Most of the entrepreneurs I meet and share thoughts with, tend not to be engineers. Or at least not practicing developers, marketers, sales people or business development individuals. This is consistent with the anatomy of the Indian technology entrepreneur, who is typically male, between the ages of 29 and 40, has about 2-10+ years of experience and had been an individual contributor “several years ago”.
I read the quotes by multiple folks in the piece shelf life of an engineer in technology . They consistent theme is one of constant learning, which most of us are probably aware of. Ignore the age bias that’s blatantly obvious in the piece for a few minutes, which is what most of the 250+ comments are focused on.
Two things stand out: (1) Ferose’s quote on “I can’t be just a manager, I have to be technically hands-on.” and
Ravi “ In the first five years, the employee is a technical contributor. In the next five, he or she moves on to become a team leader or an architect , understanding the P&L (profit & loss) requirements of the company. Subsequently , the employee takes on much stronger leadership responsibilities”.
From what I have learned, there’ no choice but for every level of individual to be “hands-on” and play the role of an individual contributor as well at a startup.
If you are an engineer, you cant just be focused on hiring and managing your engineering team (however small or large it is). You have to pick up a few pieces of the puzzle and solve them yourself. Which might mean deploying, developing and shipping parts of your software.
If you are a marketer, then not copy writing or doing your own SEO, or running your ad campaigns is a disaster in the making.
If you are a sales person, and if you are not doing cold calls or opening new doors to customers each week, you will find it extremely hard to direct and motivate the team.
Most founders who come from larger companies have not been been doing any individual contributor roles for several years. So the reorientation is very hard on them. They find it hard to do things they did a few years ago and since in most every area the specifics have changed so dramatically over the last few years, the adjustments are hard.
The best way to do this is to keep 30% of your time each week to have a personal accomplishment.
What I have found is the the FIRST thing I do each Monday on my weekly to-do list is to identify one deliverable that I will work on to complete without anyone else’s help.
Over the last few weeks it was working on website copy and mockups for the new design. Over the next few weeks it is cold calling multiple prospects for making some inroads for a few of our startups. The weeks of Dec 15-30 is mostly going to be spent on writing new pieces of our Borg’s UI using Twitter bootstrap (which is surprisingly easy to pickup).
So on your quest to be a leader and entrepreneur dont forget to be a doer as well.