Saturday, May 24, 2008

Engineering Manager

The American Society of Engineering Management describes the discipline of engineering management as:

Engineering Management is the art and science of planning, organizing, allocating resources, and directing and controlling activities which have a technological component.

Engineering Management is rapidly becoming recognized as a professional discipline. Engineering managers are distinguished from other managers by the fact that they possess both an ability to apply engineering principles and a skill in organizing and directing technical projects and people in technical jobs.

Of course, this description throws another wrench in the roles within a technology company. Where is the line between technical product management, technical project management and engineering management?

Technical Product Manager

When I go to the bookstore, I see plenty of books in the technology section on software engineering and technical project management. However, there are very (if any) books about technical product management. Why is that? Technical product manager seems to be common enough in Silicon Valley, but there seems to be a lack of printed literature on technical product management. A search online, however, turned up many blogs about technical product management and what the position means.

Personally, I believe that technical product management is very different from regular product management or at least it is a specialized subset of product management. The problem that I often see is when a technology company don't see the distinction and when product management and project management gets confused.

This lack of clarity in companies also has a negative impact on its people. When a company hires a product manager (non-technical) for what is really a technical product manager role, the person simply won't be set up for success.

What baffles me and makes me wonder is it only in the tech industry that job roles are so unclear?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coporate parents

The finance articles about shareholders and corporate raiders wanting MS to come back and buy Yahoo reminds me of those parents who has a favorite ex-boyfriend/girlfriend for their child and just can't accept that they've broken up and don't want to be together anymore.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's tough being a founder.

The news has come out that Microsoft is withdrawing its bid for Yahoo. This is expected to lead to a big drop in Yahoo's stock on Monday and bring about law suit against Yahoo and its board.

A lot of fingers will probably be pointed at Jerry Yang and that is unfortunate, but given how cynical the world is towards CEOs I'm not surprised. We live in a time where CEOs are viewed those who are there to make big bucks and companies are soulless entities. Jerry Yang could've approached his role in the same way. He got to be a CEO, broker a major internet deal, pocketed a lot of money and moved on, but people forget that Jerry founded Yahoo and he really wants it to succeed as a company and I believe that he defines success both for the company, its employees and its shareholders. Shareholders will sue him and Yahoo, though, but I believe he is looking out for share holders and also for the 13,000 people who make up Yahoo.


I originally wrote the above post right after the news broke but didn't actually publish it. With the latest news of billionaire Icahn trying to set up a proxy battle against Yahoo, it felt like a good real life example of what I said about people looking to make the big bucks but have no real interest in the company or its people. Basically Mr. Icahn is trying to replace the current Yahoo board for the sole purpose of selling off Yahoo. The problem is that if that is all it focuses on then this is a board that doesn't have any reason to look out for the shareholders because it's not looking out for the shareholder's company. If a deal cannot be brokered with somebody quickly, this board has no interest is making sure that the company succeeds.