The “ex” factor

I was looking at this job post the other day (no, I’m not applying), and several things struck me about this:

Our founders are ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft rockstar developers and both are ex-Waterloo.

So, okay, those items are intended to imply coolness and cred on the part of the company, its founders, and the job being advertised. Hrm.

Maybe that works to a point for some demographic, but to me that sentence tells me nothing about what those people would be like to work for or if they know how to found/grow/run a company.

Certainly, the rest of the ad can help fill in those details, but then… what’s that line for? Yeah, my experience of working at larger, non-tech companies between my startup stints colours my attitude here, as does the fact that I’m 30-something and not a developer. But again, job ads aren’t the only place I’ve seen this “ex cred” language.

Ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft. Okay, so they both worked in enormous tech companies. In dev roles. What kind of development? Infrastructure? Performance? UI? Were they in management at all? Did they work on getting new products to market, maintaining old ones, some completely unrelated operations function? As for being a rock star… that gets thrown around so much these days it’s pretty much lost meaning.

Also, those companies are US-based. Big market, lots of money. So these guys probably worked south of the border for a while? There are some differences between business here and in the US, especially in founding and running businesses. Did they get experience that’s going to help them with this new endeavour? It’s been a long time since Amazon and Microsoft were startups. Lotta resources at hand there.

Ex-Waterloo. Sooo… good Canadian boys, probably went to U of W? Lots of geeks there, plenty of entrepreneurs. So what? Were these founders entrepreneurial while in school? Did they develop good networks? Did they get degrees in Engineering or English?

Ok, yeah, I’m picking on one ad for one startup, and I’m not who they’re trying to attract with that role. But I see this “ex cred” used more and more, and I don’t get it. Kinda reminds me how apparently being able to throw around web jargon makes you a social media expert. But hey, they got funding, so there must be something behind the concept and the hipster geek lingo.

Certainly you can only make the ad so lengthy, and you can always ask about the founders’ pedigrees if you’re granted an interview. I guess my issue is the stereotypical nature of it. Feels like we should be passed that by now, since we’ve had two booms and a bust and a half to figure out who we are (in the tech and startup worlds), what we value, and how we build our cultures.

And what I still see a fair bit looks immature to me, and hard to take seriously. We’re not sure what to base credibility on, so we pick things to advertise that sound good (or at least recognizable), at the expense of the real education and experience we’ve earned.

In the last year I’ve met a LOT of people in tech in Canada, and many of them are quite young (from late teens to late 20s). These people are smart, savvy, social, and I firmly believe they can achieve just about anything. They have ideas and they make them reality — fast.

And with that view on this world of ours, I just think we can market ourselves much better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *