Successful Companies and Creating New Job Categories
I was reading a piece about how the rise of dbt has essentially led to the creation of a new “role” at many technology companies called the analytics engineer.
This got me thinking that many successful companies end up creating a new role or job function in society, which is what I’ll be discussing today.
Generally, I think the roles/job creation takes two forms:
A role created directly by people “working” on that platform
A role created indirectly by people helping others “work with” that platform
Let’s get into it!
Direct Role Creation
In the case of some companies, such as many marketplaces, the very nature of the platform involves having one side perform some kind of service.
In a lot of cases, people on these platforms start providing the service as a side hustle or in their spare time to earn spare income. But as the platform grows, many of them become more “professional” and start working close to full-time, with it becoming a key or even primary source of income.
In this way, these platforms can directly create several jobs. One caveat is that typically the job/role that is created isn’t completely a new job category, but it may be viewed by many as essentially a new type of job since it usually leads to a large expansion in that job category and also may look quite different from the “original job”.
The growth of Doordash (and other similar apps) led to the rise of Dashers. While food delivery jobs for restaurants did exist prior, Doordash greatly expanded that labor market. Currently, Doordash has over 1 million Dashers.
The growth of Instacart led to the rise of Shoppers. Sure, some people might have employed private chefs or help in the house who might have done this job in part, but Instacart expanded that labor market and has over 500,000 shoppers.
Uber and Lyft and drivers is a similar story, with in this case there being a much larger initial role (Taxi/Limo drivers). Even then, Uber and Lyft have 4-5M and 2M drivers each and grew that pool.
The rise of Airbnb has also now led to many more professional “Hosts”, who own several properties full-time and host them on Airbnb. While this job was also possible before Airbnb, it was the growth of Airbnb that brought a lot more people into this role.
So while many of those roles are “rebrands” of potentially previously existing jobs, in most cases, they dramatically grow the size of that job category and make it accessible in a way that wasn’t previously.
Indirect Role Creation
The indirect role creation is one that I think is even more interesting and often does result in almost a new type of role or job category.
Generally, companies indirectly create a new role if the company becomes popular enough that people need experts in that company’s product to make the most out of it.
In some sense, understanding or being able to work with that company’s product becomes a skill in itself.
The jobs that are created are essentially that of people who know the company’s product well (in some shape or form) helping others make the most of it.
Let’s go through some examples.
The rise of Google led to the creation of an industry around Search Engine Optimization i.e., helping companies rank high in Google for the keywords they care about so that they can receive free traffic. The industry is a $40B industry, so I would guess there are at least 200,000 “SEO specialists” in the world if not more.
The rise of Facebook and Twitter meant that companies wanted to maintain a presence on social media and use that to reach their customers and prospective customers. In came the “Social Media Manager” job, which has over time now expanded to also include Instagram and TikTok. There are ~30,000 social media managers in the US today, and likely at least double that globally.
Dwindling in prominence now, the “Database Administrator” role was synonymous with Oracle and IBM, with them also offering the most popular certifications that employers often required.
Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems and app stores essentially created the iOS Developer and Android Developer roles of which there are over 8 million in the world. Some might argue that mobile development existed before them (Blackberry), so this is more of a “new language” for a developer than a new job category or role. However, the scale is much bigger than ever before.
The rise of Shopify and Automattic’s WordPress has led to the creation of a category of Theme Developers and WordPress Developers / Plugin Developers.
Salesforce became so pervasive and prominent and is difficult enough to implement and make the most out of correctly, that there are over 5,000 open roles on Indeed.com for Salesforce Implementation Specialists and Consultants.
The below chart shows the top most in-demand skills on Upwork right now. 7 of the 32 of them (highlighted) are essential for a specific job role that was created by a company.
These new “job roles” don’t have to be restricted to very large companies. Many startups operating today for example have organically seen a set of consultants or experts pop up around their product. For example, there are Webflow Developers, Airtable Experts, and Notion Consultants who help businesses get the most out of that product and get set up properly.
Companies should lean into this ecosystem as it pops up and make it easier for the businesses interested in finding such people, which they can do in a few ways:
1/ Directory of “Experts”: A relatively simple way initially is to have a directory on their website which lists a curated set of these people. Some good examples of this are Airtable, Webflow, Shopify, and Hubspot
2/ Certifications & Training: The next step for companies could be for offering “courses” and educational material so that more people can become qualified in that role or skill. Many companies also launch an official certification requirement in which they certify that somebody is an expert in their product. Examples of companies that have done this well include Salesforce, Webflow, and Amazon. As part of this step, any expert directory that might exist would then only highlight certified professionals, so that customers know they’re getting a true expert.