“Growth Hackers” are all Around Us

“Growth hacking” is the hot new software job of 2012.

Except that it isn’t. Beyond the somewhat forced proclamations by a few bloggers, trying to optimize for growth via combinations of programming, SEO, A/B testing, and anything else that can drive users and traffic isn’t some unique insight that most companies are lacking. It’s not like marketers aren’t allowed to work developers.

But there are still plenty of people who have been thinking about these aspects prior to the aforementioned revelations. If your company has a hiring process modeled after other top-tier software firms, though, you would most likely have rejected these candidates.

The Google/Microsoft/Facebook technical interview is now the standard way to set a high “hiring bar” for candidates. It is tremendously biased towards core computer science skills and some definition of “smarts” – riddles, algorithms and algorithmic analysis, and data structures are what we think capable engineers should have retained from their schooling. Conversely, many hopefuls step away from a grueling set of interviews befuddled about the utterly foreign concepts they are expected to recite in detail.

The cross between a numbers-driven product manager and an engineer is uncommon, but I’ve known and worked with many PMs with the technical ability and the motivation to implement their own ideas1. What is rare is finding someone great in both fields, so they’d be able to be hired as an engineer and eventually work themselves into a “growth hacker”. It’s a standard that is unrealistically and unnecessarily high.

And in the worst case, how hard would it be for an engineer to sit down with a marketing PM and work through both the technical and growth aspects of a project? It’s another repackaging of the mythical good-at-everything unicorn hire.

Just something that a growth hacker would create.

  1. Or after yet another engineer brushes them off.

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