Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz’s book, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things“, takes you from his start with Marc Andreessen in the 90s to the present day with his successful VC firm.

My main takeaway was: being a CEO is really, really hard.  It’s easy to share successes, and Ben has plenty.  But he chose to share the much more valuable stories of his inner turmoil and struggles.  I don’t know if the lessons he shared are something you can necessarily avoid yourself.  It’s entirely possible that they’re the kind of thing you can only learn from hard experience.  But I’m still grateful he shared them.

I had a different view of the Opsware / HP story than the typical reader.  As a software engineer at HP, I joined the Opsware team after the acquisition.  I worked extensively on the code base in different project areas, from the back end server management, to the front end and even on the client code deployed to each server.  I was impressed with both the architecture and the architects.  The developers and managers I was fortunate enough to work with were competent and helpful.

I believe the quality of a company is directly tied to the quality of the employees.  In the book, Ben explains his method of hiring great people.  After seeing the results firsthand, his methods worked quite well.

Shortly before he left HP, he called a meeting of maybe 20 random people out of the thousands he managed.  I was fortunate enough to be one of the attendees.  What impressed me the most about Ben was his authenticity.  I can tell when people are being genuine, and Ben was 100% authentic.  This is a rarity, especially in the corporate world, and it made him stand out.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, I highly recommend it.

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