On Being a Product-Minded Engineer

Thinking like you are on the product team can make you a better developer

On Being a Product-Minded Engineer

I personally believe that most of your engineering team should think like this:

The Product-Minded Software Engineer
Product-minded engineers are developers with lots of interest in the productitself. They want to understand why decisions are made, how people use theproduct, and love to be involved in making product decisions. They’re someonewho would likely make a good product manager if they ever decide to gi…

At a minimum your teach leads and senior staff should be. Your CTO can't just be interested in the raw tech, just like how you can't have a VP of Engineering that isn't interested in people.

One comment struck me as very true in my career:

There is a con to being a product minded software engineer. When you are in organizations that do checkbox driven development (i.e. build features so it looks like your product has the widest feature set), it can be disheartening. You will ask why build this? and will get a believable answer. However, once it get's built you will notice that no one pays attention to the feature (no analytics, no reports, no iteration, etc.). At some point in the future, maybe a year or two down the line, you will notice a huge bug raised with the feature. Whoops for 20% of the users, it didn't work. You feel bad at first for your bug, but then realize, that no users even noticed the feature gone. Your suspicions that you were building something that didn't even matter are confirmed....

Basically, it can be really demoralizing to be product minded engineer if your organization is not. This happened in an org that heavily talked the talk about product market fit and testing, but the truth was we were checkbox driven. We just wanted the widest feature set among competitors (even if they didn't always work).

This has happened to me over and over, and it was the catalyst for me getting into management - I was trying to go upstream and make sure that the stuff that we are working so hard on mattered.