Not too long ago, I remember strolling home with the thought of a bounty on my mind. A bounty that Moz paid for referring an engineer (which we no longer do). It wasn't the thought of cashing in on the bounty that clogged my mind, it was the question of why bounties weren't paid for businesspeople, or those of us that work outside of an engineering function -- but I wrote it off and continued walking.
Then I saw this tweet from Joe, and the thoughts reemerged.
A lot of developers think businesspeople are dead weight. It's as if they have no fucking clue who signs their paychecks. Pure hubris.— Joe Stump (@joestump) May 8, 2013
It's not that I like the idea of a bounty. In fact, I really dislike the idea of paying out for referring talent. It was the greater message behind it, that there was such a gap between demand and supply. A gap that didn't exist anywhere else in the organization.
There's a talent shortage in tech, but it's not limited to developers. Good businesspeople (ie. marketers, operators, dealers) are just as hard to find, and just as important. But if you look around, you wouldn't believe it.
Businesspeople are tossed around like they're worthless; interchangeable.
So, why is it that businesspeople are so devalued? There's a few reasons.
1.) Quality is difficult to measure and often subjective. The closest thing that exists to a CV for valuing businesspeople is past successes, which typically means an exit or rapid growth. However, even that has its flaws. In some cases, the success of the business (as a whole) is out of their control. And sadly, most startup companies fail, which isn't necessarily at the fault of a businessperson, unless they're the CEO. The same concept applies to successful companies. Some businesspeople are overvalued for successes that weren't necessarily a result of their efforts. It's the same problem, just from a different angle.
Measuring the value of businesspeople is hard, with a lot of different factors that play into it. There are metrics that exist around business line growth, but even that can be flawed with creative number crunching. It's not as cut and dry as whether or not someone knows a certain programming language. There's no Dribbble or Github for businesspeople.
2.) A few bad eggs spoiled it for the rest of us. There's a lot of very poor businesspeople around our industry that prance around like hot shit, with no idea of what they're doing. Therein lies the problem, most of us can't tell the difference. You can fake business knowledge. You can't fake programming knowledge. Many developers that have worked with a bad businessperson in the past now write the entire function off as deadweight. That's pure hubris, as Joe so elegantly described. The few (typically the ones that talk the loudest) have ruined it for the rest of us.
This isn't to say that developers are incapable of being great businesspeople, and vice versa. There's countless examples of that.
But, it's not ideal. Yes, we can limp around outside of our core competency. I could fight my way through the terminal, and a developer could hack their way through a P&L, but's it's neither efficient nor intelligent to do so. I'm a businessperson because that's where I can be most impactful. I can write code, but I don't enjoy doing it, and frankly, I'm not very good at it. I'm sure a lot of developers feel the same way about the business side.
Developers and businesspeople live in harmony when they place equal value on one another. The key to which is understanding -- investing the time to understand the function of each side.
If you're a businessperson and developers view you as dead weight, you're either not very good at your job or you're working with the wrong people.