You Wouldn’t Use a Screwdriver to Hammer in a Nail

But you CAN use engineers to build and scale your business (and build the technology behind it)

News of tech sector surges are nothing new. There may be occasional setbacks, but rebounds ALWAYS follow. Look at the strong tailwind created by the Covid-19 economic recovery and change in government leadership in the United States. Technology companies are reaping the benefits–NASDAQ-100 was at a low point (6,994) in March 2020 and has more than doubled to 15,000 in August 2021.

Investing in technology is always a smart decision. Why? Because technology has proven time and again, to solve problems and improve how we do things.

Plus, we can’t discount the seemingly unfettered confidence and optimism among the innovators that their technology will become the new gold standard. And that determination is partly what attracts a lot of investors and in turn helps fuel their successes.

What’s behind the drive to innovate?

We can speculate all day, but I’ll share a little secret with you.

It’s the engineers.

OK…they may not be the entire reason the tech sector thrives, but they’re definitely a key ingredient.
They play an essential role in creating the technology that is the source of the initial corporate value. Engineers are also often the entrepreneurs or work in top management themselves. Understanding the mindset and habits of these key team members is critical to tapping into their genius (Yes, genius … no bias here) and using it to fuel continual innovation and growth.

Consider when:
● Times are tough – a recent global pandemic and using technology to enable social distancing and improve safety on the job site Triax
● Or when there’s a new way to solve an existing problem – leveraging robotics to improve safety and productivity in material handling Otto Motors
● And to capitalize on a new opportunity – improving the environmental impact of cities through micro-mobility solutions Dott

The engineers are often the brains behind the solution.

To understand where this innovation comes from, let’s dive inside the mind of an engineer for a minute.

Full disclosure: I’m an engineer. In case that wasn’t already obvious. Don’t be afraid…I promise we don’t bite!

But let’s first acknowledge the abundance of engineer jokes we could easily make. I’ve heard them all. I admit some are funny (OK…a lot are funny) and some even illuminate some truths about us.

For example:
● Engineers are excited to discover, understand, and use technology, but are less inclined to work in the financial and commercial areas.
● Engineers are good at math. (Duh.) That capability could be applicable not only to technology development, but also to building financial models.
● Engineers often stick to the details. This is where their ability to concentrate shines.
● Engineers are good at building logic. (Go ahead, snicker. I can’t hear you). This skill set translates nicely into building business schemes and business models.
● Engineers are happy to solve problems. However, ‘how to solve’ is just as important for them, and may, at times, lack consideration of ‘the economic impact of the solution.’ If they can connect the logic up to this point, they would be able to explore a value proposition.
● Engineers feel comfortable with things they can prove, understand, explain, and predict. Also, they think realistically and fairly. Therefore, they are a little conservative. (Yes, I said a little and I stand by it.) It takes energy and courage to move into uncharted territory.
● Engineers are looking for someone who understands them and their ideas. They’re people too! They talk enthusiastically with such people, but they can feel uncomfortable talking with those who do not speak “engineer-ese”. You won’t often find an engineer in roles that rely heavily on communication, like sales. (Speaking of which, have you heard the one about the salesperson who…never mind.)

It’s time we embrace engineers! We have so much to give.

Engineers have the capacity and desire to contribute well beyond the parameters of engineering and what is typically asked of them.

Pressure, temperature, density, humidity, rotation speed, vibration, etc. These are parameters that engineers are familiar with. But why not leverage the engineering mindset when it comes to capital, value propositions, financial impact, financial models, business models, communication, etc.?

I propose that successful tech companies are already recognizing the potential and tapping into the contributions engineers can make to these parts of the business as well.

There were clues in those habits I listed. Did you see them? These are my tips for tech company leaders who want to get the most of their engineering resources:
● The strong math skills of engineers can be applied to the financial side of the business. They would be able to jump in without any allergic reaction.
● The engineer’s logic construction ability can be used for connecting technology, value, and reward, which is exploring value propositions and building business models.
● Engineers should be encouraged to communicate with team members with different skill sets and experience. They frequently enjoy it, though it helps if these people have first sat through the “communicating with an engineer in 3 easy steps” seminar. Seriously, mutual understanding is key.

Rethink the boundaries of engineering

Technology is just the front end of the value chain. It’s possible to draw a path to the back end of the value chain by expanding the boundaries of engineering and defining opportunities for further collaboration, a powerful tool for tech companies to solidify and even grow their value in uncertain economic times.

Embrace engineering, expand the boundaries of the engineering team, and just watch what comes next. World domination, yes please!

About the Author: Akira Tanabe is a member of the McRock investment team, an engineer at heart and in practice. Akira has extensive mechanical and process engineering experience with a specialty in industrial digital solutions. If you are an Industrial IoT/AI startup and would like to partner with us to build the next-generation intelligent solutions for the physical world, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit us at and follow on Twitter @McRockCapital