a few weeks ago, I sent out this tweet:
After 10,5y of crazy fun adventures in the wonderful world of graph, today marks my last day working for the amazing workplace that is #neo4j. I am forever thankful for the experience, looking forward to a nice break, and then onwards and upwards to a new challenge!— Rik Van Bruggen (@rvanbruggen) December 30, 2022
Since that time, a lot has happened: a new year has started, a lot of fun was had with family and friends, a lot of bike rides were done - and a lot of personal and professional conversations have been had. Obviously, it will take more time to move on from the wonderful world of graphs, but I feel increasingly positive about the journey behind me, and the journey ahead of me.
With time, it's also starting to get clearer and clearer for me that I have learned so much about the world in the decade that I spent with Neo4j. Here are some bullets of what I learned:
- Building great companies is hard. Period. It takes hard work and persistence to get to any kind of success.
- Making people work together towards a valuable vision makes a world of a difference. Graphs are incredibly good at helping the world make sense of data - and there is not a shatter of a doubt about that in my mind.
- You can't build a process that beats the efficiency of organic collaboration of groups of people aiming for a common goal.
- The intrinsic motivation that you get from that goal will make people walk through fires. I voluntarily worked my ass off for Neo4j for many years - because I believed in it. Still do.
- Practitioners slash developers are ah-may-zing. They are the fuel that drives IT innovation - not the CIO up there in the boardroom. Pampering practitioners and making them love your software makes a world of sense, as they will sow the seeds of commercial success. The days of wining and dining your way to a deal are gone. Forever.
- Helping practitioners be more effective inside their organisations is what I think a salesperson is supposed to do. Not selling TO them, but with them, building the technical and the value case for the investment - together.
- Selling with them means overcoming the inherent inertia that any complex system/organisation will thrive on. People don't like new things, because they don't like the uncertainty that comes with that novelty.
- Overcoming uncertainty is at the core of selling high-tech software. The only way to do that is to focus on maximising the quantifiable value of the software, and minimizing the perceived risk of its adoption.
- Honesty, authenticity and empathy are core to long term success. Anyone can get a quick hack success. In the long run, that never pays off.
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