Startup Visions

Experiences of a bi-coastal entrepreneur

6 Tips to Jumpstart Your Team’s Engineering Blog in 2015

One thing that’s jumped out at me in my early 2015 tech/startup reading is how everyone seems to be motivated to write more, blog more, express themselves more. As a founder of a startup and an engineering manager I’ve learned first-hand the power of content marketing, and for the past few years I’ve been helping CTOs use this and other tactics to build their unique engineering brands, which, in return, attracts better talent to their teams.

Most startup CTOs now realize that publishing a team engineering blog is table stakes. It builds their team brand, is helpful for recruiting, propels the careers of their individual engineers, and shows the team’s attitude of generosity. But at the same time, many blogs languish or die a slow, miserable death with a handful of posts and only a few dozen hits (ugh!).

The reasons? It’s hard to inspire your engineers to write. It’s hard to figure out a marketing/distribution strategy (besides the flash in the pan you might occasionally get as a trending story on HN). And it’s hard to build an internal culture of writing and communicating. After all, engineers hate writing documentation, right? Isn’t an engineering blog the equivalent of writing public documentation?

But don’t despair! I assure you there’s hope!

Read the rest of this article over on Medium …

Why Engineers Hate Your Job Specs

One of the main problems I see today in software engineering hiring is the way job specifications are written. The problem is, they often barely resemble specifications at all, but feel more like generic stabs in the dark. Sort of like the equivalent of shopping for a car with as many details as “red and goes fast.” It leaves too much open to the imagination for it to be a successful criteria to empower a search. With criteria as broad as this you’ll end up spending an inordinate amount of time executing the search since so many things appear to be a match.

Read the rest of this article over on Medium …

Doing the Unthinkable

Occasionally you have a moment when you realize it’s time to do something you’ve never attempted before - something you previously thought to be unthinkable.

A couple of months ago, this happened to me. And so it happened that I decided to run the 2013 NYC Marathon on November 3rd.

More importantly, I found the perfect group to run it with. Actually, I really can’t imagine an organization with a vision that’s better aligned with my own personal values. It’s called Camp Interactive, and it’s a group that provides city kids with the technical knowledge to compete in our present world of rapid, and computerized, innovation.

In order to give back to the NYC tech/startup community, and to support Camp Interactive in their mission of teaching youth to code, for the next month leading up to the race I’m donating 100% of the proceeds from my standard engineering PR consultation directly to Camp Interactive.

Why PR for Your Engineering Team Is Not Crazy-Talk

During my years as a software engineer, I’ve discovered that most engineers (in addition to myself) tend to have a certain amount of distrust when it comes to the world of sales and marketing. Engineers like accuracy, real value and non-emotional arguments. I’m not here to critique an entire industry, but let’s just agree to admit that occasionally the marketing world “over-markets” the benefits of a particular product, trumps up its value and ingeniously plays off a consumer’s emotions - successfully closing the deal and leaving the buyer with an inferior, or at the very least unnecessary, product that he or she later comes to regret purchasing.

God forbid an engineer is ever on the losing end of this scenario! Because of our over-sensitivity to this regrettable event occurring to us and our attempts to personally avoid it at any cost, common wisdom dictates one should attempt to avoid all traditional marketing approaches when it comes to convincing engineers of anything, right? Wrong. Terribly, hopelessly and lethally (at least in this world, and I’ll explain …) wrong.

How Not to Attract Software Engineers

Over the past couple years, I’ve dedicated my entrepreneurial experience and energy to explore and test new, innovative ways to recruit software engineers. In my personal experience as both an engineer and entrepreneur, I’ve learned first hand the tremendous value of working with the smartest people you’re able to attract to your business.

Note that I said ‘attract,’ not chase, hunt, convince or sell.

I’ve discovered that the best companies have learned the secret to building the best teams - they have learned how to establish themselves as powerful talent magnets that attract the right types of people, and make these candidates want to join their company. And now, more than ever, with the market for enginering talent being absolutely out of kilter, I been much more active in making the argument that companies that don’t know, or quickly learn how to apply this skill to hiring engineering talent simply will not survive.

Why I Became a 500 Startups Mentor

The author and other geeks from the plane chilling out in Bejing’s Forbidden City in 2011.

I’m really thrilled to announce that I’ve accepted a part-time role as a mentor for the 500 Startups portfolio companies. 500 has recently opened an office in NYC and I’m very excited to be able to help support & represent them here.

Here are the reasons why:

1.) 500 believes in building community

While I had met Dave previously, my first real experience in absorbing his vision/message for 500 Startups came during the Geeks on a Plane tour that I went on in East Asia in the fall of 2011. If you’ve never heard of the program, it’s an opportunity for a group of entrepreneurs to take a guided tour of startup ecosystems in other countries. Dave is building a network of startups & entrepreneurs abroad, and the folks he brings on the trip get a chance to meet his network and get exposed to startups in other countries and the various challenges they face. Local culture, access to capital and consumer behavior are all examples of variables that make starting a company a very different experience depending on where in the world you’re doing it.

I’m Solving My Problems by Writing

I’ve decided to solve my problems in a whole new way. By writing about them. Publicly.

Writing produces content. Content has value. Value produces loyalty. Why do I write this blog? Because I’m working to build a loyal following of readers who find value in what I write.

In my past experience, I’ve already learned the power of so-called “content marketing” by:

  • watching many companies that have used it successfully to generate traffic
  • watching many professionals (founders, engineers, product people) use it successfully to build their personal brand
  • using it to help solve the two-sided marketplace ‘chicken or egg’ problem on my own startup,

    But what I haven’t done - yet - is to document my own struggles, issues, challenges, questions by writing them down.

    They say you don’t know what you’re thinking until you write it down. They’re right.

    If this is true, then writing something down, just that small act, is a form of progress.

  • SF Hack & Tell

    If you’ve never been to a Hack & Tell event, you’re missing out. Originally started in the offices of Meetup (NYC) in 2010, the group has caught fire and now has several other branches internationally, including a lively group in Berlin. (If you want to see the video of the first ever meeting, check it out here.)