Ask Your Developer PDF Book by Jeff Lawson


Click here to Download Ask Your Developer PDF Book by Jeff Lawson Language English having PDF Size 3.2 MB and No of Pages 241.

Tech-company billboards have become part of the landscape in the Bay Area, like movie billboards in Los Angeles. Partly it’s about building brand awareness, and partly it’s a recruiting tactic, a way to be seen by thousands of engineers on their way to work. There’s also a bit of super-geek oneupmanship involved, since we all try to come up with something clever, like an inside joke or a reference to something that only Silicon Valley will understand.

Ask Your Developer PDF Book by Jeff Lawson

Name of Book Ask Your Developer
PDF Size 3.2 MB
No of Pages 241
Language English
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So we reserved the billboard. The problem was we couldn’t figure out what to say on that billboard. We were having these huge debates. Some people said we should get customer testimonials. We could put up logos from well-known companies that use our cloud communications platform. That would at least address our biggest challenge, which was that we were a successful business that nobody had heard of.

At the time, we did about $100 million in annual revenue, and were on the path toward our initial public offering (IPO), yet we weren’t a household name. That’s because Twilio does not sell products to consumers. We sell a service to software developers that lets their apps communicate with voice, SMS, email, and more. We have amazing customers—Uber, WhatsApp, Lyft, Zendesk, OpenTable, Nordstrom, Nike. But our software hides under the covers.

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inside websites and mobile apps. In fact, you’ve undoubtedly used Twilio, without knowing it, if you’re a customer of any of those companies or thousands more like them. So having committed half a million dollars to reserve the billboard for a year (yeah, even billboard real estate in the Bay Area is overpriced!), we needed to come up with our message. And we had a deadline—the day they needed to start climbing the ladder and gluing it up.

We hired an advertising agency. They put their best creative team on the project and came up with a bunch of ideas. They interviewed dozens of customers—software developers who’d used our platform to add communications to all those apps. They interviewed lots of our employees—Twilions, we call them—to ask what makes Twilio special. And at the end of several months of work and deliberation, we had the big “reveal” meeting.

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You’ve seen this scene on Mad Men—the firm pitches the client (us) all the brilliant ideas they’ve come up with. There were art boards, crafty explanations by very creative thinkers. Big pitch. Yet everything they pitched was kind of boring. We didn’t really love any of them. The debate dragged on. Finally, we were less than a week away from the date when the billboard was supposed to go up—with the billboard firm saying they had to have the artwork in hand.

And we still couldn’t come up with a pithy, succinct way to explain what Twilio does. By Friday afternoon we were still stuck. And we couldn’t leave for the weekend without getting them the artwork. I was with our chief marketing officer, our head of creative, and our chief operating officer, trying to choose which mediocre message to go with— when I blurted out a crazy idea. “Why don’t we just say, ‘Ask your developer,’” I said.

“You know, like those ads on TV where they say, ‘Ask your doctor if this medication is right for you.’ We’re saying, ‘Ask your developer if Twilio is right for you.’” I was half joking. But the more we thought about the slogan, the more it made sense. Developers were the ones spreading the word about us and our product. We didn’t do a ton of marketing, and we employed only a handful of sales reps. Ask Your Developer PDF Book

Most of our employees at the time were engineers. If someone wanted to find out what Twilio did, the best way to do that really would be to ask a developer. So we put up our bright red billboard with three words spelled out in giant white capital letters: ASK YOUR DEVELOPER. Below that we put our logo and company name. That was it.

Until recently, the software industry had no such thing. Most software companies—think of companies like Microsoft, Oracle, or SAP—pretty much wrote all of their own software end to end. That worked when software was a highly specialized field and there were relatively few software companies, right up through the 1990s and into the 2000s. That notion was especially true when software companies sold products as downloads or CD-ROMs.

But now every company is becoming a software company, and most companies can’t build everything from scratch. They need a supply chain— just like Ford and Toyota—that divides the industry into areas of expertise and allows each company in the ecosystem to specialize on its core competency. But the software supply chain looks different. Ask Your Developer PDF Book

Instead of specializing in speedometers or steering wheels, software supply chain companies deliver reusable chunks of code that developers bring together to make finished applications. These are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Each API supplier provides only a piece of the solution. Amazon Web Services delivers the data center.

Twilio provides communications. Stripe and PayPal enable payments. Modern apps integrate dozens of these small components into a unique value proposition for the customer. This shift to component software is the next big leap in the evolution of the software industry. I call it the Third Great Era of Software. This trend—from solutions to building blocks—was best predicted by a 1990s-era IBM commercial.

A raggy-haired consultant is showing a business owner their first website, which seems to have been made without much input from the business owner. The consultant finishes by saying, “Now you have a choice . . . between the spinning logo or the flaming logo.” The upper left corner of the website (where the logo always stood back on those days) had the company’s logo, cheesily spinning in circles, or animated with amateurish flames. Ask Your Developer PDF Book

The nonplussed businessman responds, “Okay, but can it optimize my supply chain?” This idea was that packaged software with only cosmetic flexibility would never satiate the needs of a fast-moving, complex business. And now, more than twenty years later, that commercial has proven incredibly prescient. But, as is often the case, the incumbent is not the company that made it a reality.

To do that, you need talent. In the coming decade, the winners will be companies that build the best software—which really means, the companies with the best software developers. If you’ve struggled to hire or keep great technical talent, then this chapter might help you understand how you can attract and retain developers by appealing to what matters to them.

If you chronically have more open technical roles than you can fill, maybe you can change your pitch to developers to make your company into the place where developers know they’ll be able to do their best work. If you’ve lost talent to companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, I actually think it’s not that hard to make the compelling case that your company is a superior career choice. Ask Your Developer PDF Book Download

We’ve hired our share of technical talent from those companies, or convinced candidates to accept our offer over one from the tech giants. In this chapter, I’ll share some observations I’ve had through the years, both as a developer and as an employer, on how to recruit, retain, motivate, and compensate great technical talent. There’s a shortage of developers in the world.

In 2019, there were four times as many open software jobs as there were new computer science graduates. So it’s a tremendously competitive market for talent, but the good news is you don’t have to get ridiculous providing tricycles, free haircuts, and fifty styles of IPA to win here. Mostly, you just have to treat software developers like people. Not ornery nerds to be hidden in the server closet.

Nor delicate unicorn flowers to be coddled. Developers are just people, replete with ambitions to learn and grow, motivations to do their best work, and a full range of skills they want to exercise. In companies where this is understood and respected, and where developers are given a seat at the table, they’ll be engaged, active company builders with you. Your early hires are especially important. Ask Your Developer PDF Book Download

Bringing in the right leader at the start can be key to success because that leader will attract a cadre of lieutenants who can in turn recruit great managers and individual contributors. But recruiting talent is only the first step. Managing to retain them might be even more challenging. If your organization is dysfunctional, developers won’t sit around hoping that things will get better.

At the beginning of Twilio, it was just Evan, John, and I—three developer-founders. At that size, we could hold the entire business in our heads. On any given day, we might generate some new idea, write some code, support customers on email or phone, pay the bills, and even make a Costco run to stock the office. We were constantly building demo applications on top of our APIs, so we knew the kind of experience our customers were having.

When we did customer support, we gained an instinctual understanding of what customers were trying to accomplish, where we were falling short, and where we needed to keep investing. In one instance, I remember that a customer reported a bug on Twitter and I wrote the fix within five minutes—but actually held off deploying it for a day because I didn’t want us to look like such a small company. Ask Your Developer PDF Book Free

That was just a bug fix, but I recall times when we took customer insights and turned them into whole products in a matter of days. One such product is our “sub-account” system, which enables developers to segment their usage of Twilio into multiple buckets—it’s useful for software companies building on Twilio who themselves have many customers using their apps. We had a realization that such a feature would be useful, and I built it one night and deployed it the next day.

When Evan, John, and I needed to make a decision, we could usually do it pretty quickly. Every day, we were all deep in customer conversations, the architecture of our software, and how all the pieces fit together. We could imagine how our decisions would play out over time. Even though we each had our areas of expertise (Evan wrote a lot of the infrastructure.

John wrote a lot of the core product services, I wrote a lot of the API, web, and billing layers), we all knew enough to act as one brain. When you hold the whole picture in your heads and you work together every day, you can make progress incredibly fast. That’s the power of a small team—there are no proxies; you’re just directly solving customer problems with your code. That’s the magic that makes startups so special and so productive. Ask Your Developer PDF Book Free

There’s so little overhead to manage, the coordination energy is negligible, and people tend to have a tremendous intrinsic drive because they’re so close to the customers and, therefore, the mission. Startups can succeed or fail based on many factors, but motivation and speed are not usually the fatal flaw. Who wouldn’t want that kind of energy in their business?

I’ve never met a business leader who doesn’t want employees to feel that kind of intrinsic motivation and drive to succeed, yet the way we usually structure our companies deprives employees of the raw ingredients. Our organizational charts separate employees from customers, our decisionmaking processes leave employees feeling unempowered, and success becomes navigating the organization as opposed to serving customers. Nearly all companies succumb to varying degrees of this fate as they scale.

The other benefit of a small, driven team: nobody can hide. If you’re a cog in a machine, or one of dozens or hundreds of people on a project, it’s easy to feel like your contribution doesn’t matter, which is bad for morale and does not make the most of every employee’s skills and talents. It also makes it easy for a low performer, or somebody who’s checked out, to coast along. Ask Your Developer PDF Book Free

But on a small team of five to ten people, neither of those things is possible. Everybody has an important role, and there’s little room for somebody who isn’t giving it their all (and trust me—this becomes very apparent). Defining customer, mission, and metrics is the foundation of the small team.

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