What we ship defines us

Procrastinator. Lazy. Distracted. Lack of focus… but has great potential.

Those are some of my worst qualities. I always hated that last one the most… Potential. At first you might think it’s a compliment but look a little closer and you realize what it really means. It means you have ability but for some reason you haven’t produced results.

Maybe it’s because you’re young and just haven’t had enough time yet. But I’ll warn you that it can be dangerous to tell yourself that for too long. There is a fine line between it being early and you being a procrastinator.

I can also promise you this. If enough time passes you by, you might begin to believe that you never really had any potential at all. Maybe you were just delusional. That’s a scary thought and I don’t wish it upon anyone.

I write iOS apps for “work” but shipping products is really what I do

I’ve been working professionally in a technical field for almost two decades now. When I first started I didn’t have the creator ethos. I didn’t consider that you would ever start your own something. I wanted to maintain vast global networks of computers for large companies as a Systems Admin. I wanted a large salary to go with it. I looked for mentors and ladders I could climb.

Somewhere along the way I started reading about how others were using their technical skills to start new ventures. I read Rands. I read Joel’s blog. I pivoted my career into software and I began to think I could *make* something myself. At first, it was just a fascination with the idea that I could make a product and then sell it for a small profit. Any profit. It would be repeatable and scale my efforts past the number of hours I could be awake.

That’s were the creator in me began to wake up. It was always there really. I’ve always been a good problem solver. I could fix things. I could figure things out. I was curious and took everything apart when I was young. Toys, lawn mowers, cars, stereos, computers, networks, etc. I’ve even made money trading time for dollars across most of those interests.

For most of my career I’ve been in a creator role as a software engineer. I have mostly created solutions for other businesses in exchange for a steady salary and benefits. It was comfortable and I could ride that train for the foreseeable future.

However, there was a slow realization that I could actually make something for me. Maybe I could even turn it into a business and generate money to either supplement or replace my salary. I’ve had that thought for at least 10 years and yet I’ve shipped nothing that I would call my own.

I’ve had plenty of “good” ideas. I’ve started on a few of them. I’ve even shipped a lot of 1.0’s for other poeple, but nothing I would really consider mine. I had a sinking feeling that I wasn’t living up to my potential.

As a software engineer, you can be measured in many different ways. At some point, a more business minded engineer starts to measure total output in terms of solving problems using software.

  • The company has a problem with X? You shipped an internal application that completely solved it.
  • The company needs to rev its flagship product to keep maintenance revenue coming in? You were on the team that shipped the next major release.
  • The company needs new streams of revenue to replace aging ones? You worked hard to take something from an untested, fragile idea to a new product and shipped what we like to call a “1.0”.

A 1.0 is the first marketable release of a new product.

“1 dot oh”. That has a special ring to it.

IMO, a successful 1.0 launch is the foundation for an entreprenurial software engineer. Every problem is new. Every solution is novel. It takes equal parts experience, creativity, and blind optimism to make it happen. While later releases are generally more complicated and complex, you have to overcome many more unknowns to bring a 1.0 to market.

Most importantly, you have to create momentum where previously none existed. It takes a different set of skills to make something completely new and to get that product flywheel spinning.

As an entrepreneurial engineer you start to measure output in terms of shipping products. Specifically 1.0 products. That is the definition of entreprenuership as an engineer. You create new things. You test a hypothesis. You develop minimally viable products (MVPs) and release 1.0's into market to truly be tested. Statistically, most products fail that test but a 1.0 is all about optimism. Optimism and hard work is what gets you to 1.0 in the first place. A healthy skeptism of the current reality is needed to look past all the reasons you shouldn’t be doing this at all.

Today, I achieve a new milestone as an entreprenurial software engineer. I’ve officially shipped a 1.0 product of my own. I’m optimistic. Early feedback has been positive. We already have users in multiple countries despite not advertising its existence yet. The product has tons of potential. (see what I did there? 😉)

But today, I’m taking a moment to celebrate because I have shipped!

So what is it? Well… I will write about the product on the official launch this Thursday, June 9th when we have a big marketing push planned and ready to go. It would be great if you followed along.

For now, it is good to take a moment and celebrate this small victory. Victory over procrastination, laziness, distraction, and lack of focus. Most of all, I will celebrate living up to some of my potential as I reload for the next phase and for what comes after 1.0. Today, the best part of me is on display because in many ways, what we ship is what defines us.

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Do you ship? Have you shipped? If you’re interested in finding out whether or not I get any validation then click that Follow button and come along for the ride. I’ve got a list of posts ready to go where I talk about shipping software, validating ideas, and getting traction.