6 Things a non-engineer should know before founding a web startup

Please reference the following article:

6 Things a Non-Engineer Should Know Before Founding a Web Startup

I have a degree in EE. Many of my casual friends can be heard saying, “Well you are an engineer…” I am not an engineer, my full time role is administering an open systems software product. My real title includes “Analyst” (which I always thought was weak.) However I do not correct my friends because I know what they mean. People equate a degree with a profession and a mindset, which is not necessarily true.

Professional Engineer: A state licensed engineer is the only one who should be called an engineer. (A non-licensed engineer should probably be called engineer in-training.) Anywhere there is a license for a profession, calling oneself the same title without a license is misrepresentation. Of course, it would be rare for a state authority to prosecute abusers. A “software architect” is not proactively trying to pass themselves off as someone who designs buildings and assures the safety of people who use the building. So we continue to live in this quasi-land of terms, the thinking being live and let live.

Despite the legalese, personally I agree with Jim Norcal. My partner did not have a degree until after he had been programming for thirty years. He is one who can figure out any system that involves code, fix it and modify it. We were just discussing titles and I was just telling him that I think Systems Engineer is an appropriate title for him considering his experience. Even agreeing with the poster above that engineering studies are infinitely more difficult that CS studies, programmers who reach the level of Jim Norcal and my business partner, they do in fact create and modify coded systems on a level similar to that of an engineer who works with mechanical, chemical, and electrical systems.

I suggest a state license for Systems Engineer. The testee would have to modify or repair two or three disparate systems. This license would distance individuals on that higher plane from POP (plain ol’ programmers.)

Onto some comments about the post itself. I like the first rule, “Don’t be helpless.” When forming our Startup, I felt somewhat helpless. My partners are highly skilled programmers. With my skills and expertise, I envisioned my role as GUI design, B2B relationships, service, advertising, and marketing. I originally questioned the importance of my role in a web & software development company. Now I have grown to understand that the skills I bring to this startup are excruciatingly important in creating success. I round out an otherwise overly-technical group of founders. Like the author implied about his experience, I get ribbed dramatically by one of our founders. Which is okay, because as far as our users go, I am the ultimate “user”, sometimes the only who looks out for their interests!

One of our clients we are programming for was astounded. They thought we would meet, they would give us the web site specs, and we would program it. We brought many marketing and design ideas to the table. From that they decided, even though our schedule is behind other programmers they can hire, that we must do the site for them because of all of the good ideas that we bring to their project.

Least of all I hope this inspires some of you who are stuck in a roomful of highly technical people who think they do it all, but who rely on you for things they sorely lack, like PEOPLE skills. (No offense to my partners…)

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