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    How one sentence guides your career

    Do you know what fires you up in the morning?

    Here's the reaction you're looking for: "That’s weirdly specific in surprising ways".

    Last week we talked about how positioning makes you stand out from the crowd. Chas, a reader, replied to ask for my positioning statement as an example. Here's what I sent:

    I build consumer web products for private VC-backed companies that sell directly to users.

    I tweak this based on who's asking and it's never as crisp as I'd like. But that one sentence captures my whole career since about 2010.

    Chas was surprised. "That’s weirdly specific in surprising ways. Rather than focus on the tech you work with you specify consumer (no B2B?), private (no public?), VC-backed (the most surprising), and direct-to-users. Huh?"

    Let's break it down.

    What's in a positioning statement

    A positioning statement answers "what do you do for whom?". That's it. You try to say this in a way that resonates with the reader.

    I learned this back in my solo consulting days and continue to use the same approach in my employee days. Because modern tech workers think like consultants.

    My statement has 3 parts:

    1. I build consumer web products
    2. for private VC-backed companies
    3. that sell directly to users

    I build consumer web products

    Consumer web products are my jam. Tech doesn't matter.

    I've been doing this since The Way was a server-rendered PHP file spitting out plain HTML. Yes, even before jQuery existed. One of my earliest conference talks was about this newfangled Single Page App architecture back in 2011 – months after Backbone.js launched.

    Got a technical or UX challenge facing a consumer web app? Chances are I've seen and solved it before. This makes me invaluable as a partner to any product manager. I'll know if your idea won't work.

    Own the outcome, not the work 🀘

    for private VC-backed companies

    Different companies have different feels. Working for a government contractor hits different than working for a mom-and-pop web design agency. Your whole lifestyle changes.

    I like VC-backed companies for 2 reasons:

    1. They have lots of free money and aren't afraid to pay
    2. They grow fast and invent new challenges regularly

    That works for me. I like money and I like novelty. And I love building things from scratch to prove they work. Polishing an existing old project makes me bored and agency work is too much like a fart in the wind.

    The "private" bit is about opportunity. I like to join at the bottom of an S-curve.

    that sell directly to users

    This part is about morals. I like projects where the incentives of the user and the company are aligned.

    No AdTech or Crypto bullshit. If we're not growing because we're providing quantifiable value to our users, I don't want it. None of this "capture eyeballs" and "sell their data later" crap.

    Users pay company, company provides service. It's slower but it's fair.

    Your career needs a vision

    As Richard Hamming once said, Your career needs a vision. Otherwise you'll never get where you wanna go.

    Figuring out your positioning and career vision is one of the key outcomes you can expect from the Senior Mindset Retreat. If that sounds interesting, you should apply.

    And if not, I hope you think about it. What's your vision?

    Cheers, ~Swizec

    Published on May 31st, 2023 in Reader Question, Career, Mindset

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