In a post on TechCrunch, Bindu Reddy, formerly at Google and who more recently started word-of-mouth advertising platform MyLikes, professes that engineers are better off at startups. Boy, that got the commenters in a tizzy!
But she makes a point that's easy to miss: that engineers need to be changing with the times. She writes:
Until recently, engineers developed their careers by becoming proficient at the latest and greatest platforms, languages and techniques either through experience or by having the ability to quickly get up to speed.
Today, most interesting technology is built directly for end users and it is a crucial skill for an engineer to understand quick iteration based on user feedback, [emphasis mine] however complex the technology. Increased technology and distribution leverage means that in the future, smaller teams are going to build higher-impact things and being able to build an end-to-end solution as part of a small team is going to be a necessary skill. A startup is an ideal environment to develop your career for the future as far as both these aspects go.
Some of the commenters got worked up about the words following those I put in boldface, but I stopped on them, based on an interview I had with Intuit's recruiting director Chris Galy. He told me:
When I first got here, we were a desktop company and there was an annual design cycle for an annual release of QuickBooks or annual release of Quicken. These days, we launch, we learn, we launch again. The cycle time is so fast because of being on the Web and being able to get input from users. There really is a different mindset that people need to embrace to be in Web 2.0 and go into Web 3.0. That mindset, I think, is just as important as the coding piece or the values. It is a different world.
There are thousands of jobs that computer scientists have that are not Web-related, but you have to have it [the mindset] if you want to compete for a job at the Intuits, the Facebooks, the Zyngas, the Salesforces. There are good jobs out there where that mindset might not be that important, but so much is going that way, that you have to be able to embrace it at some point-even if it's just to give yourself options. I think a lot of more traditional engineers might not recognize how important that is. It just changes the way we work.
Intuit is not a startup, but its move toward software-as-a-service makes that focus on quick iteration important. The Intuits, the Facebooks, the Zyngas are doing lots of hiring, though there are plenty of other IT jobs opening up these days. Doesn't it make sense to position yourself for the most opportunities possible?