A few years ago I was tasked with helping to recruit interns for The New York Times iOS team1. I traveled around to top-tier engineering programs at universities all over the northeast talking about the Times’s engineering culture and to students about what they wanted to be when they grew up.
One of these interviews stuck with me. I asked a junior what he saw himself doing in five years, and I’ll never forget what he said.
“I want to be the idea guy at a startup”.
I wish I could have stopped the interview right then and there. I wanted to tell this guy that there is no Santa Claus, that the Easter Bunny isn’t the one hiding the eggs, and that no such role exists or ever will.
Ideas are everywhere. They’re a multiplier. They’re not a thing you make, and they have have no intrinsic value. We certainly don’t need a whole person for them at a company that’s just starting out.
Some nights I wonder where that guy is. I’m scared to look through my notes and check up on him, but I sincerely hope that he’s found some way to bring his ideas into the world — something to do or to make.
I wish we hadn’t separated those two concepts in English. ‘Faciō’, one of my favorite Latin verbs, encapsulates both concepts in a beautiful way. Anyway, back to doing. The ideas will come.