Without giving the game away as to what we’re doing, there’s a major (maybe even major squared) new product release on the way from the House of Jiva. We’re all very excited at what will be a big step forward for us. The only trouble is, we’ve had to go through agonising levels of detail in the marketing plans to back up the new release. I know, as Al Pacino famously reminded his team in “On Any Given Sunday”, it’s all about inches – the small gains, but I have to say that the product plan is vastly more interesting than the marketing plan. Perhaps that’s why so many technology companies spend much more time on their product than on marketing, despite all the evidence to suggest that marketing is as important as product. Note to self: grin and bear it.
One of the most surprising aspects of the technology industry is the relative gender bias within the software development community. Software engineers are overwhelmingly male and it seems to be accepted as a pretty natural thing. Why? It seems crazy when companies like Google and Facebook make threatening noises about the need for immigration to cover the skills gap whilst almost no one points out that software developers are recruited from only one half of the community. I’ve heard many excuses as to why this is the case, but for every argument, there is almost always a counter argument. Boys like computers more than girls? Do they? They haven’t met my daughter then. How about the fact that girls like languages more than boys. How does that fit in the picture? The sad fact is that I’ve heard too many stories of female coders being given a hard time by overwhelmingly male development teams. This has to stop. You can’t have an industry that draws talent from only half of the population; it’s wrong and it’s bad for business. We don’t have a sign hanging outside the office, but if it did, we would add “female coders welcome here”.
Is the tech industry getting too big for it’s boots? I’ve always been proud of the fact that I was part of an industry that was, on the whole, a force for good in society and whose members were pretty good corporate citizens. Most of the techies I know are pretty down to earth and the dominant worldview seems to be a neat blend of anti-estblishment, pro-education with a vaguely hippy twist.
It is possible, however, that my views are out of date. You can’t avoid the fact that there’s been a stream of news from the Google, Apple, Amazon mega-plexes, that border on the arrogant and anti civil society. Since when did we feel the need to hire an army of lobbyists to avoid paying sales tax? Since when did we feel the need to hire an army of lawyers and accountants to set up complex structures to avoid paying corporation tax? And since when did we feel it our place to lecture elected Government officials on what taxes we were prepared to pay or what immigration policy should look like?
In February 2000, I gave a speech at the Reform Club outlining how I though the industry had lost it’s way because stock option plans had become more important than great engineering. A month latter, we got our come-uppance. I can’t help but feel that 13 years later, we have again forgotten what the industry is all about: great ideas, skilful engineering and a commitment to product excellence.