Growth engineers: are they overrated?

When, What, Why

Growth Engineers seem like the new gold. Are they?

To be honest, I have no idea, but the truth is everyone’s looking for one or thinking of hiring one.

We were one of the first companies to build a technical team fully dedicated to Growth at Qonto, and we often get questions about this role. 

Here is a very condensed (we’re all busy!) recap of the most frequently asked questions, and our personal take on it.

BONUS:  we even have a present for those of you who read till the end of the article...

1/ When should you hire your first Growth Engineer? 

After product-market fit (PMF) for sure. A Growth engineer (GE) will help you amplify a trend you already have, by implementing better tools/processes. They help you scale, not ‘hack growth’. 

If you can’t find PMF, you’ll be better off iterating on your product (with your current tech team) and do things that don’t scale: gather user feedbacks, manually ask for referrals from current clients, etc. And you don’t need a GE yet. 

Another way to look at it, is to feel the pain first: are you spending 2-3 h per day managing excel spreadsheets, exporting .csv, uploading .csv in different tools, copy/pasting? If you could clone yourself, are you sure you’d at least double the business impact? If yes, wait no more to hire a GE. 

2/ What skills should I look for in a Growth Engineer? 

Anh-Tho: About hard skills: you really need someone your Technical team will respect, look up to. So this person should be an experienced engineer. Not someone they will see as ‘the Marketing person who name-drops a few technical concepts. This, unfortunately, excludes junior engineers, or people who are just out of a web development Bootcamp. You can hire more junior people afterward, but not for your first hire. 

You also want someone who’s super strong on project management. Growth engineering requires a lot of coordination, between tech, product, growth, marketing, and data. 

Regarding soft skills, you need someone who is really adaptable and can speak to various teams within the organization. An engineer who is a software development genius but does not have the patience to understand and humility to serve the other teams’ needs would not be a good fit. 

A GE should be someone your CTO and CMO both love working with, he’s the bridge between these two worlds. 

3/ Why hire a Growth Engineer?

The typical first projects of a GE are: 

  • Making data accessible to Growth and Marketing teams: cleaning tracking, implementing internal tools and processes so that teams have accurate data to measure performance

  • Owning the marketing website: defining a roadmap of optimizations/tests: implement an SEO blog, review the pricing page

  • One or max. 2 ad hoc projects: implementing a referral process, lead scoring, for instance. 

Keep in mind that a GE will only help implement and maintain systems (tools+processes), she won’t be a substitute for it. She might implement a tracking plan, but if other teams don’t follow its guidelines, data will be unusable. She might be the website owner, but you’ll still need a Content Management System. 

New Growth Engineering teams sometimes focus on post-signup projects. I see why it’s tempting, but I’d always start with pre-signup initiatives, because: 

  • Unlike post-signup product development cycles, pre-signup projects can be implemented faster and yield significant impact and results. To capture this extra-revenue asap.

  • GE is still a new function, so it’s best to incubate it within a limited number of stakeholders: mainly marketing/sales, rather than marketing/sales + Product + the whole tech team. 

A natural reaction is to expect the GE to be a messiah and fix everything considered ‘technical’.

⚠️ Make sure there’s someone to protect her workload, prioritize her roadmap, overcommunicate her achievements and set realistic expectations within the organization. 

☀️ Bonus ☀️ : a case study we used to evaluate GE candidates.
Let us know if you use it, we’d be happy to review candidates’ answers with you, if it helps (we’ve reviewed tons of applications).


Want to go further?

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Credits: Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash