Sunday, April 17, 2011

Geeks v Suits


Sometimes even cynics take Sunday off
It occurred to me after a little tiff on a soccer message-board that I'm becoming far too sarcastic and cynical in my typing. Paying too much attention to current events and news coverage of those events can do that to you. At least that's the excuse I'll use for the moment.

So I decided I would look around for some good news to comment on.  There really isn't a whole lot of that, unfortunately, but I'll settle for anything the least bit neutral and I did stumble across a theme I'm pretty familiar with:

Code Monkey vs Biz monkey
- To put it another way, the eternal struggle for supremacy in the workplace of the Geek squad and the MBA mob.
The discussion seems to boil down to which is most important in the pecking order of a startup company

In search of a biz monkey (why bother?)

MBA's with buzzwords and the ability to raise a million dollars around some web idea are not scarce. They are fungible.
People who understand technology and are willing to bend it to their will, on the other hand, are scarce. They can't be found with a classified ad on Craigslist or in a blind project ad on eLance.
Which was referring to...

Stanford CS major seeks Sales/Marketing Monkey

Because there’s an illustrious track record of engineering-founded companies succeeding, spanning from HP to Facebook, there’s a lot of datapoints that say that a 20-yo Stanford computer science major can do it himself, or at least with his other CS roommates. Similarly, the very best alums out of places like Facebook and Google have lots of access to capital, advice, and people- these are all recipes for making you (the biz founder) completely irrelevant.
Which was referring to this
Whartonite seeks Code Monkey

Which, from the perspective of those geeks who bother to look around and find the humor in those ditzy examples, is a correct.and proper view of their universe.

But step back and look at a couple of high profile geek-tech successes

Apple - Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs
- Anyone have a clue whether or not Jobs can actually write a single subroutine in any language? Does anyone care? Woz had the tech chops, Jobs had the vision

Intel Personal Computers - Gary Kildall and Bill Gates
Heh.. now the young'uns might say Gary WHO? And that's the point.
Kildall was THE ubergod of microcomputer geekdom.  He wrote CP/M which was the best and most practical operating system for the Intel chip.
When IBM came looking for partners in developing the IBM PC, they scheduled meetings with Kildall to license CP/M-80 and Gates to build applications software.
Kildall got nervous and went fishing rather than make the meeting. IBM asked Gates if he could provide the OS and the rest is history
- here's the point:  Both were tech geeks, but Kildall's focus was  making the microcomputer a real computer. Gates' was to make it practical in solving real problems.

But if Gates had been an MBA with a technical bent it might have turned out just the same.  And Jobs... of course it  was his business acumen that made it happen not his technical skills.

So the whole thing boils down to perspective.  There's a ton of code monkeys out there who only care about the code.. and making the code 'elegant'.  You give them a problem - like I want to take existing A, B, and C and use them to derive E- and they'll solve it. As long as you don't tell them HOW to solve it.  In other words, if you know something about code, yourself, then keep it to yourself. Oh, you can use your knowledge to review their work and figure out if they're blowing smoke but that's the only way you want to use it.

If, on the other hand, you look for a guy who not only knows the code but has the vision to see the market possibilities then you better watch out.  You're hiring a potential competitor.

Likewise, if you're hiring a biz monkey, you better hope he doesn't appreciate how elegant and unique your product is and how difficult it is to create or he just may go out and hire some code monkeys and again you're hiring your potential competition.

The important thing to take from all this is whoever has and tries to implement the next big thing had better find the right partners.  Not something you can do just by putting out an ad, or holding meetings on it.

What's that got to do with anything in our lives?  Maybe nothing.  But isn't it sorta like  how you find your mate.  Or elect your government representatives?  You find the one who shares your vision, make it clear you'll appreciate them; as long as they're loyal, you're loyal.

Just a thought.

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