So Who Or What Is A “Hacker” And Why Do I Want One?

Welcome to the third part in our series – let’s deconstruct the Hacker.

To recap, Rei Inamoto, the Chief Creative Officer at design agency AKQA, who work with the likes of Nike and the BBC, once wisely commented “”To run an efficient team, you only need three people: a Hipster, a Hacker, and a Hustler.”

Forbes contributor Andy Ellwood ran with it and described the traits of each team member. You can read about the Hipster and the Hustler here and here but in this article, we want to take a closer look at the Hacker.

Here’s what Ellwood has to say:

“The Hacker: The one most likely to sit quietly through a board meeting until uttering the three sentences that answers the all-important question of “how?” the new idea or initiative can be brought into reality. Resembling MacGyver with their ability to wield various lines of code or programing languages, you’ll get dizzy trying to keep up with their keystrokes.”

Which kind of sums it up, but lets’ try to delve a little deeper.

Of the three, the Hacker is the builder. Down the ages, the Hacker would have designed the Sistine chapel, the Hipster would have painted the ceiling, and the Hustler would have found the money to fund the project and get the damn thing built!

But in modern parlance the term Hacker has taken on a new significance within the tech startup ecosystem.

The Hacker is the girl or guy who knows how to code. And by this we mean, really knows how to code, which is different from knowing that there’s a coding language called Django, or Python, or PHP, or SQL, even, or HTML, or JavaScript, or Swift, or…well, you get the picture.

The Hacker can actually do something with these languages – they can build a disruptive platform, or develop a WordPress site, or build a site from scratch, or develop a machine learning algorithm, or introduce AI or a chatbot to a site.

In short, if you are tech startup, you won’t get very far without a Hacker for a teammate. Sure, you could outsource, but if you do that you run the risk of your site looking generic, featureless and lacking personality.

Sooner or later, and it may as well be sooner, you’re going to want to on-board a Hacker.

The trouble is they can be hard to find. In the early days of our HHH speed pitching and co-founder dating nights, Head Honcho Rob would make the “devs” (developers, another term for Hacker) stand up and wave so everybody knew who they were – usually, they were surrounded in minutes.

In terms of personality, Hackers are smart, polite, usually with a dead pan sense of humour. They are unlikely to be desperate for work – far more likely to be in high demand. The most important and best way to build a relationship with a hacker is by doing something that interests them. Hackers aren’t in it for the money, and are often looking for charitable work, or something disruptive that will see them take on the big players and win.

Hackers love a challenge and generally work well under pressure – hey, its startups, they have to!

Treat your Hacker right and you can enjoy a long and fruitful relationship. Try to pull the wool over their eyes and well, see what happens.

Finally, Hackers and “growth hackers” are 2 different things – a growth hacker is more like a cross between a Hipster and Hustler – they make things happen – by being creative.

Finally finally, don’t believe all that old stuff about Hackers never washing and smelling of Cheetos and bong water – and what’s wrong with being socially awkward anyway ; )

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