I was asked recently, “what does someone who works in early stage technology do?” 

After thinking about it for a moment, I said I thought it sits somewhere between an artist and a scientist.

If you look at different aspects of building a technology company you can see a clear division in activities that take on more of an artistic approach, and some that take on more of a scientific approach.

Look at a design department, its obviously an art in terms of the artwork and colors that make up a companies website, marketing material and product interface design. But also consider that User Experience (UI/UX) design has also brought a scientific approach in many companies. Surveys and other methods to quantify user feedback to influence design is now a staple in the majority of technology companies. Thats more science than art.

Take sales, again its very much an art in terms of the process of talking to and working with prospects and existing customers. Being on the phone, making presentations, speaking at events, all things that take some training in the fine art of acting, speaking and delivery.

Still, we also see that sales equally has a large science to it. Managing leads and understanding conversion rates for prospects is a key quantitative component to job. Most good salesmen would remind you, “its a numbers game”.  So here we are again, part art, and part science.

Marketing is maybe the best example of all. Its a team that’s focused on advertising metrics, lead conversion, and ultimately lead generation for the sales team. And at the same time, creating the design and brand behind the product.

Now surely finance as a department clearly falls on the science side? Well, even finance in early stage companies has an element of art to it. Building the financial projections that articulate the companies potential while helping navigate the fundraising presentations and pitch decks for CEO’s falls on the artistic side. We haven’t even touched human resources, or executive functions.

My point is that you see a beautiful mixture of both world in early and growth stage technology companies. Teams focused on amazing design, branding and messaging that truly take on art form to accomplish it.  At the same time, teams that are running powerful experiments with detailed analysis and engineering amazing technology. Many times building something that has never been done before.

If you work in a technology company, the next time you are talking to a team member or working on a project, it may be good to ask yourself, “is this person an artist or scientist?”

They are two very different personalities, and it will take a very different approach to get the most out of your interaction. Scientists will want to hear about data and evidence behind a decision, while an artist will want to discuss the strategy or ‘big idea’ for the move. Scientists may be a bit more quiet while artists may be more boisterous, so talking loudly and making jokes may not get you anywhere with the scientist, but could be perfect for the artist.

If you are starting an early stage technology company, you may want to ask “Do my co-founder and I together bring both types of talent?”

In a startup you need both talents of an artist and scientist. Bonus points if one or both founders can switch hats quickly. Can he/she discuss product design or sales, and then switch to discuss finances and marketing metrics? The best do, so something to keep in mind.

Which are you? The artist or the scientist?