VentureBeat, like Tiger Beat but aimed at tech entrepreneurs and features fewer pictures of Justin Timberlake, has an interesting article about advice when launching a start-up tech company. It features input from Paul Buchheit (Google‘s GMail), Greg McAdoo (VC hotshot) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). Buchheit and McAdoo make same excellent points. Zuckerberg? I’m not so sure.
A little over a month ago, Pat mentioned that I should look into Facebook. I did and I’m up to 39 friends. I’ve run into a bunch of people I haven’t talked to in many years. Facebook for me is one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that things. Actually, I did sort of think of it after I first saw Classmates.com many years ago; I just did absolutely nothing about it. Classmates.com is gross and Facebook is smooth.
But then its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, says something like this in the VentureBeat article:
â€œI want to stress the importance of being young and technical,â€ he stated. If you want to found a successful company, you should only hire young people with technical expertise.
and it leaves me scratching my head. Zuckerberg is surely a sharp guy, so I’m fairly certain that he recognizes his statement as ageist and promoting discriminatory hiring practises. Now, I’m not an expert at launching a tech startup; I just work at one. Yet in my mere 30 years on this planet, which may be too many to land a job at Facebook, I’ve learned that experience counts just as much as youthful exuberance and talent. I constantly learn things everyday from people who have experience with something that I do not, whether said people are older than me or not. Battle scars are a valuable learning tool. I have a few myself, but I definitely listen to those who have more. For a technical area like the software business, life-long learning is de rigeur, so that knowledge can come from books, experience and handed-down experience. Within the past 8 months alone, I can’t tell you how much valuable experience in the business-side of things I’ve picked up from people in their 20’s and others in their 40’s. It’s the stuff that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. If I was an investor, I’m not sure I would get the warm ‘n’ fuzzies from an entire company of people doing everything for the first time. I’ve been part of projects where tasks were new to everyone involved; it’s fun and exciting but some of that might be attributed to fear of the unknown. Mistakes happen and you learn from them, but those who have been in that situation before are probably better equipped to handle them, or at the very least, are able to highlight potential gotchas. I’m not saying that Zuckerberg’s preference of hiring only young people is wrong (I won’t debate the legal aspects), I just think it’s rather daring.
Next Mark goes on to say:
He said itâ€™s important to hire mostly coders, even in the marketing department, so if they want to change something on the web site all they have to do is log into the back-end and change copy on the fly.
Ack! Now this statement scares me. Coders should do one thing really well, and that’s translate human ideas into code. Yet some coders can’t even do that! And some coders have other skills like project management, product management, architecture, or an ability to sell. Although I still bet that most younger coders really only excel at programming; I know that was the case for me. I’m just now learning the finer details of the other facets of the SDLC – the intangibles that aren’t often found in a Computer Science curriculum. So if a young coder out of university takes a job where their primary role is in marketing (far from programming), will they continue to be a good programmer? Will they keep their skills sharp and up-to-date with the development team so that when they do make a change to your flagship project, you’re not suddenly swarmed by new and regressive bugs or change the scope of the entire project? And what about the process for a change to production code? I hope there is a process for change management, otherwise the source control app must be getting quite the merge-tacular workout.
Then there’s the fact that Facebook has a boatload of personal information about a sizable amount of people in the world, but I’ll save that discussion for another time…
PS: I honestly do like Facebook. Seriously 🙂