If NBA Players were Tech Job Roles…

Leon D
Leon D
Jan 6, 2019 · 7 min read

The NBA season is upon us, and I couldn’t be more excited! A big part of my lifelong basketball obsession has been seeing how players with widely different skill-sets and personalities can still come together to become an effective team. At the risk of sounding self indulgent, it really does remind me of the different roles on the engineering team in a tech company. Just like on a great basketball team, a great technical team should have a mix of “All Stars”, “glue guys”, “specialists”, and other roles needed to accomplish the goal. Here’s a list of six typical technical jobs and the NBA baller(s) most similar to their job role.

Chief Architect: Jordan / LeBron / Kobe

DevOps Ninja: Scottie Pippen

Triage / Debug Engineer: Robert Horry

Just like Big Shot Rob, Triage and Debug engineers come through in the clutch. By the time they’re working on a project, it’s usually late in the game, and any problems that are found could threaten the entire future of the project. Their job is to figure out exactly what is causing the problem, and find a way to fix the problem — by hacking the existing design, removing some key features, or even redesigning an important subsystem late in the game. The stakes are high, and succeeding at the job requires the kind of ice-water-in-your-veins ability to determine under pressure that defined Robert Horry’s career.

That Guy Who Knows One Design Library Insanely Well: Steve Kerr / JJ Redick

Machine Learning Engineer: Stephen Curry

Image for post
Image for post
source: Wikipedia

Steph Curry’s game has benefited from a similar evolution in the way basketball is played. Until recently, highly skilled point guards with seemingly unlimited range were seen as novelties capable of the occasional made for SportsCenter scoring explosions. But then, a perfect series of events lead to Warriors coach Steve Kerr trying a small ball lineup that unexpectedly became the most effective offense in the NBA. All of a sudden, the entire league was going through a three point revolution, and Steph Curry’s skills were exactly what a modern NBA team needs to win championships. Just like Machine Learning engineers, Steph Curry is living through the perfect time to leverage his unique skills.

Quality Assurance: Tyson Chandler / Ben Wallace

Like the great defensive players in the NBA, the quality assurance engineers in tech companies often go unappreciated. After all, isn’t the final goal to design and ship a great product? Aren’t the quality assurance guys just supporting the developers and architects doing the “real” work? Just like great defensive basketball players such as Tyson Chandler and Ben Wallace, the engineers working in quality assurance and bug finding take pride in doing the unglamorous aspects of engineering. They know that just like every contributor on a basketball team can make an impact, the “defensive players” on a technical team are also able to make an extremely important impact. Like the best NBA defenders, they take pride in honing their underappreciated craft and relish those moments when they find nasty bugs in their products.

Just like in a basketball game, creating tech products requires people with a number of different skills coming together towards a common goal. Having worked in Silicon Valley for more than 10 years, I’ve seen firsthand how each and every team member can bring value to the table. That being said, a playoff basketball game is a bit more viscerally exciting than the day to day grind of creating tech products, and I’m not sure I’ll be playing “Fantasy Tech Startup Employee” anytime soon!

*** Final Note ***

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Leon D

Written by

Leon D

Worked in technical, marketing and sales roles in various tech companies. Passionate about GPU design, Blockchain, and Machine Learning. Avid surfer. 6ers fan.

The Silicon Valley Post

The Silicon Valley Post covers tech culture, innovation, establishment of innovators and the journey of tech entrepreneurs making their way from all corners and subcultures of the world.

Leon D

Written by

Leon D

Worked in technical, marketing and sales roles in various tech companies. Passionate about GPU design, Blockchain, and Machine Learning. Avid surfer. 6ers fan.

The Silicon Valley Post

The Silicon Valley Post covers tech culture, innovation, establishment of innovators and the journey of tech entrepreneurs making their way from all corners and subcultures of the world.

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