The Case for Platypodes

Python might not be the best language for everything, but it’s almost certainly the second-best language for anything. - Peter Wang, PyData SV 20141

Ornithorhynchus anatinus, better known as the platypus, has a strong claim to the title of oddest bit of charismatic megafauna on the planet. House-cat sized, looking rather like a beaver with a duckbill grafted on, they also have the distinction of being an egg-laying mammal with venomous claws. Odd ducks2 though they are, they are a successful species with major style points.

Platypodes3 also exist in the business world. They are those people with odd backgrounds, either professionally or educationally (or both), that don’t fit neatly into any particular categorization. In particular, platypodes have a STEM background (though are not necessarily CS majors) but major experience in non-engineering roles.4 Looked at positively, platypodes can contribute in a variety of roles, often crossing the boundaries between sales, marketing, engineering, design, and/or Management. In a culture of lean startups and lean enterprises that emphasize cross-functional teams they are cross-functional individuals. They’re perfect for starting new departments or doing things that just don’t fit elsewhere.

Platypodes, though, are rarely recognized for these positives. Instead, the typical hiring process will weed them out: they went to school too long; they aren’t focused enough; they aren’t enough of a specialist in anything; they have one of those graduate degrees incompatible with startup-life; they’re going to move onto something else in ...

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Isomorphic Experience & Moneyball


If you hang out with the cool software engineering kids, you’ll probably hear about isomorphisms. While this term has a formal mathematical definition, for most purposes it’s just a big word with a simple meaning. Specifically, that two different things are functionally identical for some purpose. Pizza and ice cream are very different, but are isomorphic with regard to wrecking a diet.

This piece is about isomorphic experience in tech; that is, work experience that appears unrelated to what a company is looking for when hiring for a role but is really the same as the listed requirement. I focus on my experience in law (specifically patent litigation) and management consulting in this piece, but the general idea applies to candidates with backgrounds in medicine, the sciences, and other areas.

You may be asking at this point why, other than academic curiosity, you should care. Well, if you hire, being aware of isomorphic experience allows you to expand the pool of possible candidates, and capture talent your competitors may have overlooked. Exploiting labor market inefficiencies was one of the main lessons from Michael Lewis’s classic Moneyball - here we are just applying it, well, for lack of a better word, isomorphically - to the tech industry.

Two Case Studies


The beginning of my career was spent almost exclusively as a patent litigator. That means once a dispute led to a lawsuit over patents, I was on the team arguing our client’s side. (The majority of the ...

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