Hunting Unicorns – Buzzword Compliant Search

on 04 | 19 | 2011

Posted by: Michael A. Morell

POSITION REQUIREMENTS: Scale, Agile, Rockstar, Big Data, Hadoop,, Big Company Experience, Field General, Facebook Connect, Visionary, Board Presence, Mobile, Virtual Goods, Track Record, Freemium, Great Recruiter, APIs, Pivot, Cloud, AWS, Cross Platform, Game Changer, Lean Engineering, World Class, Athlete, 24×7, Entrepreneurial, Hands-on, SaaS, Product Sense, NoSQL, iOS, Android, HTML5, Ninja.

In my 10+ years of executive search, never have I seen so many people asking for these prerequisites, skills and traits as part of their VP Engineering position requirements.  However, what I often don’t hear is: 1). What is it that they actually need for the role to accomplish the job; and 2). What is it that we should really be looking for?

It is very easy for CEO’s to jump on the bandwagon and attempt to develop a position description that shrinks the available pool of prospects to near zero and then send a recruiter off to find the proverbial “Unicorn.”

I think that without much argument, when you break down what makes a great engineering leader, it comes down to a few very important characteristics that trump all buzzwords.

  • Are they respected by others; do other great engineers follow them from job to job; and do engineers they interact with, feel smarter after speaking with them?
  • Have they been at a company that has done interesting things, solved complicated problems and developed a great engineering culture?
  • Have they dealt with rapid growth across multiple vectors, including increased customer base, data sets and growing teams?
  • Can they get passionate about the problems they are trying to solve and can they motivate others to become just as passionate?

History and Potential are best predictors of success…so let the market validate future leaders for you…not the latest buzzword search string.