How Customizing Role Definitions Can Give Your Startup a Competitive Advantage

Tailoring your startup’s role definitions to your strategy will give your team a competitive advantage. Most founders just hire against traditional role definitions. What they often miss is that altering role definitions to be specific to the sets of problems your startup is facing can dramatically improve your team’s performance.

Let’s walk through an example.

Build an understanding of what is different about your startup:

  • Your customers currently use video conferencing software but miss using whiteboards to communicate.
  • The platforms your product will support are are changing rapidly since the space is very new.

Identify where your problem may be uniquely helped by blending responsibilities of traditional roles.

Given the expected changes in the platforms your implementation will likely iterate significantly before it matures. This can create significant communication overhead between engineers and product managers as they work through technical trade offs. An engineering manager that owns both the product definition and implementation will be able to iterate faster.

Rebalance and tweak over time.

Custom role definitions require extra work to recruit. If you’re having trouble finding a fit, review how you’re framing the role to candidates. I guarantee you that there are loads of engineering managers with product experience that would love to both the problem definition and implementation.

Once you start implementing enterprise features engineering managers may start to struggle to understand the customer problems. Keep this in mind as your team and product mature and update your approach as necessary.

A rule of thumb

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Travis Newcomb

Thoughts on the personal & leadership challenges faced in rapidly growing organizations. (Apple, Chime, Eventbrite, Cisco, …)