My relationship with engineering is long and peculiar. As most technical founder-CEOs there comes a time when you have to force yourself to distance yourself from coding and focus on the myriad of other responsibilities that a CEO has.
But, as one of my partners pointed out, it's a shame to have a highly sought after skill-set go unused.
Truth is, I believe my skill set is fairly rare. I'm an MBA that can code. I enjoy solving complex problems and I don't mind getting my hands dirty while diving into the details of a venture. Perhaps it's due to my military background - where leaders who are technically proficient are promoted quickly and highly respected by their peers and direct reports.
So, I've decided to get back to "leading from the front" and also start contributing to our team's billable hours by jumping back into engineering and development.
I've heard of Toptal several years ago when a colleague of mine mentioned that they've started using the network to recruit professionals. Believe it or not, based out of San Francisco, they were facing a shortage of qualified talent for their cutting-edge invoicing application.
Given our firm's hyper-technical focus, it has been a bit challenging finding new high-tech clients using our traditional methods - which is running a long-term inbound marketing strategy that includes us distributing WordPress plugins at no cost and then nurturing new contacts into becoming long-term clients. This method does work well, and we have created many of our best client relationships in just this manner.
However, many cutting-edge companies have an aversion towards WordPress. In my opinion, it's because they don't use it in a proper way, but nonetheless, there's a stigma against WordPress being a slow and bloated system.
Therefore, I've decided that seeking new working relationships and Toptal makes the most sense.
So far, one other successful method that has brought us new non-WordPress clients has been via forward-thinking companies discovering me via my NPM modules or my Docker Hub images - so I see Total as an extension of that exposure to business looking for my niche skill set.
Personally, I really enjoy DevOps, and I hope to become part of the Toptal software developers community. I like finding the right balance between how people work and what technology can do. In truth, technology isn't always the answer, and technical debt can destroy a company. Often times training is more important than technology, and I like to think that I have a very mature outlook on the balance. That being said, I can roll up my sleeves and dive into the nitty-gritty of your Node.js or PHP application and tell you exactly what's wrong with your CloudFront configuration or why your unit tests are failing.
My experience with Docker and CoreOS deserve their own blog post. I got into Docker years ago when trying to find a good way to deploy scalable Node.js applications. Then, we decided to apply the same method to deploying scalable WordPress sites. Then, companies started hiring us to integrate Docker into their platforms. Long story short, Iâ€™ve spent about 4 years building and optimizing Docker images for various requirements. Of course, with scalable deployments comes the myriad of other supporting technologies and Iâ€™ve been fortunate enough to become very highly skilled with, such as - CloudFront, Elasticsearch, Varnish, HAProxy and a number of other technologies needed for rolling out a high-performing and reliable application.
In any case, in addition to technical expertise, Iâ€™ve spent many years communicating with clients, and team members, virtually. I would estimate about 75% of my work-related communication has been virtual, although when possible I prefer making strategic decisions over a beer.
As a summary, regardless of my current job title, I'm a highly skilled engineer and I am interested in finding new organizations where I can help. Perhaps, my GitHub.com profile is a good overview of what I actually do in practice. It highlights some of the technologies I work with and shows my contributions for the last year. As one can see, I am still fairly active!