How to build a kick-ass product team

A tongue in cheek reading of building a kick-ass product team. Sadly, this isn't entirely fiction, and is a true tale from the product management trenches

Today the Dude will share his recipe for assembling a team to be a kick-ass product team. You should count your blessings that the Dude is bestowing this kindness upon you.

The SW Team

Always build the software team with experts. The best experts in the world: Ph.D. Physicists. Fuck yeah, pile them in at least in a 5:1 ratio over people who know software development.

Make sure that you have all prima donnas. No average contributors, all rock stars. Who needs version control? That is for pussies who don’t know how to roll. Marketing wants an installer? Screw them. Make them manually copy files to directories, and tweak the ini files.

Also, make sure that there aren’t enough people on the team. If you really need say 12 people (including a manager, and 2 SQA people) staff it with three permanent employees and one contractor. Surefire path to success.

Oh, and be sure that the only one who can write the UI bits is the contractor, because that wimpy stuff isn't worth having in house.

‘Cuz that’s how kick ass software gets written.

The Hardware team

Because real men build hardware, this is where the rubber hits the road. Make sure that you have one egotistical type-A person at the head of the team. He must have designed all the prototype boards, and done the original CAD models for the system. Because he was always told how smart he was, you can’t criticize his design decisions that are crippling the program later.

Add to that a revolving door of mechanical engineers, that ultimately is replaced with interns, because experience isn’t important. It is just metal bashing and cable routing for Christ’s sake. Can’t you see that the real engineering is electrical?

Oh, you need clean high slew rate, high voltage analog amplifiers? Damn that is boring shit to design (and it is really really hard). Let’s contract out this mindless task to a 3rd party. No way that they will hold our nuts over the fire at a later date when we need a design change. Nah, never gonna be an issue.


Documenting a product is a sure way to get fired. Hell, if you design it so that it can be built repeatably, by unskilled technicians, then they won’t need you. So you do as little documentation as possible. You all pat yourselves on the back for subsystems that you can sneak in without any documentation at all.

Job security baby.

Engineering Manager

You know what is better than a founder at a startup sticking around too long? You guessed it, a founder who forces himself to be the CTO and the Director of Engineering.

In the words of Stuart Smalley: ”I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!“. So I will make sure that I take my Ph.D. in Physics, surround myself with like thinkers and we will ignore all external advice, because, hell, if you ain’t got a Ph.D. in a HARD SCIENCE, you ain’t smart enough to sit at the table.

Also, make sure that you are responsible for about 1/3 of the tasks needed to launch. That way, people will look up to your awesomeness and leet skills.

Double kudos if you are the only person who knows the FPGA code.

Of course, this person is also a master of managing upward, so senior management is kept blissfully ignorant of the chaos in the trenches. Let marketing get that shit all over them, not us über engineers.


Who cares about marketing? They do nothing but whine about the UI, about those unimportant features that they say people care about, and about petty things like reliability. We know better.

Also, they whinge on and on about how our Rolls Royce cost of goods that delivers Pinto performance is hard to sell. Fuck ’em, they chose product management, let them deal with it. They just can’t see how awesome our work is.

Staff this with someone junior that we can blame when shit hits the fan. Yeah, that is a recipe for success.


Support? Pffft. That is admitting defeat. So what if 100% of the units break in the field. Our design is mega-AWESOME, if our customers choose to misuse it, that is their fault.

As far as we are concerned we build Maytag’s, and anybody in support are lazy clock punching plebes.


I hope you enjoyed this tongue in cheek view of a product team. I wish I could say that it never happens, but alas, it is all too common.

Do yourself a favor, have a professional software team of developers. Yep, you might need the mad scientist or two, but don’t have one in charge.

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