View from The Top: Paul Lindner, hi5
How important is it to be an engineering/technology/computers or even a broader science major to excel in the technology industry?
It’s important to have the passion for the product that you’re working on. The best candidates are people that live and breathe technology and I believe this is true of any industry. A degree isn’t necessary for this.
Given the pace of technological change, how can an engineer avoid obsolescence? Is it just a matter of keeping up on all “hot” technologies? Or is keeping up with technologies not that important?
To avoid obsolescence an engineer should develop three basic skills: ability to learn, ability to communicate and ability to think. Each technology that comes along is usually a derivative of something that preceded it. If you have these three basic skills you’ll be successful in all fields of endeavor.
Should someone take a different path if they want to be a lead developer/architect rather than a technology manager?
These career paths both require great communication skills and emotional intelligence. A technology manager can be successful without the deep knowledge required for an architect’s role.
Is there a need for non-technical people in the technology field? What roles are missing from most technology organizations?
This has a lot to do with your meaning of non-technical. All technology products rely upon great artists, writers, marketers and sales professionals. Having a passion for the product helps connecting with users and working well in the larger organization.
Beyond the technical skills, what other skills are critical for a successful technologist?
Communication, learning and curiosity.
There seem to be companies that are tech-centric and those that are more user-experience centric. Is this an important distinction in choosing the “right” company to work for?
This is like splitting hairs. Either can be a great place to work, depending on the management and your individual fit for the product/industry.
What is the ideal role for the technology organization to play in the broader organizational structure? What are the most important inter-departmental relationships that a technology organization should forge to be successful?
The ideal role involves technology being an integral part of the business model of the company, instead of an enabler or a cost center. Working closely with product management is key to delivering the correct product in the appropriate timeframes. Reaching out to business development, PR and marketing can only help.
What issues plague the technology industry? What has surprised you the most about working in the technology/new media industry?
One issue is that many firms do not use appropriate software development methodologies to deliver quality products on time. Another issue is assuming that the framework de jour will solve all development issues.
Initially I was surprised at how tight the Bay Area development community is. Everyone knows everyone else. After a few years it’s no longer surprising.
Is it a mistake to think of the internet industry as being fundamentally a tech industry?
No. It’s joined at the hip with technology. The big difference is that technology usage is going mainstream.
How possible is it to change career paths from other fields into new media and/or technology?
What advice would you give a young person considering a career in technology?
Become passionate about some aspect of technology and turn it into a hobby. Inject yourself into online and offline communities that are focused on these technologies. Then network, network, network. Attend conferences, contribute to an Open Source project and learn to learn.
Any predictions for the industry? What will be the “biggest news” in your field for 2009?
Social Networking will go through a consolidation phase this year as the economy sours. At the same time it will go mainstream with social technology integrated into all sorts of odd places. Open Technologies will enable a bunch of disruptive technologies that change web interaction in many ways, including mobile.