When engineering org's try to get product right
When engineering orgs want to get product right they try to hire either a hotshot at the top or dip their toes in by hiring someone in between as a director.
“Pivoting a 400 person ship is slow, sluggish and daunting. How do you get it ‘right’ in an area you’re not familiar with as a CEO? How do you sleep at night? What if you hire the wrong person?”
One of the funniest experiences I had was when I got approached by a quiet well known engineering driven product. 400 employees (3 digit mio. ARR), looking for a senior product leader to develop a product understanding and pivot the org. There were no innovation processes in place. Almost only academia hires, highly educated and heavily engineering and solution driven.
I spoke to the CEO to figure out what his vision is for the company and why he's even looking for a product hire. It was an insightful conversation that gave me a lot of appreciation for their problems. Especially as they try to establish a product mind-set:
They clearly already had product-market-fit and even go-to-market fit, afterall this is a big org with 2 big products that most people know. What they couldn't figure out is how to diversify their product and expand product-market-fit. They were excellent in quantitative analysis but totally broken on the qualitative side.
A task that is increasingly difficult if you have to establish qualitative research which to an academic mind can feel awkward. It's not very science driven, it's assumption based and you will rarely prove anything before you ship it. Validate much vs proving little.
That's the pushback I felt from the CEO, he knew he had to do something but was hesitant on what happens to his org if he goes full product. I immediately knew that moment what would happen if I'd go into an org like this. I would be eaten by the wolves.
I'm good at driving product conviction and insights, but I'm so far away from being a scientist I'd have a hard time to get the respect of the 400 people. Nor would I know how to do it right without burning the engineers in the process.
And that's essentially the main condition for any change. People need to trust you before you start rebuilding processes and ultimately the organization. I was the wrong fit. And the gif below is how I imagined it turn out if I ever went there.
They took down the Job shortly after and to my knowledge shelved the idea of bringing product people for another year.
What a daunting thing to get right for a CEO. I wonder how they do today.
Maybe I should ask after I publish this post.
#scaling #engineering #productmanagement
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