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What's the skill overlap between staff+ engineers and entrepreneurs?

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Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community7 months ago

I want to take an honest shot at tech entrepreneurship in a few years. As I'm working on developing behaviors expected at Staff-level, I want to specifically focus on skills which will help me become a good entrepreneur down the road. Feel free to mention skills that map to any other level or where level doesn't even matter, as long as they relate to tech entrepreneurship.

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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    7 months ago

    I love this question! The good news is that there's a ton of overlap.

    Here are the 3 big areas for me:

    1. Relationship building - You will immediately need this to find a solid cofounder. After that, so much of building a successful business is around networking and building a deep bench of people who are happy to fight for you. This cuts across getting into incubators, finding investors, hiring, getting to know your initial users, and more. Our best resource for this is here: [Masterclass] How To Build Deep Relationships Quickly In Tech
    2. Communication - This is deeply connected to relationship building but feels separate enough to me to merit its own section. In particular, you will need to be excellent at communication when pitching for fundraising and convincing users to try (and hopefully eventually buy) your product. I recommend my Effective Communication series here: Alex's Guide To Effective Communication
    3. Product sense - The vast majority of Staff+ engineers I have worked with had "ascended" pretty far from the code and were adding a lot of value on the roadmapping and product direction side as well (I may be biased there though as I came from Meta, which encourages their engineers to have big voices on their products). When it comes to building up product skills as an engineer, I recommend starting at the following thread and branching out from there (i.e. go through the linked resources): "How to develop product sense as an engineer?"

    Lastly, I recommend our playlist around entrepreneurship: [Taro Top 10] Entrepreneurship And Tech Startups

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    Tech Leadership Coach • Former Head of Engineering
    7 months ago

    I'm assuming tech entrepreneurship means you'd like to build a SaaS. The overlap in terms of developing the product will always be there unless you branch out from web dev into an AI/ML product where there will be a learning curve.

    As an early stage entrepreneur myself, I think it's important to call out the common gaps that typically occur from those coming from an engineering background.

    • Marketing and sales. Generating leads and converting them into paying customers is one of the most critical aspects to make it as an entrepreneur, but is also something that most engineers dislike and are not very good at. Regardless of the type of business you're in, the fundamentals around marketing funnels, sales copywriting, nurturing leads will apply.
    • Offer creation. In simple terms, it's articulating exactly what problem you are solving, the value created from the solution, and who is a good fit for this solution (and who it isn't a good fit for). Understanding how customer make purchasing decisions will help a great deal here to make your offer as attractive as possible.
    • Mindset shift. The rules of the game are different in entrepreneurship vs. a corporate job. You have the opportunity to play for huge upside, but there is predictable stream of cash coming in at least in early stage. Additionally, a helpful mental model is to "think in terms of bets". You are constantly making "bets" with your time (which you do to some extent in a corporate job), but also your own money now.

    One final thought: It's common to go through a period of learning to not directly trade your time for money as well as decoupling your efforts vs. your rewards. In corporate, it's by in large fixed time for fixed pay. The whole point of entrepreneurship is to use your time to build assets that give you earning leverage (i.e. the SaaS in your case) and your pay if generated through the asset (not directly 1:1 through your time).

    I think deeply about this topic on a daily basis now that both my wife and I quit our corporate jobs for entrepreneurship.

    DM me if you'd like to chat, happy to pass my learnings along.

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