Hiring For Core Values

Back at Sun, I believe much of the blame for the company’s failure between 2001 and 2004 – from which the later, otherwise successful open source and hardware appliance initiatives under Jonathan Schwartz were unable to rescue it – came from allowing rapid, indiscriminate hiring of new sales and marketing staff in the 1999-2001 window as a result of the wave of success Java mindshare generated for Sun in the Web bubble.

That led to a huge growth in new, largely non-technical hires who didn’t necessarily share Sun’s traditional, open values and who didn’t rely on technology leadership as their prime guide. These new hires came to dominate the company’s software business, allowing marketing-led thinking to take precedence over pragmatic engineering. They went on to create strategies that just couldn’t deliver, including the disastrous “Sun One” middleware strategy. It matters who you hire.

My column for ComputerWorld this week asks if Twitter is falling into the same trap.

2 Responses

  1. Simon – I’m not *totally* disagreeing with your assessment, but I’ll offer the following… Sun also hired a significant number of software engineers who were often too removed from customer needs. The geek culture may have encouraged innovation, but as a Sun partner – it looked like the inmates ran the asylum. The sales and marketing folks were often victim to being outnumbered by geeks who didn’t understand business.

    • I do agree, Jeff, but I believe the effects felt in the field were the result of what was happening at HQ. The way the sales staff were driven meant many had to fall back on what they knew rather than sell what was coming down from on high, with the result that the field sales and technical staff (and their field management) tended to be locally innovative to survive. I think it was a symptom rather than the disease itself, one that grew in pace as time went on due to the strategy constantly shifting.

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