The product engineer spends their hours writing software, but spends their attention designing the product.
Ownership over the product drives the product engineer. They're a force of nature. They're the hidden variable of power teams and nobody's paying attention.
Investors and founders are the entities of the startup ecosystem. Despite how strong an effect they have on the outcome — early employees haven't entered the lingo as first class citizens.
Product engineers aren't a compromise of two different skills — one skill arises from the other. Song designers are musicians first. Book designers are writers first.
You've probably interviewed a product engineer recently. They'll come in highly recommended. You'll be excited to meet them — they're brilliant, thoughtful, ambitious.
And the technical interview falls flat. The product engineer isn't intrisincally interested in software — programming is merely the tool for maximal leverage on the world.
The product engineer wants to show you they can see opportunities in your business and build them, there, in front of you.
To people who know how much an effect they can have, the stumbles of the technical interview is surprising. You're desperate for talent, but you're passing on course-altering hires.
I have an offer: hone your process on me. I'll be your test case. I'll apply through your job site and play along to your process. I want to understand it.
This is TDD and I'm the test case you want to turn green.
— David, email@example.com