It’s okay to be an engineering company
When you are a SAAS company you live and die by the quality of your engineering. Unfortunately, this is not always acknowledged. In some places, it’s almost incidental that one works at an engineering company. The product could just as well be a call centre, or an auditing service, or advertising.
In these don’t-tell-anyone-it’s-engineering companies, employees are scared of drawing architectural diagrams on whiteboards, of advocating for the quiet working conditions needed for concentration, and of praising engineering excellence in general. In these organisations, engineers are like interchangeable Lego bricks — any engineer is as good as any other regardless of innate ability or acquired skill.
Perhaps all of this is out of wanting to appear democratic, thinking that others may be left behind or alienated if we make too much noise about engineering success?
I believe this is patronising to non-engineers, as if they could not find their own sources of pride and excellence without saccharine attempts to “level the playing field”. We are all professionals and can celebrate diligence and finesse no matter what field we happen to be in. The performance of a ballet dancer elicits joy without the need for jealousy or diminishment of our own unique skills.
I imagine this kind of anti-intellectual attitude only prevails in software companies since software can seem so ephemeral. For some software products, the banality of the result (an accounting program, an online newspaper) hides the skill required to produce it. But it would be ludicrous to imagine a pharmaceutical company that is shy about the successes of their researchers.
Failing to acknowledge engineering success and the key role of engineers in an organisation puts non-engineers at risk. This is because their own prosperity and exercise of their own vital creative energies depends on the talent of the engineers. It’s the same way engineers depend on next-level talent in sales, customer support, and management in order to work best.
So as long as you are not rewarding “brilliant jerks”, don’t be shy about celebrating excellence in engineering! Your non-engineers will thank you for it.