Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Beginning, middle and end

November 19, 2004

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Every high-tech worker has different skills, different talents and different desires. Sometimes we try to cram ourselves into a particular job without much thought towards our own needs. We do this for a number of reasons. Maybe you are simply out of work, or your family and friends think the job is a great opportunity or you just want to make more money. While these reasons might enter into your job decisions, there are more fundamental issues to consider. You need to find out where you fit in the structure of projects and business...the beginning, middle or end.


I began thinking about this issue while I was reading a new book by Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide For Anyone Starting Anything. (A link to the book is available on the web site) You may remember Guy from his early days as an “evangelist” for the Apple Macintosh. In this book, he lays out the three general types of workers, kamikazes (I prefer the term launchers), implementers and maintainers.

Each of these types has an important part to play in any company, old or new. The lack of a good mix can cause a company to struggle, or even fail, when it transitions from one phase to another. Launchers are those people who do everything in their power to develop a new service or product. They tend to work 80-hour weeks, sleep under their desks and generally, live, sleep and eat their work. Getting a company or project off the ground often requires this dedicated, sometimes even overzealous, work style. These people have what it takes to create something out of nothing.


Unfortunately, launchers usually aren’t the best people for the next phase, implementation. A group of launchers, left to their own devices will sometimes tinker endlessly with a project, never actually finishing anything. They can also become bored with a project once it moves from the “blue sky” of invention to the “heavy-lifting” required to turn the initial concept into a marketable product. In the case of a programming project, launchers can be great at developing the initial system, but when it comes to writing all the error-checking code and tweaking the user interface that a commercial product requires, they may not be the best choice. For this stage, you need the implementers.

Implementers love getting down-and-dirty with code, product design, marketing, distribution and a host of other issues involved with this middle stage. These are detail-oriented people, capable of teasing unique solutions out of difficult problems. They are just as creative as the launchers, but in a different way. They can take the launcher’s flights of fancy and ground them in real products.


Once the implementers have brought the project forward into a usable, and more importantly, sellable product, the maintainers take over. Without them, a great product might collapse under it’s own weight. Maintainers insure that the product continues operating and improving for the foreseeable future. They keep the servers running, the bugs fixed and the users happy, often helping the launchers invent new products by observing the users of this one.

Which one are you?

Now that you can identify the three basic types of high-tech workers, which one are you? It is rare that someone is purely one type or another. Many of you probably have abilities in all three areas, but there will be one where you really shine, or, perhaps more important, one area where you can live. Think about times when you have been in the wrong position for your sensibilities. Then, think of a time when you were in the right role. How did each experience feel? What made it good or bad? Can you recognize these situations when the arise again?

Now, the next time you are looking for a job, you have an additional way to evaluate the position. Is it a job for a launcher, an implementer or a maintainer? Do your skills, talents and desires match the job, or are you trying to fit your square self into a round job? Always try to find the position that best fits your natural working style. Can you change and adapt your style? Sure, but you will always be more satisfied working with your natural tendencies rather than against them.


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