Saturday, 20 July 2013

The salesman’s promise, the engineer’s deadline


I love salespeople, they are so full of the joys of Spring. They can talk so fluently about nothing when they really should listen. The art of making promises, is the ability to achieve them. Much of the financial crisis is down to financial advisor's selling assets, that were worthless. Whether they understood that or not they broke the world because they fundamentally didn’t understand what they were selling. Does that sound familiar?

Engineers are at the mercy of salespeople. A sales person will promise the earth and two weeks early if the commission is right. Contracts are signed, the expense card going over the bar and the chime of glasses knocking off each other. Is it ethical to sell something you have no control over delivering? Does ethics even come into sales?

The problem then is it becomes the engineers responsibility to deliver on those promises. And what exactly was promised? that prototype technology that hasn’t even been spec’d up yet? that new feature that was discussed in a meeting and all of a sudden is part of the product? If your job wasn’t depending on delivery, it would be funny.

So what can be done with this dilemma? Not much unfortunately. It would be nice if salespeople, engineers and senior management met up once in a while to discuss reality. But may be I’m just being too negative. May be as engineers we need to be pushed? Maybe we are too practical for our own good?

May be we need those visionaries to push our complacency to do those things the right way and achieve those things that are impossible. May be that is why we do what we do, so we can achieve the impossible and quietly tap ourselves on our shoulders and say, ‘Good job’. What engineer in Nasa wouldn’t have choked on his donut when he heard JFK say.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade
and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..

And they achieved that deadline with over five months to spare. To software engineers around the world reaching deadlines set by someone else I salute you but to those engineers who achieved the impossible and landed men on the moon, you are the standard by which we set ourselves.

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