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June 2016 UPDATE: I'm back hiring growth engineers at Percolate. Go here and follow the instructions to learn more or apply: https://percolate.com/careers/238702/full-stack-growth-engineer-marketing

Observations and themes from spending the last few months recruiting and hiring marketing engineers. Good insight into the specific problems and issues in both finding and then trying to hire the rarest of all engineers: the marketing ones.

  • SC

    Shana Carp

    over 4 years ago #

    Why specifically does this person have to be an engineer?

    (This is fairly ironic, because I have been billed out as an engineer once or twice)

    As the Yplan guys mention in this post - their growth/testing methodology involves everyone, particularly the data science group*

    In order to really get results, sit a marketer/pm type, an engineer, and a data scientist together - it would be easier than trying to combine those people into one (which 99% of cases what most listings of growth engineers seem to be looking for when I read job listings anyway) They have different skill sets for a reason. I don't expect a marketer to write extensible testing algorithms- and I don't expect an engineer to know necessarily the limitations of math. And I don't expect engineers to know what moves the needle with people (some exceptions, but the field attracts a lot of introverts)

    *Most data scientists can't write deployable code, and need engineering support as well.

  • PM

    Patrick McKenzie

    over 4 years ago #

    Partially because their other options are pretty freaking fantastic:

    1) If you can ship software and get users for it, you could be running a one-man software company and optimize for lifestyle while also making more money than you're offering.

    2) If you can ship software and get users for it, Paul Graham / Sam Altman / etc will be happy to make your acquaintance. Your title will be "co-founder", you'll eat a bit of ramen prior to your Series A round and then always match or exceed an intermediate engineer's salary, and your equity allocation will be 30% not 0.5%.

    3) If you can ship software and get users for it, the contracting market will currently pay you five figures per week.

    4) If you can ship software and get users for it, more established software companies (examples elided but think of who sells $10 million or $1 billion in a year on the Internet), who understand the math to get to 5% increased lift in conversions as well as startups but who have much bigger values to get 5% of, will attempt to bring you on as an individual contributor. They can be "arbitrarily generous" for this.

    • SC

      Shana Carp

      over 4 years ago #

      I was wondering when you'd show up about this.

    • SL

      Stuart Langridge

      over 4 years ago #

      I agree totally. If you are competent at any one of the skill sets a growth engineer would need individually, then your options in the modern world are pretty good. If you are good at more than one set, say IM & conversion testing, your options are very cool indeed. If you are good at all three areas, then you are like a unicorn and by definition are difficult to recruit - in the same way that Gareth Bale or Jay Z is difficult and expensive to recruit.

      However, just as every asset is liquid at the right price, every skill can be found at the right price too.

      Personally, I am only skilled in the marketing area, but still, there are some nice options out there.

  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    over 4 years ago #

    It's the same reason it's very hard to hire good Designer/Engineers. You're talking about an intersection of two skill sets that, when put together, yield awesome results. Not only are these people highly in-demand, they're just rare to begin with.

    When it comes to Growth Engineers, you're looking for a person who had the top-grossing lemonade as a kid *and* ran a Python meetup. Rare.

    The best Growth Engineers in my experience are duct tape programmers. They hack stuff together, it works, but it ain't pretty. They tinker. They try things, they break or fail, and they move on quickly. They're kinda indifferent to OOP and design patterns. They also have a deep curiosity about sales and marketing, viewing growth engineering as a way to hack people's behavior.

    I find that micropreneurs make the best in-company growth engineers if you can recruit them away, which, as Patrick mentioned, is super hard.

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 4 years ago #

    Nice post Chris. I suspect this will become easier though for these reasons:

    1. Hacking prototypes is becoming easier with tools like Meteor and Firebase and the rise of 'javascript everywhere'
    2. Data is becoming more accessible through better tools
    3. Resources like this site and many blogs such as yours make learning about growth more accessible for people just starting out or looking to refine their skills

    • CB

      Chris Bolman

      over 4 years ago #

      Hey Dylan, glad you got some value out of it. While I agree with your first point that frameworks like meteor lowering the barrier to entry for devs, in my experience it mostly lowers the barrier to making *mostly* derivative apps. If you want to clone hacker news in a day, great, build it in meteor, but that doesn't really meet my definition of good growth engineering.

      • DL

        Dylan La Com

        over 4 years ago #

        Sure, an inexperienced dev using meteor won't be able to do much growth engineering. The point was that these areas (web dev, data analysis, and growth) are more accessible and easier than ever to get started in. This, coupled with the fact that there is a higher demand than supply for individuals with these skills leads me to believe it's a good time to learn growth engineering and more people will do so. This would support your point that 'Mentality and experience don't align'. I would add that it's just a matter of time.

  • JQ

    Jamie Quint

    over 4 years ago #

    I think it's hard mostly because nearly every company misunderstands what a "growth engineer" actually is and expects to find someone who is a combination of really good growth PM and really good (or even merely acceptable) engineer.

    I find that hiring for an engineer for a growth team led by a growth PM makes a ton more sense than hiring a "Growth Engineer".

  • AN

    Andy Newbom

    over 4 years ago #

    it is a VERY tall order to find a seasoned, kick ass, talented, brilliant, unconventional, knowledgeable, holistic, entrepreneurial, marketing, sales, growth, CEO, operational, big picture, micro-detail, young and hungry, smart and confident, risk taking, leap first then look technical engineer who can also work both completely alone and as a team.

  • AN

    Andy Newbom

    over 4 years ago #

    But DANG a whole team of them? That's pretty crazy

  • SE

    Schonne Eldridge

    over 4 years ago #

    Here's my take on the four points in the article:

    1) (Mentality and experience don’t align): this is actually an issue with finding good developers, not really a problem related to growth engineers. There's a glut of inexperienced "developers" on the market that come out of these code schools right now. There's so much competition in the tech hubs like NY (I'm in Boston) that experienced developers get snatched immediately.

    2) (Most developers want more structure). Your growth team should be highly-structured already with clear goals around growth and a methodical approach to hypothesis testing. The strict methodology around lean marketing and short testable goals, coupled with creative out-of-the-box solutions should be very appealing to a developer. You may not have this structure in place or you're keeping the position too open-ended.

    3) (Most engineers like big(ger) teams): I'm not sure where this hypothesis comes from. I've never met a competent developer who likes working on large teams. They're wildly inefficient and forces the developer to follow company-wide workflows and standards, usually created by non-developers. Most developers like working on small, focused teams where they can make significant contributions and still be collaborative. Your growth team should be comprised of several people given the size of your company: PM, content manager, researcher, etc. This should meet the criteria of contribution/collaboration.

    4) (The best growth engineers tend to be fiercely independent). This is true for all talented individuals, not just growth engineers. Fierce independence is a by-product of competence. No one who is a true expert in a field wants to be told how to accomplish their job by a non-expert.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 4 years ago #

    @jwegan just posted a solid rebuttal to this post: http://jwegan.com/growth-hacking/hiring-growth-engineers-impossible/ . Good points on both sides @chrisbolman .

  • TJ

    Timothy Johnson

    over 4 years ago #

    So I am a Ruby on Rails lead engineer at my current job, but I always feel more at home in the marketing department than in IT. Previous to this I ran a small consultancy where we built apps for startups, and helped small businesses run digital advertising. I liked both sides of that business tremendously. I've recently come across the "growth hacker" designation, and am wondering how to make the transition to work in this capacity in a startup? I feel like I have an intermediate-level introduction to direct-marketing concepts, and running PPC, display ads, and other aquisition channels, but lack the time/experience of focusing full time on growth for one company.

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