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How To Build Great Software with Average Engineers

You aren't Google, Neither are you Facebook or Twitter

In today's tech world, not every company can emulate giants like Google, Facebook, or Twitter. As a startup founder myself, I've faced the reality that attracting industry 'ninjas' is often a pipe dream. However, I've learned that creating great software isn't exclusive to these tech behemoths or their elite engineers. Take it from Simon Sinek’s insights into the Navy SEALs: it's not always about the strongest, but those who embody traits like trustworthiness and teamwork. This revelation is a game-changer in software development, and here's how you can apply it.

Embracing 'Average'

Do you consider yourself an A-player? If you're like many in the tech field, battling imposter syndrome, you might say no. But let me tell you, feeling 'average' is more common than you think. In my journey, writing software has always been about continuous learning, rarely feeling like an expert. The true challenge? Creating outstanding software without the need for industry ninjas or grandmasters.

1. Clear Product Vision

  • What It Is: Understanding the product’s aim and significance.
  • Why It Matters: A unified vision steers efforts in the right direction.
  • Real-World Example: Take Dropbox's vision for accessible file storage and sharing.
  • Crafting the Vision: In my experience, this is a task for Product Managers and Executives/Founders. Product Managers should harness their deep market and customer insights, while Executives and Founders must ensure this vision aligns with the company’s strategic goals. Involving all stakeholders in regular strategic meetings and vision workshops is key to refining this vision.

2. Alignment and Guidance

  • What It Is: Clear understanding of each role in achieving the larger objective.
  • Why It Matters: It avoids miscommunication and promotes growth.
  • Involving Founders and Executives: As a founder, I can attest to the importance of our role here. We need to be hands-on in setting and communicating the strategic direction. Our active engagement ensures that the team's work aligns with the company's vision.
  • Product Manager's Role: Product Managers are crucial in turning vision into action. They guide team members and tweak strategies based on market feedback.

3. Strong Feedback Structure

  • What It Is: Constructive feedback loops.
  • Why It Matters: It's all about fostering improvement and innovation.
  • Real-World Example: Look at Atlassian’s culture of peer reviews and regular check-ins.
  • Simon Sinek's Wisdom: "A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other." I've always found this perspective to be transformative.

4. Development Process: Constant Improvement

  • What It Is: An ever-evolving process.
  • Why It Matters: It keeps the team agile and forward-thinking.
  • Real-World Example: Spotify's agile development model.
  • Applying Navy SEALs Traits: Traits like adaptability and teamwork turn an average team into a powerhouse.
In wrapping up, let me emphasize: building great software with 'average' engineers is about cultivating an environment where goals, alignment, feedback, and continuous improvement reign supreme. As highlighted in "Outcomes Over Output," it's the results that count. This mindset shift from mere output to focusing on outcomes is vital for unleashing the full potential of your team, regardless of their perceived 'average' status.

About The Author

Sebastian is a seasoned CTO and startup founder with a dynamic journey in the tech industry. From building Germany's largest social networks to developing cutting-edge fintech startups, Sebastian has been at the forefront of technological innovation. Now, he has shifted his focus to sharing his extensive knowledge and experience, guiding young leaders on their path to success. Sebastian offers personalized coaching for those looking to enhance their leadership skills and strategic acumen.
For individual coaching sessions, visit cto.berlin/coaching.
If you're interested in engaging Sebastian as a Fractional CTO for more hands-on involvement in your project, learn more at cto.berlin/fractional.