A developer crosses over to the dark side and learns marketing

Summary:'I thought soft skills meant it was a soft job... Good marketing is a product of the same inputs as good code; long hours, sweating the details, and the judicious application of experience doing it the right way.'

Attend enough conference sessions and listen to enough analysts, and you'll be forgiven for thinking that IT people live on Mars and business people live on Venus.  As anyone in the enterprise trenches can attest, there's a ring of truth to it. IT people are frustrated by the constantly shifting whims and demands of end-users who think magical code should be plugged in on a moment's notice. Business folks are perplexed by the foriegn language IT folks speak over their heads.

Well, one developer, Rob Spectre, recently crossed over to the dark side -- marketing -- and posted an account of what he learned over there.  Observations from his recent tenure as a "developer evangelist" at Twilio provide insights for any IT folks also looking to make the leap -- either to advance to new opportunities within their companies, or to launch thier own ventures:

1) This Stuff Is Hard. "Like many folks who build stuff, my disdain for marketing as a business discipline had grown ironclad," Spectre says.  "I thought soft skills meant it was a soft job - 9 to 5 without pagers ringing, apocalyptic deadlines or material consequences for poor workmanship....   Good marketing is a product of the same inputs as good code; long hours, sweating the details, and the judicious application of experience doing it the right way."

2) Data Wins Arguments. Data analysis "is a practice used by every person good at marketing," Spectre observes.  ”Marketing data shows in stark relief what works and what doesn’t and - especially when working on the Internet - is readily available if you spend a little effort trying to find it."

3) Calendar Management Is A Skill. "A lot of marketing is gently aligning external forces to craft the right message and get it in front of the right people at the right time," says Spectre. "And since those external forces don’t need me for a login page or a bug fix, they are far less inclined to tolerate last minute pushes or tardiness. [Managing meetings] had always been a nuisance in my life, and was now a critical skill and I found out I sucked at it."

4) You Can Learn To Schmooze: "I’m not naturally very charismatic or talkative.," Spectre admits. "But in evangelism, this is part and parcel of the profession and indeed a valuable ability in the marketing game. And, much to my delight, it is something you do get better at with practice." 

5) The Impact You Can Make Is Huge. "I long thought my maximum point of power to effect real change was in the text editor in front of me," Spectre says. "I’ve learned more parts of a startup than just engineering can make a huge impact....  Just a little encouragement at the right moment helped a team build something of which they are rightfully proud and serve some people who needed it....  I didn’t expect it to feel so rewarding.  Good marketing is tough to do, good programming is tough to do."


Topics: IT Priorities, Collaboration


Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. Joe is co-author, along with 16 leading industry leaders and thinkers, of the SOA Manifesto, which outlines the values and guiding principles of service orientation. He speaks frequently on cloud, SOA, data, and... Full Bio

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