IT in 2016

Beta version of The Silicon Valley, before software has eaten the world. Photo by Maria Babak, http://www.shutterstock.com/g/Maria+Babak.

TL;DR

  • In 2000-s we saw a rise and fall of software developers.
  • In 2010-s we shall see a rise and fall of product managers.
  • In mid 2010-s data-driven business developers will keep growing solidly.

Pre-2016

Just a few years ago, being a great software engineer was the best spot to be in. Plenty of money. Plenty of problems to solve. Plenty of time to work on them.

Plenty of companies willing to play long and invest into building teams of strong like-minded nerds, correctly assuming the value of this asset will be growing over time.

Solid software engineers have risen in early 2000-s, corrected in late 2000-s, and are now at all-time low by mid 2010-s.

Today, the Product Programmer is the most wanted class of software developers, followed closely by a Practical Programmer, while Enterprise Programmer is among the least valuable.

Forget competitive programming. Forget algorithms and data structures. Half a day long projects, bootcamps, hackathons, and the attitude of quickly shipping shit that seems to work totally wins in 2015.

By early 2016 it becomes increasingly transparent that:

  • a software engineer’s peer group in even low-end corporations is stronger than one’s peer group in most startups, however
  • the market boldly favors the latter over the former.

This state of the art is absolutely unsustainable. It will correct in the next few years, with 2016 being the start of it.

2016

For engineers, the obvious observation of late 2016 would be:

  • as valuations correct themselves, larger corporations will be willing to acquire more teams, locking down engineers for several years straight with the stock package,
  • knowing these engineers are bound to stay for a few years at least, corporations investing wisely into culture, education, and strengthening the peer group, would be able to keep those people for quite some time moving forward.

Post-2016

Today I realized who was next to rise, is next to fall, and will be next to rise again.

  • The next to rise are data-driven intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs.
  • The next to fall are product managers.
  • The next to rise again are data-driven business developers.

Data-Driven Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs

Products grow, and we know well by today how does growth look like. This produced the class of “growth hackers”: effectively, those dreaded product engineers — the guys with “this shit works, ship it while it does!” attitude — who realized their performance metric is not how quickly can they put that button on the site, but how many people would click it.

When it comes to local improvements, growth hackers nail it. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of what the term “A/B testing” is used for in late 2015 can be attributed to growth hackers.

Data-driven intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs attack the same problem of growth. But, unlike growth hackers, the approach of data-driven experts is global, not local.

They often couldn’t care less about QA, or redesigns. And they don’t follow the immediate user feedback; at least not as much as the “conventional” logic dictates.

Somewhat controversial to what some growth hackers think, data-driven experts are not even the power users of the service. They may well be not familiar with some views and funnels.

Instead, they apply their intelligence to understand the core reasons users stay and come back. Upon identifying those reasons — which often takes more time, more thinking, and less A/B tests — they push the product in the right direction, draw the hockey stick on the charts, raise money, and make exits.

These people skip the Product Management state entirely, heading straight to Business Development. And they are here to stay.

Product Managers

Product managers are almost-growth-hackers who can’t code and are proud of it. In other words, the worst of both worlds.

The ability to speak well and explain the past doesn’t necessarily translate to the ability to predict the future. This simple truth is what many product managers fail to understand. At the same time, the industry around PMs understands it better and better.

A PM who blindly pushes to install more and more tracking tools, assuming more numbers translates to more data, which eventually leads to ultimate wisdom and a better product, is simply a bad PM by the 2016 standard.

Those people have been on a rise for the past few years. They will decline quickly in 2016, as VC market corrects itself, and hiring bounces back to finding people who get things done, not those who look good on paper to show off to the VCs.

In 2000-s, entrepreneurs have been engineers; their times are gone now. In 2010-s, entrepreneurs have been PMs; their times are already gone too.

Data-Driven Business Developers

The rising class will be the anti-growth-hackers: engineers, who shifted their focus from larger user base, acquisition, and retention, to monetization and LTV.

Coding is not necessarily the skill to master in 2016. And neither is the ability to see and explain what form was best to shape the product. And neither is the experience of choosing form A over form B.

Instead of focusing on the form, the vital skill of business development is to relentlessly seek for the right substance the product should deliver. Once the right substance is understood and internalized, the vital skill is to relentlessly push the product in the right direction, ignoring almost everything else.

On the grand scheme of things, as of 2016 and for the next decade at least, the above is totally a process of applying human intelligence at its best, in a data-driven way.

Software engineers, growth hackers, and product managers, don’t seem to understand it yet. This will become apparent, and thus change quickly, in 2016.

Happy New Year!