Sometimes I read sites like HackerNews and I feel like I die a little bit. A developer writes an uppity missive about why he won’t be my technical guy. A product guy returns fire in kind. Neither of them have a clue.

I’m in the “product guy” community, so that’s who I’ll speak to. A few choice quotes from the product guy rant:

YOU are easily replaceable. You’re just the coder who builds the thing. Once MVP is launched and the company raises funding, you could easily be replaced because I guarantee you there are thousands of engineers just as good as you.

If your “coders” are replaceable cogs, I dispute that your product is worth a shit. A lot of what defines a good developer is their ability to grok a business idea and bring meaningful contribution to the product as it is developed. With every keystroke, a developer has the option to make the product better or worse.

The product guy, on the other hand, is the DNA of the company. He forms the vision, culture, management. You can’t replace that.

You’re right. Good product guys have a vision of the product that steers the ship. You can’t build a great product on iteration alone. You need an overall vision. This, however, does not automatically make every other person in the organization meaningless drones.

The best products result when the visionary understands how to communicate their ideas to the development team, who internalizes these ideas and uses them to guide their efforts at every moment. The happiest moments in my day come when a developer pushes a commit/feature that fits exactly with my vision, but isn’t an explicit result of some directive I gave. These super-developers can infer good ideas from my product direction. I don’t treat them like drones and, what do you know, they don’t act like it.

I imagine that in this product guy’s view, developers are just there to do his bidding, but this marginalizes the developer, forcing them to perform the equivalent of ditch digging. Programming isn’t easy. Those that can do it are generally smart people. Do you think the best developers want to work for someone who wishes to marginalize them in this way?

Because I share my vision with developers, and empower them to guide the product, I cannot simply discard them. If I do, I throw away a significant investment as well as an asset. They need me, I need them, and the product is better as a result.