I’ve had a lot of conversations with software vendor employees over the years, and I’ve noticed a few things. Understanding these will help you parse what you’re hearing.
They’re working on vNext, not vFiveYearsAgo. They’re already hard at work building things that you’re going to use – not this year, and probably not even next year, but a couple of years from now. They’re hearing about groundwork that’s getting laid for powerful future technologies. This makes them really excited for the future, and very dismissive of today’s problems. (An awesome exception: product managers who want to get the word out about their newly-delivered
There’s a lot they can’t tell you without an NDA. Ever notice how when a community member gets hired into Microsoft, and their personal blogs suddenly cease publishing any new technical content whatsoever, and their few community presentations tend to have a lot of marketing slides & demos prepared by other people? It’s because they’re either working on customer projects that they can’t share, or future products that aren’t public yet, or…sometimes they just had jobs with less stringent employers who let them give back to the community more. They end up doing their communication internally at Microsoft instead. (An awesome exception: people hired in as evangelists.)
They’re surrounded by similar vendor employees. Many/most of their peers are also devoted to working on future technologies. When they have peer discussions, they’re all excited for what’s coming down the pike. Even when they have discussions with the community, it’s often with dedicated customers who have a lot invested in their ecosystem. (An awesome exception: people who work in open fields like data science.)
This means there’s a serious echo chamber effect. Their marketing team makes a claim, repeats it over and over internally, then the employees start to repeat it to their customers, and they end up believing it’s going to happen. Over the years, I’ve raised my eyebrows a lot when I’ve heard Microsofties I respect say things like:
- “Windows Phone is awesome, and the next one is going to be a hit.”
- “Silverlight is the way of the future for cross-platform development.”
- “Every developer should be writing their code on Universal Windows Platform to reach users on Windows 10, Windows Phone, and xBox.”
- “You should migrate your apps to .NET Core (or Standard) now.”
It’s not their fault – some (but not all) software vendor employees are a product of their environment. They’re hearing amazing things about the future, and they don’t fact-check this against the current market.
Therefore, you’ve gotta avoid arguments about market share. You might believe the product is dead on arrival because it’s got fierce competition in a market, but it won’t matter. The employee is privvy to things they can’t tell you, and they believe the technical superiority of a non-shipped product will trump the current market share of an existing competitor. Sometimes it does – but neither of you can see that future today. Just accept that they believe their product will dominate, and move on.
I’m not saying I’m good at it. In fact, I’m horrible at it. I can’t keep my poker face when I hear things like, “Parallel Data Warehouse is a great investment” or “if you want to use Hadoop, you should query it via PolyBase.” It’s gotten me into plenty of trouble when I’ve called ’em on it publicly, especially when I should have just politely smiled and nodded along.
I’m using Microsoft examples, but these aren’t just Microsoft problems. They’re problems for lots of big companies that build things. We all have our own biases about the quality and sales potential of our future work. It’s just amplified internally when you’ve got a big company with the echo chamber problem.