I was talking recently over email with a hiring manager. Jamie (not his real name) wanted to hire me, but was set against consulting. While that by itself is understandable, he seemed to equate it with devotion. This troubled me. Here’s the quote below.
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While I am sure your skills are excellent, I guess what I am trying to gauge is your desire to quit consulting and join us full time. I am looking for you to share my vision of changing publishing through data. Let me be clear: I am not looking for a contractor. Acme is a fabulous company and I need a person devoted to Acme and to our data assets.
1. Devotion on vacation
Here’s my response. All names have been changed.
I understand Jamie.
I hear you about devotion, I think it’s very important too. In 2010, I was working at MGC. After 3 months, they hired a large remote DBA firm out of Canada, to manage the database systems & my contract concluded.
A few weeks later and a few hours before a plane flight, I got a harried call. Can you help us? Database replication is broken & our site is offline. I jumped on skype to chat with the team, even as I was packing my bags. I went to the airport, and got on WIFI again. In-flight on my way to California I remained online to help repair the systems & bring everything back. It took a few more days and half of my vacation to get things working again, but I wanted to help.
My boss at MGC kept me on for 1 ½ year after that. He felt I was devoted & gave them the very best service.
If you change your mind, or would like to discuss further, don’t hesitate to reach out.
2. Devotion to a manager
I had another experience years back with company Media Inc. Working under a very good CTO, I was surrounded by a team who was also very loyal to him. After about a year, he decided to leave. He had gotten a very enticing offer from another firm. Although he made a great effort to leave the ship in good condition, the crew felt the ship rocking a bit. A temporary CTO was brought on who had a very different style.
As the ship continued to rock at sea, finally a new CTO was found. He however was not popular at all. He had a swagger & tended to throw his weight around, irritating the team, and making them fear they might be thrown from the ship. Slowly they began to leave. After three months, six out of eight on the team had left. There was one old-school Oracle guy still left, and me.
Although he certainly had a different style than the previous boss, it didn’t bother me much. I told him I’d stay as long as he needed me. I was also working remote so I didn’t deal with some of the day-to-day politics.
My devotion was to the business, databases & systems. I accomplished this by being devoted to my own business.
Related: Why I ask customers for a deposit?
3. Devotion to vesting
I worked at another firm about three years ago. Let’s call them Growing Fast Inc. While the firm itself was gaining ground & getting customers like Nike & Wallmart, it still had an engineering team of only ten. You could say it was boxing way above it’s weight.
While it tried to grow, it hired an outside CTO to help. His style was primarily management facing, while the teams problems were based in technology. With tons of technical debt & a lack of real leadership, the engineering team was floundering. Lots of infighting was making things worse.
Suddenly a key team member decided to quit. The following week another, and after that two more. All told four left. When you consider how small the team was, and further that the remaining members were basically founders a different picture emerges. Four out of six (non-founders) had left in two weeks, roughly 66% of the engineering team. The only other guy who stayed had his visa sponsored by Growing Fast Inc.
The founders who stayed were all vested. Everyone else quit because of mismanagement.
4. Devotion to code & data
In an industry as competitive as software & technology, it’s often devotion to building things that wins the day. Using the latest & greatest languages, databases & tech stack can carry a lot of weight.
Managing technical debt can make a difference too. Developers don’t want to be asked to constantly walk a minefield of other developers mistakes. A minefield needs to be cleaned up, for the business to flourish.
5. Devotion through & through
Running a startup isn’t easy. Many fail after 3 or 5 years. I’m devoted to business. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 years, and built it into a success.
The year after 9/11 & again after 2008 were the most difficult periods to tough it out. It’s been hard fought & I wouldn’t shutter the doors of my own business easily. It affords me the opportunity to attend AWS popup loft hearing lectures, going to conferences & meetups & blogging about technology topics, & pivoting with the technological winds change.
I’ve found all of this makes me extremely valuable to firms looking for expertise. I have independence & perspective that’s hard to find. I’m also there for firms that have been looking to fill a role, and need help sooner rather than later.
Also: A CTO must never do this