Engineering is not the art of building devices; it’s the art of fixing problems. Devices are a means, not an end. Fixing problems means first of all understanding them — and since the whole purpose of the things we do is to fix problems in the outside world, problems involving people, that means that understanding people, and the ways in which they will interact with your system, is fundamental to every step of building a system. (This is so key that we have a bunch of entire job ladders — PM’s and UX’ers and so on — who have done nothing but specialize in those problems. But the presence of specialists doesn’t mean engineers are off the hook; far from it. Engineering leaders absolutely need to understand product deeply; it’s a core job requirement.)
Abuses of power exist on a continuum. It’s not just a few bad apples, not just a few despicable acts, but a culture that enables it, doesn’t interrupt it, provides no safe avenues for speaking up, and doesn’t send a message to harassers that the behavior won’t be tolerated. How can the industry celebrate people who glory in breaking all the rules, ask forgiveness not permission, and then be surprised when people are predatory, abusive and pursue their own desires at the expense and over the objection of others?
Nor does their temporary discomfort begin to compare, nor can it even be measured against, the pain and sorrow and misery and death that is to come when the Trump Administration dismantles the already flimsy Affordable Care Act, defunds Planned Parenthood, cuts social programs, separates more immigrant children from their families, puts more mothers and fathers in jail, sends their children to jail, and executes his cultural and physical war on our nation’s many millions of nonwhite Others. Not to mention the children who’ve already experienced hate-motivated violence and harassment and Nazi imagery painted on their schoolyard walls by anonymous fucking cowards who can’t even paint a fucking swastika correctly. At least our agitated hero had the courage to do it to Ivanka’s face.
Endless sprawl? That’ll keep the houses cheap (just ask Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix) but it fucks up the planet and it seems to make us fatter and lonelier, plus cars are expensive. So maybe try doing townhouses if you can. Townhouses are great. Cliff and Claire Huxtable lived in a townhouse. Duplexes are nice too.
A lot of people describe a product manager as a CEO of the product or the “owner” of the spec, but I think that over-ascribes influence and authority to the product manager. The best teams operate in a way where the team collectively feels ownership over the spec and everyone has had input and been able to suggest and promote ideas. The best product managers coordinate the key decisions by getting input from all team members and are responsible to surface disagreements, occasionally break ties, and gather consensus (or at least ensure that everyone commits to a plan) when decisions get made. It’s not about building what the product manager thinks is right. This isn’t to say that product managers shouldn’t have great ideas of their own, but the goal is not to find a team that executes on their ideas blindly. Instead, the best product managers build a process to collaboratively decide on the right priorities so the whole team is bought in.
The meritocratic system wants you to be big about yourself–to puff yourself, to be completely sure of yourself, to believe that you deserve a lot and to get what you think you deserve (so long as it’s good). The meritocracy wants you to assert and advertise yourself. It wants you to display and exaggerate your achievements. The achievement machine rewards you if you can demonstrate superiority–if with a thousand gestures, conversational types, and styles of dress you can demonstrate that you are a bit smarter, hipper, more accomplished, sophisticated, famous, plugged-in, and fashion-forward that the people around you. It encourages narrowing. It encourages you to become a shrewd animal.
Startup founders also overestimated just how much music matters to the average person. When you love music, you surround yourself with similar people, and that creates a confirmation bias — everyone wants to share playlists and discover new bands just as much as you and your friends! But really, they don’t. The average consumer is happy to listen to the radio or Pandora, see a few concerts or a festival once a year, and leave it at that.