To Make Money

One Silicon Valley software company asks its new engineering hires this question at the engineering orientation:

What is the job of a Software Engineer?

I would probably answer “to write software.” If I was feeling ambitious, maybe “to write great software,” or even, “to delight customers.” The desired answer:

To make money.

This fits the company’s culture, and unsurprisingly, the company makes a ton of money and doesn’t delight its customers.

This money-first attitude is also common among individuals. I ran across a comment thread on the Mini-Microsoft Blog of Microsoft employees discussing their compensation. It contained this gem:

What could possibly be more important to you at your job than understanding how your pay system works?

Hmm, I wonder. Argh.1

As the US economy falters, I can only imagine that this type of money grubbing, both by companies and individuals (and political parties!), will get a lot worse before it gets better.

My reaction to all this:

Do good work and make sure people know about it.

Apple is the shining example of this principle at work, but is admittedly an outlier – and apparently in addition to doing excellent work, spends considerable effort to squeeze its partners in every single deal.

At a more accessible level, one of the best articulations of this simple idea is Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin detailing the Evernote business model. He does a great job to bridge the gap between idealism and practicality, giving a step-by-step recipe for how they improve their business by improving their product. Please take a few minutes to watch!

Image courtesy of CJ Isherwood on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

  1. I forced myself to wade through the whole thread, despite its rampant petty unpleasantness. It made me think about a recent proposal in the Atlantic to make employee compensation public. My gut said no – I picture the comment thread out loud, in every hallway, all day, every day. On the other hand, who knows? []