The High-Tech Career Handbook
|A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch|
Beginning, middle and end
November 19, 2004
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Every high-tech worker has different skills,
different talents and different desires. Sometimes we try to cram ourselves
into a particular job without much thought towards our own needs. We do
this for a number of reasons. Maybe you are simply out of work, or your
family and friends think the job is a great opportunity or you just want
to make more money. While these reasons might enter into your job decisions,
there are more fundamental issues to consider. You need to find out where
you fit in the structure of projects and business...the beginning, middle
I began thinking about this issue while I was
reading a new book by Guy Kawasaki, The
Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide For Anyone Starting
Anything. (A link to the book is available on the web site) You may
remember Guy from his early days as an “evangelist” for the
Apple Macintosh. In this book, he lays out the three general types of
workers, kamikazes (I prefer the term launchers), implementers and maintainers.
Each of these types has an important part to
play in any company, old or new. The lack of a good mix can cause a company
to struggle, or even fail, when it transitions from one phase to another.
Launchers are those people who do everything in their power to develop
a new service or product. They tend to work 80-hour weeks, sleep under
their desks and generally, live, sleep and eat their work. Getting a company
or project off the ground often requires this dedicated, sometimes even
overzealous, work style. These people have what it takes to create something
out of nothing.
Unfortunately, launchers usually aren’t
the best people for the next phase, implementation. A group of launchers,
left to their own devices will sometimes tinker endlessly with a project,
never actually finishing anything. They can also become bored with a project
once it moves from the “blue sky” of invention to the “heavy-lifting”
required to turn the initial concept into a marketable product. In the
case of a programming project, launchers can be great at developing the
initial system, but when it comes to writing all the error-checking code
and tweaking the user interface that a commercial product requires, they
may not be the best choice. For this stage, you need the implementers.
Implementers love getting down-and-dirty with
code, product design, marketing, distribution and a host of other issues
involved with this middle stage. These are detail-oriented people, capable
of teasing unique solutions out of difficult problems. They are just as
creative as the launchers, but in a different way. They can take the launcher’s
flights of fancy and ground them in real products.
Once the implementers have brought the project
forward into a usable, and more importantly, sellable product, the maintainers
take over. Without them, a great product might collapse under it’s
own weight. Maintainers insure that the product continues operating and
improving for the foreseeable future. They keep the servers running, the
bugs fixed and the users happy, often helping the launchers invent new
products by observing the users of this one.
Which one are you?
Now that you can identify the three basic types of high-tech workers, which one are you? It is rare that someone is purely one type or another. Many of you probably have abilities in all three areas, but there will be one where you really shine, or, perhaps more important, one area where you can live. Think about times when you have been in the wrong position for your sensibilities. Then, think of a time when you were in the right role. How did each experience feel? What made it good or bad? Can you recognize these situations when the arise again?
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