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Craig Kerstiens

Why I love building developer products

For much of my career I’ve been focused on building out developer or data focused products with the customer in some form or fashion being a developer on the other end. I fully realize now that I’m destined to spend the rest of my career in that space, either that or trying my hand at wine making. There are a few things that I personally find rewarding about the space that I’ve shared with a number of people individually lately and thought I would share more broadly.

First, software really is eating the world. Often developers and entrepeurs ask about what they could build that would be a good business. The reality is about anything that has not been modernized to as a service and improved with software could be. We have far less developers in the world than we need to execute on all the ways we could improve products and life. To me what is interesting is the last part of that last sentence. It is not that the market for developers is huge, which I do believe it is. It more that when we automate with systems we can get amazing economies of scale. I know folks that reminisce and talk about how we’re more stressed being always connected and such and that in the old days people got out and worked the fields and enjoyed the sun. They also absolutely physically exhausted their bodies in the process. The ability to make life better at scale is an interesting one and often done through systems we develop.

The second reason is the challenge and the reward. Developers are notoriously tough critics. If it feels/smells like marketing then they have an allergic reaction, and that is probably because much of it is done poorly. If they experience really positive/great marketing they latch on more than the average person. Most developers are by nature a bit skeptical… for some reason this resonates with me. But, I’ve found they are the largest/biggest supporters once they’re excited about something. Personally I’d rather folks more critical and then have a few diehard fans than a whole bunch of people I can try to some site with ads and convert them, but then never actually connect with my product/brand.

The third and final reason is, I can understand it. Having worked at small startups, side projects, and at large enterprise I can understand the challenges as each different level. Building a product that I can directly relate to and connect with is some how easier to stay motivated. I’m sure instagram has a lot of interesting technical challenges, or that scaling an ad network is extremely challenging. But building a product that I could see myself directly benefiting from makes everyone’s input on the team valuable and key. This changes the entire dynamic from product team to engineering to marketing.

Now days I dont get much chance to ship code to production, usually that is what I threaten when things are running behind, but at heart I’m still very much an engineer. Building products that make developers lives better and more productive may not change the world, but hopefully it better enables other developers to.