superior tech lost out to an inferior product that had better marketing around it.
On that note, the book In Search of Stupidity catalogs a pile of tech marketing disasters from over the years. I'd recommend it to anyone who thinks "marketing isn't that important" or anything along those lines.
That's assuming the consumer is tech-savvy and actually cares. I'm guessing AOL didn't have the best developers, features, etc., but they definitely had the best marketers.
Anti-virus companies also thrive due to PR and marketing, ranging from contacting news outlets about the Michelangelo virus, to scaring people with an animated gif reporting that your computer is infected. With the latter, the scammers made billions off of software that did nothing at all--that's the power of marketing.
For example, a simple question I would ask of business development is what technology (car, phone, public transport tickets, etc.) they've used today, and how would they improve it. If they can't walk through the problems and opportunities, they're probably not suited for a role where they'll need to be pitching ideas to potential partners.
Work at a couple companies that grow from a handful to hundreds of employees, and you will find greatness.
Product manager, project Manager, UX expert and etc...
Laywers I can understand, that makes sense. Because although nothing says I can't learn Code and be a lawyer, the gap is too big to fulfill in my 23 years.
But UX, Project Management, Product Management and etc... yeah not hard at all.
Of course not every project needs a PM though.
And how many times has a tech person decided to "do it on my own" and ends up producing terrible work but doesn't recognize it?
With programming, it's fairly obvious when a person can or can't do it. But marketing and copy writing, for example, are things the everybody thinks they can do, when in reality it's lack of knowledge on the subject that gives people that perception; "that's easy, I'll just learn it on my own."
To a certain extent, it's the question that folks like Paul Graham or David Cohen believe they know how to answer.
This is exactly the question they have about developers after working with mediocre or poor ones. It's not a question you can easily answer - but you'll know it when you've found it. It will be like an ice cold glass of water at the end of a 5 mile run on a 90 degree day.
Our company started as one engineer. Second employee was a "business guy" - who stuck his foot in the door and kind of hired himself. Two years later, we are roughly twenty employees large (half contractors) and seven digits of revenue, largely thanks to employee #2. :) Engineers can sometimes be quick to dismiss the value of other roles (I know I have), but without the aforementioned employee, we would have no where near our current revenue (he locks down the contracts and ensures good revenue from them, two things no one else in our company is good at).
Very true and unfortunately an attitude which I've seen hold many good engineers back from career growth. Enlightenment comes when you are able to recognize that the non-technical roles are also trade crafts where the clever hacks involve constructing valuable relationships and managing perceptions, essential in every business.
Can you expand on this? How does a business person hire himself when he finds an engineer with a good idea?
Edit: Interesting that I got a downvote for saying the equivalent of the other comments here. I should figure out how to be clearer.
I didn't mind and I think it was a helpful response, but ya, thats probably why.
If the programmer mentions that you're lacking in SEO, show up the next day with a plan to boost SEO rankings. Even better, show up tomorrow and show what you did to boost SEO rankings.
The easiest way to hire yourself is to just start doing stuff that is highly valuable.
The slightly less easy way is to impress somebody every time you open your mouth, and be there when they need somebody.
The comments about bizdev also remind me of an interview with Jason Cohen a little while ago, where he was explaining the research he undertook before launching WP Engine. The main point was how methodical and quantitative it all was, and that this is the kind of thing a Business Guy should be doing in a startup, not just randomly filing trademark applications and making sure everything's in order.
The article isn't written for the salty veterans who've learned life's lessons on the mean highways and byways, however, it is for the thousands upon thousands of cynical young people who clog the internet forums.
I know because I'm about 2 years older than myself at the very point when despite anything I might claim to the contrary, in my heart of hearts I believed "Sales and marketing departments chiefly lie to people".
That's an interesting idea - Press Driven Development. Has anyone here tried it?
Peter Diamandis later said he didn't have a dime of the prize money at the time -- he quietly raised it later. In the meantime, everyone just assumed he had it because the launch event had so much credibility attached to it.
It doesn't take long to throw up a landing page, mailchimp and $50 of targeted facebook [or adword] ads.
Don't hire someone for one of these rolls just because "everyone has an X" hire someone because they are great at it.
The majority of people in these roles aren't great, otherwise they wouldn't be as widely despised
My question is: if you're about to write those roles off, what can you do to make sure you find said 'greatness' and not get saddled with mediocrity?
It turns out to be a decent test too. If you can't say that at least once about someone it's a bad sign.
It's actually about organizational roles, and it makes a decent argument.
I've been working in IT for many years now, and out of the hundreds of people I've met in many different areas of many different companies, constantly having to work with and under mediocrity, and I've only met a single person who was the real deal.
Lots of people can talk the talk, but lets be serious now? How many people can actually progress beyond that to achieve real tangible results that show a clear display of excellence as opposed to mediocrity? The numbers are quite small in comparison to the human population I'm sure.
When the majority of people in any given profession are mediocre, finding excellence is more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack, unfortunately this is a problem in every profession.
But the people who end up leading the team are the ones who not only do what was assigned to them, but can also bring forward completely new ideas, volunteer to lead that effort, and reach out to other teams to provide guidance on how this new thing involves them ... other words "good leaders"
To give a tired example: lawyers, wherein yes, lawyers as a profession is needed and useful and meaningful, but it's also true that they obfuscate unnecessarily and generate make work and so on and so forth. And it's entirely possible that this can come from the same person.
You can make the same argument about virtually every single role ever.
IBM may not have been started with a press release, but Paul Rand's branding and their advertising made them stand out from their competition.
Apple may not have been started with a press release, but Regis McKenna really helped put them on the map.
If you're interested in that same mindset, this site is a fantastic read:
However, if this became the de facto standard way of doing things, living as our ancestors did, I feel like society would regress. The invention of the search engine was to fill a human need to organize the world's digital information in an easily retrievable format. Libraries have had card catalogs for hundreds of years: just curious, would you argue for going back to the times that pre-date those systems? Sure there might be a more random discovery of books just aimlessly walking through shelf after shelf, but what if you needed that book asap?