Different engineers have different calling, some create mass-market products and some create local solutions. There is a problem when you use the wrong personality for a wrong project. More specifically if you apply “solution mindset” to a product problem you end up getting crap.
I love opening up Apple packages. Over the years I’ve been spoiled by Steve Jobs’s drive to deliver amazing out of box experience and intuitive interfaces. I open up the box, the device is most likely going to be charged and within minutes will start making my life better and more fun.
I also like putting stuff together. I learn new computer languages, model airplanes, do-it-yourself electronics kits. It’s really awesome to pick up a new language, start playing around with tools and let my creative side go nuts.
My suspicion is that I am not alone. Most of the people have two modes – have fun because things are intuitive and easy, and have fun because things are flexible and powerful.
In my engineering and design I have always tried to be mindful of those two sides. Things have to be fun because they are intuitive or they have to be fun because they are powerful. Creating the right products and the right designs is what gives someone a title of “Software Design Engineer” (feel free to add whatever hierarchy prefix you want – director/manager/VP). Software Design Engineers create mass market products and platforms.
There is also another type of engineer out there. This type of engineer is more responsive, more accessible and is good at putting together solutions. This engineer is no more or less important than the software design engineer but his tasks are about a deep dive into a particular problem and coming up with a solution. The solution engineer shines in IT. You love having those guys that put together products, processes and make the Legos fit together.
The danger lies when you get the “solution guys” into the product business. What happens is they start solving every customer’s problem with adding small features that address every single edge case. The solution guys want to make sure that they solve a particular problem and the product starts having a bunch of different personalities. Those personalities start growing without any rhyme or reason and sooner or later you get a monster with a bunch of heads. The new customers are intimidated and their experience sucks.
Thankfully with modern software you can address this issue. In todays applications you can create easy and intuitive user experience and then supplement it with a powerful API. This is the best of both worlds design. It gives people what they want without creating a monster.
Your Enterprise customers are probably going to complain – “but why don’t you put a button in your software that solves a problem for my department of 50 sales reps” The answer is to challenge this request and figure out if that same button can be useful to 5,000,000 sales reps. Don’t let your product lose it’s personality and let the solution engineers take your API and solve the edge cases.