Engineering Business 101
Few days ago I had an interesting conversation with The Standard Community about evolution of engineering. We discussed the possibility of engineers evolving from an employee to an employer. A point where software engineers stop asking for permission to do the right thing and just do the right thing.
There’s a lot of great minds out there that can change our world forever. Some of these minds end up in teams, organization or companies that don’t invest or appreciate that talent. Especially for juniors who are expected to take orders and execute without question.
I talked a bit in a previous blog post about The Junior Engineer and how some of the biggest innovations that we have today has only started by those whom we would call “juniors” today such as Jobs, Gates and many others.
Up until today you can see it clearly in silicon valley with young passionate engineers taking matters into their own hands and building their own products and changing the world.
But the picture isn’t always that pretty. Sometimes there are obstacles in the way that can hinder an innovator’s ability to move forward with their dreams and ambitions. These obstacles can be one of three things:
- Emotional: like fear and hesitancy
- Intellectual: like not having the right knowledge and guidance
- Physical: like not having enough cash to kick off a business
Let’s talk about these obstacles for a bit.
Emotional challenges are the biggest one. If you can get over fear, you can get over any obstacle out there. Emotional obstacles are usually environmental. Imagine the smart kid who grew up with their parents, community and school pushing him to succeed and score the highest marks.
These young innovators get pushed growing up in a way that makes them fear failure more than they fear death. There’s a reason business owners are usually the ones who got a D and an F on their homework and those who work for them are usually the ones who used to A and A+.
People who failed early in life and saw what it’s like “on the other side” are more likely to take higher risks and earn higher gains and bigger opportunities. Those who never failed during their schooling will pick up the safest options and the least risky options to stay where they are.
But pressure from the outside isn’t the only reason for emotional obstacles. Sometimes it’s just “built-in” as a survival instinct. Sometimes we may create our own prisons in our own minds that prevent us from exploring the unknown.
What I usually tell people is that whatever was meant for you is never going to miss you, and what was meant to miss you will never be yours no matter how much you try. And if we settle on that fact while understanding that with patience comes victory and with hardship comes ease, we should evolve our hearts to become much fearless of the unknown.
Surrounding yourself with risk takers who don’t fear failure is one of the biggest ways you can overcome your fear of anything. Usually these folks might inherit some bad habits but every once in a while you run into those who truly direct their hearts towards fulfillment fearlessly.
Despite the challenges that I had personally in my own life, I’ve developed a joy out of exploring the unknown regardless of the outcome. I have developed a sense of fulfillment off the journey itself regardless of the destination.
I advise those careful folks to look at the bigger picture and think: if we are all going to die eventually regardless of how our lives has been – why not take the leap of faith and follow your heart towards what it’s passionate about?
But of course, there might be more reasons out there than I could fit in one section in one article. I urge those who are still struggling internally (especially when they don’t have any other obstacles) to seek the path of light and take their chances and follow the marvelous compass in their chests – their heart.
Intellectual challenges are the easiest. In this age of information everything is out there. From A to Z how to start a business and everything is computerized and digitized. One of the blessings of this day and age is that you can start a business almost within minutes online and get off the ground the easiest way.
The biggest challenge here is to know that you need to know about how to start a business. That’s what blog posts like these are for. To wake you up. To push you towards the right direction so you can start searching and exploring your true passion.
Intellectual challenges can also be overcome with many other ways other than the internet. You can find mentors, friends and people who are experienced in the field to help you get off the ground. It’s important to find a good companion in your journey in building your business. I look back at history and it’s hard to ignore the duality in the businesses that changed the world – especially software business like Microsoft, Google and others.
The physical challenge is a medium challenge. It can be something that is easily avoidable but it can escalate into something almost impossible to deal with.
Physical challenges are like funds, sometimes finding funds to start and support an ideas is quite difficult. Innovators with no responsibilities like families and such were able to endure challenges like these by sleeping anywhere and working from their parent garage.
But what if you don’t even have a “garage”?
This is where I encourage people to push for survival and work odd jobs to secure enough funds to kick off a business for their ideas. And just like I talked about not settling for survival and pushing for evolution and fulfillment – I highly encourage you to take that chance and overcome these challenges.
Some of the other examples of physical challenges could also due to where you live. The community. The laws and regulations that makes it impossible for you start a business. In which case I advise you to travel. Migrate! Go explore new lands with new ideas and be free!
But more importantly, one of the easiest ways to overcome physical challenges is to find a good community to support you. Life is always better when surrounded by people who care about you and wish you success and happiness. And before you get the wrong idea, these people are not always your family or the people you grew up with. They could be anyone, anywhere – so keep your eyes open!
With these challenges we need engineer business. A standardized process that helps us go from nothing to something systematically and intentionally. But these steps must also guarantee survival, evolution and fulfillment. It must evolve and grow.
How do we go about starting a success business in the tech industry? Here’s a pretty picture.
This diagram above, is what I have been following personally to standardize evolution in the tech industry. This diagram above is the story of evolution anywhere. It works because it’s intentional and systematic and most importantly consistent across a wide range of industries and disciplines.
Let’s talk about each one of these stages in the next few sections.
This is the beginning of everything. An idea. A thought. Something that hit you unexpectedly and you can’t stop thinking about it. Because every time you think about this idea of yours you feel excited, happy and quite joyful.
In the age of ChatGPT and Bard – the one thing that can never
be automated or programmed is inspiration and revelations. The mysterious
source of ideas that can’t be encapsulated into a specific set of steps or
programmed into routines.
It’s a calling from above telling us that we’ve been chosen with an idea that needs to be materialized and implemented on earth. A lot of people choose to ignore that calling. So it either gets lost or gets assigned to someone else. But the very few, those who decided to overcome every emotional, intellectual and physical obstacle are those visionary vanguards who open the doors of evolution for humanity by believing in these ideas and fulfilling their purpose.
These ideas don’t come to the mind first. They come to the heart, and the heart instructs the mind to think and the body to act. This is why we feel so excited and happy about a new idea more than anything and everything. It consumes us throughout the day and distracts us from the other mundane cog work. It’s our calling to become what we were meant to be.
If you are one of those lucky ones who receive one or many of these callings, you must find those whom you trust and who are subject matter experts to advice you as to how to make your idea come to life. That’s what brainstorming is. You bounce the idea back and forth with others and you do your own research and studying to find the right way to executed it.
Beware of the downers! Those who find a problem in every solution. Those who will try to undermine your genius and make you think that your idea isn’t worth it. You must work with those who are unbiased and willing to objectively investigate and research an idea with you. Even if you had to hire some to do the research and discussion with you – it’s worth it!
The goal of brainstorming sessions is to produce actionable items. Things that you can do to move on to the next stage of prototyping. Sometimes the next actionable item is to do more research. Find answers and study then reconvene to discuss the details further. But it’s never anything else outside of these three actions.
- Produce a plan for a prototype.
It’s an ongoing cycle of experimentation and examination until you are ready to start building a prototype for your idea.
Let’s talk about prototyping.
Once realistic execution steps are in hand. Now you are ready to go on and start building the software or the hardware or whatever it may be that bring your idea to life. Beware that prototyping doesn’t require the number of restrictions put on final production products.
You may skip testing and best practices when you are prototyping. You may skip all the rules and every other restriction that prevents you from producing a prototype fast. Failing fast and failing cheap with prototyping is the mantra that initiated Facebook in its hay day. The goal here is get some answers not to produce a final product. Keep that in mind.
The outcome of prototyping could be going back into brainstorming mode when the execution isn’t successful or doesn’t yield the very outcomes that were expected during brainstorming. In which case we have to go back to the boards and draw a new plan and explore other options and solutions.
The outcomes of prototyping when it fails can generate quite a stress on engineers and innovators. It can lead engineers towards nearly giving up on the idea. Don’t. Don’t give up on your idea and keep trying until you get it right. As they say it only has to work once!
But when the prototyping succeeds then it’s time to take it to the world! Go find people who can fund your ideas in full production mode! It’s important whether you can fund yourself or not to take your prototype to the market – to the people and see how they would react to your new ideas.
Let’s talk about this stage next.
It’s ill advised to take prototype into production mode with full scale without experimenting with the market. To find answers to the questions that analyst and marketing geniuses may not be able to answer.
In reality, no one really knows for sure how the market would react towards one idea versus the other. You must take your prototype as soon and fast as possible to the right market.
One of the mistakes I have seen a lot of engineers do is get the opinion of those who will not be using the final product. For instance, you can’t rely on a doctor’s opinion on a product that was meant for mechanics. You must find the right market. That right market cannot be someone that knows you or is a part of your team either. It needs to be an unbiased opinion from someone who doesn’t really care if they would hurt your feelings by giving their honest opinion about your innovation.
Customer engagement can send us back to prototyping or brainstorming stage. If you believe in your idea don’t give up on it just yet. Learn from the market and adjust your idea and continue to produce prototypes until you get it just right.
A lot of producers in the movie industry do the same thing. They release trailers of their movies few months ahead to see people’s reaction to the portions that they are not sure about. It’s an effective strategy to ensure your product will succeed and hit the market the way you expect.
Successful customer engagement can lead directly to production. A prototype for an idea that hits the right market can bring millions in funds depending on the potential of your idea. Gathering all that data will help you get investors to pour funds into your idea to ensure its success.
But even if you are the only funder of your own idea and prototype – realize that the market engagement leads to a good emotional feeling of assurance that your idea will actually be useful and successful in the market. So regardless of having your own funding or not – don’t skip that stage no matter what.
When the customer engagement succeeds, it’s time to take things seriously. Start the development and evolution of your idea to become a true final product.
Let’s talk about that in the next section.
This stage is where the rubber hit the road. You need to gather all the subject matter experts and professional engineers to turn your ideas into a final product. Setup realistic deadlines and don’t overpromise and under deliver.
A lot of innovators get pushed beyond the point of reason and promise what they know they can’t deliver. This happened with a game called No Man’s Sky and the market reaction was quite damaging to the reputation of the makers even though they are still working on recovering that damage almost a decade later.
But more importantly do not build your final product on top of the prototype. A lot of engineers find it easier to just continue on top of the prototype instead of starting over. This is a concept some business leaders don’t quite understand because from their perspective the product is “ready” because “it works” and may hear some chaotic statement such as “if it works don’t fix it” – don’t listen to any of that.
Since you are the leader, the innovator and engineer that’s driving all of this, you must step in and ensure you throw the prototype away and start over from the ground up in building the final successful maintainable and configurable product!
You must be realistic about what you want to release and you want to focus on your most viable product MVP before going on a venture in adding additional features that may not be a hard requirement or a showstopper for your release.
You must follow standardization and best practices down to the last minute to ensure your product doesn’t become more complication and more costly down the line in adding new features and fixing potential issues.
Now your product is ready! You made it to the other side! Hit deploy and celebrate!
Is this the end of the story? Not really. Your product needs to continue to evolve and adjust itself to the forever growing and changing market. How do you keep up with that?
We go back to stage 0 – Brainstorming to explore new options, ideas, prototyping, engaging the market with a preview and an alpha, beta release and iterate over and over till you get it right!
This is the whole story of engineering a business in the tech industry and others. These are the exact steps you can take to evolve and become in control of your own life, time and effort. You become happier when you run your own business. You become much more knowledgeable, faster and more in touch with reality than a day job that pays you pennies for an effort that’s worth millions and millions.
What if your idea fails? What if you try everything and nothing works?
Wait for your next calling. Wait patiently and observe. Then start it all over again – because now you know how!
Engineers who will take these words and experiences that I’ve gathered over the years seriously are the ones who will be able to live fuller, happier and enriching lives. They will be able to apply themselves and their genius into our world today. They will be the ones who will be able to push the wheel of innovation forward, giving other engineers opportunities to survive, evolve and be truly fulfilled.
This post is just a very brief introduction into what truly goes into building a business – there’s a lot more out there for those who seek wisdom and knowledge, some of it I will share in future blog posts and some they will find out on their own.
Take your chance and find out what you’re truly capable of in the world of tech today.