Warrior vs. Soldier vs. Police

A “marketer” in a year-old, ten-person tech startup will vastly differ from a “marketer” in a fifty-year-old, five-thousand-person Fortune 500 conglomerate. Even other teams may have different expectations for the same role. The organization’s size, scope, and maturity dramatically influence jobs with the same title. Knowing the position you’re in (or interviewing for) can set appropriate expectations for yourself. A simple way to think about these role types is through a curmudgeonly old military metaphor: Warriors, Soldiers, and Police.

  • Warrior roles are highly unstructured, so you’ll have to create stuff from scratch, usually quickly and with minimal resources. You’ll wear many hats. Success metrics might vary daily—so get used to shifting goalposts.
  • Soldier roles are about standardizing and scaling. You won’t have to start from scratch, but the process, project, or product you inherit might be sub-scale and messy. Your task is to establish a structure to make it resilient to growing business demands.
  • Police roles are highly structured and exist within established organizations. Your job is to maintain the system, define governance, cut costs, enforce policies, drive out inefficiency, and keep the trains running on time.

Most people prefer one of these types—depending on their natural disposition or season of life. A recent college grad might crave a chaotic warrior role because they have the time and energy to devote to it. Or they might prefer a more structured police role to learn the ropes. This same person might desire a soldier role in the future because they can leverage their experience to create scalable processes while avoiding the uncertainty of warrior positions as they build a family.