Full Stack Marketer vs Growth Hacker

Full Stack Marketer vs Growth Hacker

Having recently started to get the feel of the job-seeker world, over the last few weeks I have met a couple of startup owners, headhunters and marketing directors with whom I was discussing what is growth hacking and how does it fit in the marketing function of their companies. The details of such role varied a lot, proving that one of the two things is happening (and possibly both) – “Growth Hacking” had became a trendy word to use (and employee to hire) or, in some cases, it’s still new enough to lack a widely known definition. Actually, what I saw was that quite often the people with whom I was talking to, wanted to hire a full stack marketer with an analytical mindset rather than a growth hacker. In this short post I will line out the basic differences between those two.

Growth Hacker

A Growth Hacker is someone interested primarily in growing your business. Be it getting more paying users, visitors on the site or conversions, such a person will focus on providing a scalable growth, based on a data that can be analysed, most often experimenting to find new marketing channels and creative, cost effective ways to grow your user-base.

Full Stack Marketer

A Full Stack Marketer is usually the early marketing hire of a startup or a small-medium company. Such a person is fluent in multiple marketing techniques; from defining the value proposition and segmentation to social media, email marketing, content production and lead generation. Most of the times smaller companies don’t have resources to hire a separate person for those big chunks of marketing and here is where someone fluent in a wide variety of them comes in handy.


“Well, my startup needs both” you might find yourself thinking and you will be totally right. After all, you have your targets set with your series A investors and, on the other hand, need to have the more traditional marketing (like newsletter) go along your rapid, creative growth strategy. This is what most often people mean when they talk about growth hacking – a combination of both. Interestingly enough, it’s end up being called “Growth Hacking” indicating that this is kind of a shorthand for the combination of both terms. This will of course be different in different regions and clusters but those are my limited experiences here in London.


So how does it look for you? Do you need a Full Stack Marketer? A Growth Hacker? Both? Hope this post helps you make your requirements clearer.

Do you need an engineering background to be a successful Growth Hacker?

Screens with program web code / monitor background

The questions that I’ve heard a dozen times;

“Do you need to be an engineer in order to be a successful growth hacker?”
“Can only a developer be a growth hacker?”
“Do you need to code to do growth hacking?”

Even though it has been covered a number of times, a lot of aspiring growth hackers ask it themselves, as did I in early October 2013. So what’s the answer? Do you need to code/be an engineer?

In the widely used Airbnb case study, it has been said that someone without an engineering background wouldn’t be able to come up with the solution that they used. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about; in short – Airbnb integrated their postings with Craigslist. Using the option to post straight to Craigslist opened them for a huge market of people who were naturally looking for accommodation. This growthhack skyrocketed their growth. It’s simple, clean, effective and didn’t need to use Craigslist API. Also, it has been said that someone without an engineering degree wouldn’t be able to come up with this and execute it. You can read about it in Ryan Holiday’s Growth Hacker Marketing or in this blog post by Andrew Chen.

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is; What is growth hacking? Is it integrating your product with different platforms? Is it developing the product in a way that will embed virality in its core? Interestingly enough, the answer to both is yes. Well, partially at least. Both of the above are tactics and skills in the arsenal of a growth hacker.  Quoting Seal Ellis

A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.  Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.

Here it is – Growth Hacker’s true north is growth. His sole job in a company is to drive growth to the business using very little resources. It can be achieved by the mentioned above – integrating with different platforms, taking part in the building of the product, etc. On the other hand it can also be achieved by being the first one to a new marketing channel, seeing an opportunity that no one else has seen or being able to analyze your data to simply see what’s working and what’s not. In other words, if you can grow a company’s audience using as little resources as possible, if you can track your growth and clearly show where did it came from, if you can learn from your experiments and iterate fast, you following a growth hacker’s path. This being said, there is a difference between a growth hacker and a growth rookie (which it is perfectly fine to be), but that is a subject for a whole different discussion.

So there you go. Answer to the question

Do you need the engineering degree to be a growth hacker?

Having such a background definitely helps and gives a ton of benefits to a growth hacker’s skill portfolio but it is not a necessity. You can be successful without it if you still can work on the PMF, virality, split tests, analysis, etc. Don’t believe me? Just look up Sean Ellis’s and Noah Kagan’s education background to find the answer yourself. To finish it all up, just remember that if you have the time, you should learn how to code, as it will give you a lot of benefits, even in terms of logic of how you approach a problem. Nowadays there is a ton of free resources to master those skills so posts such as mine shouldn’t be an excuse. A growth hacker can be successful without those skills but they sure do help a lot!