October 2, 2017

The Nurse Analogy

Imagine you’re a nurse in an operating room surrounded by world class surgeons who are performing a delicate triple bypass.

How would the people in the room react if you:

Not very charitably, I’d wager.

On the other hand...

Now imagine you’re that same nurse but this time in a supermarket where a woman is going into labor.

How would people in the market react if you were the only person standing there in medical scrubs?

I’m pretty sure your groceries would be free that day.

What gives?

What’s going on here? Same nurse, but two dramatically different levels of authority, respect, and impact.

Here’s the thing:

Expertise is relative.

Compared to the surgeons in the operating room, you ARE NOT a medical expert. Therefore, nobody cares much about your opinion. You are more or less interchangeable with any other nurse.

Compared to the average shopper in the supermarket, you ARE a medical expert. Therefore, everyone hangs on your every word. They will probably all remember you for the rest of their lives.

So what?

What does all this have to do with being a software developer?

Here’s what:

If you find that your clients are not particularly interested in your opinion, you might be marketing yourself to “doctors”.

This is precisely the situation when you are hired as a software engineer by the CTO of a tech startup to do staff aug. The CTO sees him/herself as the doctor and you as the nurse. This leads to a client attitude of “Do as I say, and do it quickly.”

You will have a bigger impact in the world (and make a lot more money) if you market yourself to patients instead of doctors.

This is what happens when you seek out non-technical buyers. The buyer sees him/herself as a patient and you as the medical expert. This leads to a client attitude of “Help! What should we do?!”

Exact same skills. Two different types of buyers. World of difference.