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RodinStar / Startup

What is it like to be the only non-tech hire in a technology startup?



Awarded the 

“RodinStar” Post  

of the week!!


My previous employer and a good friend Utkarsh offered me a job in his new startup over a casual coffee meeting. I was overwhelmed and spooked at the same time. Overwhelmed with joy because he is the best employer that I have ever come across but spooked as I knew his startup is a core technology company. What role will a non-tech guy play in such a company? Thanks to the belief and support that the team had in me, I have survived (yes!) a month as ‘Growth Strategist’ of Augment.


1. Most of the discussion seems like rocket science

Source: Brainstuck

With buzzwords like Nginx, celery, rabbitmq, supervisor flying around; I realised that in our team I was Penny from The Big Bang Theory. I am not savvy in a specific technical field but very much part of the group.

2. The geek references


Ok, I am going to say this one out loud. I do not like Harry Potter! Neither Star Wars nor any other superhero movie. Sorry, but it is just not my thing. I often miss out on the jokes which have even a slight reference to any of those.

3. Lacking sense of accomplishment

The job of a growth hacker involves a lot of research. I end up reading a ton of blog articles related to our product and that of our competitors. Unfortunately, all of this is not a task or a subtask that I can strike off. Imagine the sense of accomplishment that one gets as a developer after “committing the code.”


1. You get to learn a lot

A librarian would end up learning something about every book he has in the library. I believe that the scope of learning that a startup offers is huge. Which means that I get to acquire skills that I would never have thought were essential for me.

2. Freedom to experiment

Being the only non-tech guy I have the freedom to come up with crazy ideas and also, execute them. Experiments might not always turn out to be positive but it is OK to mess up sometimes. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and you can only arrive at the best fit by experimenting over and over again.

3. The first user

The first user of the product is me. I get to contribute to the development of the product from a user’s perspective. It is easy for developers (including the founders) to get stuck in the bubble of awesomeness of their own product. Well, I get to burst the bubble and for good 

Amidst all the hits and misses I have taken upon myself a few responsibilities that I think are crucial for any growth hacker.


1. Superuser of the product

Being an integral part of the team I know the ideology behind a particular feature or the product as a whole. In the course of customer development, I learn the problems that the users face. Accruing these two perspectives gives me an edge and an eagle eye view of the product. This edge helps me in feature hacking the product and also in addressing the user in a way he/she would understand.

2. Read, Research, Repeat

Read a lot! Everything which is even remotely related to our industry or space is part of the research. I try to keep myself abreast of the competitors, their updates and everything else in between.

3. Be present

I try to be present everywhere possible, whether it is virtual spaces like Quora and Hacker News or the local startup events. Actively be a part of the online/offline communities, you never know where you will find your next user!

4. Be the cool guy of the team

Yeah! That’s me! 

Tweet your comments and thoughts on this at @ahmedzain66


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  1. ahmed – i so love this post!!!! (even though i’m a star wars and superman and some other superheros fan!!)

    i can so relate to having to read a lot to keep oneself informed!!

    just one small thing – pls add your twitter handle at the end so i can make a lot of noise while promoting this post!

  2. Hi Asha,

    Glad you liked it. I have added my twitter handle. Thanks!

  3. ahmed, 

    i just couldn’t resist – i’ve messed up the top of your post!


  4. This is also the reason why great MNC’s are full of diverse communities and people and thats bring out the best of creativity and really cutting edge thinking…

    great article

  5. hey ahmed,

    your images seem to be broken on the post. pls fix?

    many thanks!

    ps: long time no word – did you get a good response to clusto at npc? (you were there, naa?)

  6. Totally relatable article Ahmed! I could actually use some of your tips in my job which is kinda similar to yours. I don’t have to sulk anymore about the fact that I’m Penny in my organization. Thanks 🙂

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