Hacker Career Advice

Department Differences

In Agile software development, engineers think of time in terms of points & 1–2 week sprints. How many points is this API going to take? Are we halfway through this sprint yet? It’s a useful framework for setting goals and maximizing your time.

Since you’re building and pushing code every couple weeks, it may seem like your team is killing it and everyone else is slacking off. They’re not, I promise. They’re just working on a different time scale.

Actually, each department operates on its own cycle. Think about Sales. It can take more than a year to close an Enterprise sale. There are multiple stakeholders involved, lots of back and forth, proposals, negotiating, etc. As a result, your sales team is probably setting their goals quarterly.

This also means they might sell an idea or product that you haven’t built yet, and might not build for another six months. Don’t get too stressed out about it, that’s Product’s job. :)

In B2C retail, sales cycles are shorter because the prices are lower and transaction mechanisms are easier. Online Marketers work weekly or daily. For example, I get marketing emails from online retailers 3–5 times a week, even though I’ll only make a purchase once a month.

At startups, CEOs spend a lot of their time fundraising. A round is supposed to last 12–18 months or until you become profitable. And it can easily take 6 months to close one. That means every 6–12 months, your CEO will be out trying to secure new funding. If you haven’t seen your CEO in a while, this is probably why.

Do you think Account Managers & Operations are a little harried or brusque? It’s because they’re working on a daily if not hourly cycle. Keeping clients happy and the company running is their entire job. They’re looking for immediate and definitive solutions. Issue resolution / bug fix time matters a lot to these folks.

And if you’re in a SaaS business, don’t forget about your buddies in Site Reliability. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) levy penalties against your firm for every minute your product is down. Not only are SREs thinking in terms of minutes, they’re often on call 24/7.

Lastly, Research & Development. The time scale for this department is likely measured in years, but the expectations are equally high. Google X isn’t known for “deadlines” but it is known for taking big risks. Good R&D takes time, and it’ll be reflected in your colleagues’ attitudes and goals.

I don’t have enough space here to cover Product, Design, HR, or Finance. Instead, I leave it to you to investigate them on your own. Talk to your colleagues in those departments and ask them what time scale they’re on. Ask them how they set their goals. Ask them how they measure their successes.