SW engineering, engineering management and the business of software

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It's Not You, It's Me

One one the lessons learned early on during my first stint in Technical Marketing™ was that your own people don’t listen to you. Engineers don’t want to build the product that you know would sell. Customers don’t want to buy the product you know they would love. Finance doesn’t want to pay for the components that help the engineers and provide customer value. Even the CEO makes unreasonable demands, like asking you to stop humping his leg.

At some point, while I was pondering how to make the engineers build the product that would succeed in the market, it occurred to me that the burden of proof was on me.

I had to be able to communicate to each vested interest why certain things needed doing or not doing. This added work on my plate, but usually I was asking for something which was from the other point of view non-obvious and/or non-trivial.

This applies to real life as well.

If you want a promotion/raise, the burden of proof is on you to prove to those capable of promoting/raising you that they are morons for not doing so. What can you make or provide that will demonstrate your value? If they continue to ignore you, why are you still there? If you have proved yourself at this point you should have other opportunities.

Stupid VC not investing in your startup? The burden of proof is on you is to understand the VC, their typical investment strategies, current mood and overall environment. The burden of proof is on you to solicit feedback, improve and tailor your pitch and standout from the hundreds of others they are slogging through.

YC turn you down? The burden of proof is on you to apply early and reapply if you don’t get in. Some simple familiarity with YC shows that they really like startups that help other startups. Do your homework on the types of applications that get interviews. Take the time to make a compelling video. Have a prototype and be able to show some traction. Sound really smart. (You can’t fake this. If you’re audience is smarter than you are, the only way to sound smart is to be smart. This takes years of practice or a magic pill I conveniently have for sale.) If you have none of these things, then you have failed to shoulder your share of the burden.

If your goals aren’t taking time and effort, it’s a good sign that you are underestimating and underachieving. Don’t get trapped by the illusion that your progress is gated by others.

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