3 “Easy” Startup Roles, and Why They Aren’t Actually Easy

September 12, 2016 - 3 minutes read


Engineers can dismiss designers as frivolous and unskilled. Designers are just as likely to dismiss engineers as tasteless code monkeys.

Everywhere you look at an NYC mobile app company, you’ll find plenty of opinions about which roles are “easy” in a tech startup. This can be incredibly frustrating for team members when other people on the team combine inflated expectations for performance with deflated consideration of the skill and time needed to get those results. (Basecamp CEO Jason Fried described this in a recent Medium post as “the myth of low-hanging fruit.”) Here are a few of those roles, and why their complexity and importance should not by underestimated.

1. Business development

Everyone thinks they can do business development. After all, it’s just a bunch of emailing and outreach, right? Wrong.

Sure, any mobile app developer can write emails and make business contacts. But doing this in an effective, systematic manner requires a rare mix of organizational skills, growth hacking, and communication ability.

2. Front-End Developer

A lot of technologist newbies will describe themselves as “front-end gurus” the second they pass Codecademy’s CSS tutorial. Unfortunately, knowing a smidge of CSS and HTML5 doesn’t make a competent front-end dev.

The complex framework ecosystem and ever-advancing complexity of Javascript development makes front-end development at least as complicated as back-end development.

As if keeping up with the codebase isn’t enough, front-end developers are often expected to double as UX/UI designers, requiring an interdisciplinary toolkit drawing from graphic design as well as computer science.

3. Marketing

Marketing gets a bad rap among mobile app developers. Like other communication-heavy non-technical fields, app marketing (or “growth hacking” to use the popular term) is easy to write off as intern material.

This may have held a grain of truth ten years ago, but the evolution of marketing away from the advertising model and towards a “permission marketing” environment has made effective marketing more difficult than ever. Standing out in a sea of noise requires a mind-boggling mix of skills and creativity — unlike coding or UX, there is no “best practices” or step-by-step process.

In mobile app development, the best marketers are almost always the ones who blaze trails and break the rules.

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