My friend Charles Hudson has a great post up about why young people aren’t going into enterprise software as much.
Web 2.0 mania celebrates consumer facing web apps. Not surprisingly, then, I have met few young entrepreneurs who want to work at or (as I did) start an enterprise software company. Enterprise software? How boring.
But like Charles, I think there are a number of good reasons for a young person interested in business and technology to work at an enterprise software company. He says:
Enterprise software companies are a great place to learn how sales, product development, and marketing all work together. …[E]nterprise software offers a much better place to learn the business of software (or just business in general, for that matter) than most web 2.0 customers. In enterprise software, you learn a lot – you can learn a lot about how the direct and channel sales processes works (which is largely absent in most web 2.0 companies), how to manage a longer-run product development process that involves direct interaction with existing and prospective customers, and how more traditional marketing (product and corporate) can help drive effectiveness in software. The interplay of development, sales, and marketing in an enterprise software company can teach a young person quite a bit about how business works and how these three forces need to balance each other.
Bingo. I would add that one of the most valuable things I learned selling into small and mid-size organizations is the importance of psychological and financial buy-in. It ain’t easy to convince multiple people in an organization — each defending his or her own fiefdom — to sign on to your product. The politics can be overwhelming. But the skills you pick up in the process are invaluable and transferable to other aspects of business.