Monday, April 8, 2013

Growth Hacker: What's in a name?

I love all the attention that distribution people have been getting thanks to rise of the Growth Hacker label in tech lexicon.  In all my time working in tech, I have never seen as much demand as now for quantitative, analytical, distribution people with heavy code, product, data, and testing backgrounds similar to me.  And I always felt like it was an unappreciated art by the masses, though I think there has always been a smaller knowledgeable crowd that understood the potential of this kind of approach.  I remember the rise of the Data Scientist label, and I felt like it similarly brought great new attention to a particular kind of person in the analytics world.  So it looks like Growth hacking is having the same effect on a particular breed of distribution style that has been around for a bit but maybe flown under the radar previously.  It is really encouraging to see.

But as someone whose degree is in engineering who wrote code for 7 years before becoming an internet product guy, I must confess that I have never liked to look upon myself as a hacker of any sort.  I know there are hackathons, and maybe I am just a little too old school and taking it personally.  But I remember staying up late nights and busting to get a change done right instead of hacking something together.  And I took great pride in considering myself NOT a hacker.  So I am reluctant to accept this label today even though I have not written real code for a long time. 

Personally I always always spoke of distribution.  I always felt like Marketing as a title was frowned upon by some folks deep in tech.  I remember a time when I met one of the iconic tech founders for the first time, introduced by another former hardcore tech CEO now turned venture capitalist.  And both wrote plenty of code for sure.  And at the time I had a Marketing title as opposed to some points in my career where I held a Product title.  As soon as I was introduced, there were qualifications thrown out.  "But he is not a Marketer, he worked for Boeing as an engineer."  It confirmed what I had already felt previously.  So I always tried to speak of distribution as I felt it did not have a stigma attached.

But I do like the growth label, as that is definitely what it is all about.  So I wish the label were Growth Engineer.  Perhaps it is not because folks without engineering degrees feel less comfortable calling themselves engineers?  Not sure, would love to hear some feedback.  I think there is some real process focus that is engineering-esque, but there is definitely some art as well.  Growth Maestro or Growth Conductor might have been fun too, but perhaps it does not respect the tech enough?  I stole the word Maestro applied to this game from Geoff Clapp, who I heard use it once for this.

Anyway, the boat left a while ago, and I love the direction it is sailing, but I had to go on the record just to get it off my chest.  And for the small unrealistic hope that lives somewhere within me that hopes others might prefer to be Growth Engineers as well.  hehehe

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