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Sean Hull is a renowned author, speaker and advisor on MySQL & Oracle databases, web performance and scalability, EC2, Linux & Internet Architecture. He is the author of "Oracle & Open Source" O'Reilly, 2001, and speaks widely at conferences and forums. With 20 years of professional experience, he consults with large enterprises and startups in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. Sean is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 64 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

I Thought Sales Sucked, Then I Gained a Business Perspective...

04.30.2013
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Are you a developer or startup entrepreneur? Have you ever been frustrated with some of the claims made by the sales team or lacked the patience or ability to communicate across departments?

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Just out of college

Just out of college I got a job as a Macintosh Software Developer for a small firm outside of University at Buffalo. It was a ten person company, and half of us were on the technology side of the house. I was doing C++ & Graphical Interface design & coding.

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Sales is “ahead” of engineering

Besides coding, I also fielded support calls from customers which brought me perspective on both what they wanted, and where they struggled with the software. Our app helped consumers and nutritionists track diet & exercise.

The sales team made promises of technology the company wasn’t capable of delivering. Meanwhile the engineering team was sent scrambling to answer to those promises.

Soon I was fielding questions from customers asking when the new heart rate monitoring would be available. I followed up by talking with the team lead & chief architect. He had no plans of building such a feature, nor did we even know how it would be possible!

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We checked in at our weekly meetings, and the CEO explained that the sales team was simply “ahead” of engineering. Years ahead apparently even of the technology that was possible at the time!

Fast forward 5 years to professional services

A half decade later I’m doing independent consultanting for dot-coms. Much of my business came from word of mouth. Helping a firm out of a pinch, speeding their site so they can handle 10x customers on the same servers and suddenly everyone is your friend!

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But all is not smooth sailing in the freelance consulting world. The dot-com crash comes along and budgets are squeezed tighter. Business spend is reduced and every dollar is scrutinized. I learned to speak to prospects about savings and personalized service, advantages of lower overhead, and real return I could provide. At the end of the day if they’re not buying, your services aren’t worth their cost!

The sales process should inform the business about what customers really want. In a successful startup there is communication back and forth with engineering and business units so all are working in harmony.

Full Circle

Now coming full circle I have a wide perspective on business. I understand the engineering fundamentals, and the limitations of technology. I also have a grasp of product, and how business units must manage the bottom line, and deliver to customers or else perish in the marketplace.

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For the two to achieve a happy marriage, you must bring a balance of execution & technical debt, with satisfying a real customer need in the marketplace. And therein lies the innovation & startup sweet spot!

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Published at DZone with permission of Sean Hull, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)