It's an irrefutable fact that engineers are a different sort. Often introverted, always good at math and adept at building and fixing things, these people have a unique way of looking at the world. Such qualities--and others--make them especially qualified to lead companies to greatness. That's according to admittedly-biased Larry Gadea, founder and CEO of Envoy, an iPad-based visitor registration system used by more than 2,000 companies worldwide, including Airbnb, Box and Lyft. An engineer himself--having coded at both Google and Twitter--here's Gadea's take on why engineers make superb CEOs.
1. Engineers understand that details matter.
The engineers who put the Curiosity rover on Mars, for example, know the tiniest glitch or mistake could mean ultimate failure and the instantaneous loss of billions of dollars. Similarly, engineer CEOs not only demand perfect coding and design, they're thinking about end-user behavior and how it might affect quality and satisfaction.
"We pay attention to every detail, and people care about details these days," he says. "There's so much competition so you have to get the smallest things right."
2. Engineers are better at recruiting top talent.
Much of the practice of engineering involves doing work that others will understand and respect. In Gadea's case it meant leveraging his reputation for creating things at Google and Twitter to attract people who like the idea of someone at the helm who actually "gets" what they do every day.
"I can have very thoughtful conversations with our engineers this way," he says. "It's a little bit of an unfair advantage because that's the kind of stuff you need in a startup--you need to differentiate yourself. Having been in engineering is super powerful for that."
3. Engineers can't shift blame onto someone else.
"Fake it until you make it" doesn't work in engineering because the quality of an engineer's work equates with his or her reputation. Everything they do leaves a digital trail so there's no getting around the fact that if something goes wrong, it's a particular coder's fault.
"With engineering it's very easy to see that this person is who they say who they are, and that's a really powerful thing," he says.
4. Engineers always want to do it better, faster and cheaper.
Whether it's learning the latest programming language or testing out the latest gadget, engineers are obsessed with technology that improves on the way things are currently done.
"Efficiency gains really excite engineers and they always look for massive optimization, not just a smaller amount," he says. "So it's a good trait that really lends itself well to business."
5. Engineers tend to be tenacious.
They're constantly being told something won't work, the market is too small, or an idea has been tried before. To succeed within this environment of constant criticism, engineers by nature must be stubborn and perversely enjoy solving impossible problems. Similarly, getting a company off the ground and making traction takes an incredible amount of perseverance.
"You have to be able to put up with a lot of bad news and with engineers--especially software engineers--problems always happen and you just get comfortable with the fact that there's going to be 50 people telling you you're doing things badly. So it makes it fun."