I'm Launching A Consultancy

November 01, 2022

Today is 1st November, 2022, which feels like as good a day as any to begin my experiment with consulting. I'm framing this next step in my career as an experiment because I want to approach it with openness and curiosity, as well as applying an evidence-driven approach to my goals.

My career in the world of software engineering started with consulting and contracting. After making the switch to full-time employment a decade ago, returning to the world of consulting feels like coming full-circle. In that time, I've worked for a variety of great organisations, and learned an enormous amount. I'm excited to share some of that knowledge and experience with organisations whose values are in line with my own.

TL;DR

I'm launching a software engineering management consultancy, focussing on three areas:

  • 🌅 Engineering team management, leadership, and coaching
  • ✅ Preparing for investment
  • ⚙️ Hands-on software engineering

If you want to work with me, please drop me an email at work at jw.pe.

What I offer

When planning my consulting offering, I spent some time reflecting on the unique value that I can bring. I've chosen three key areas where I believe my experience and skills can make a real difference.

🌅 Engineering team management, leadership, and coaching

Having led two successive technology teams over the last five years, engineering leadership is where I believe I can offer the most value, and where I get the most enjoyment from my work. I can help your organisation to build and retain an effective engineering team, improve your engineering processes, and coach or mentor developing engineering leaders. My approach focusses on:

  • Leadership centred on empathy and consensus-building.
  • Creating systems and processess to empower the team to drive its own development and growth.
  • Building team structures that are appropriate for the level of maturity of the organisation, while laying the groundwork for future expansion.
  • Establishing a working environment where team members understand their responsibilities and the value of their work, without unnecessary stress or pressure.
  • Making sure that communication between key stakeholders and the engineering team is transparent and effective, with clear shared goals and metrics.
  • Agreeing shared values, behaviours and standards to clarify expectations for all team members.

My experience is primarily working with engineering teams from early-stage start-ups to Series B scale-ups, with an engineering / product headcount between 1-20 people. I am happy to advise on processes for larger teams, but my experience will be less relevant.

✅ Preparing for investment

I've been through several investment rounds in previous roles, and have helped to prepare organisations to successfully secure those investments.

I've worked extensively on pitch decks, providing a trustworthy technical voice to investors. I would be happy to review investor materials and provide unbiased feedback, or work with you to craft the best story for the technology team in your organisation.

As deals move forward, I've prepared due diligence reports that have provided investors with confidence in the technical strength of the organisation. There's no substitute for having an empowered and well-run engineering team, but communicating these strengths effectively is very important. Given the current challenging investment environment for technology businesses, being adequately prepared for due diligence is crucial. I can help your organisation to get ready for the due diligence process by evaluating your technical infrastructure, team, and processes, then producing an assessment report with actionable recommendations. Alternatively, I can assist your team with an ongoing due diligence process by providing technical insight and hands-on support.

⚙️ Hands-on software engineering

I've spent the majority of the last 10 years working hands-on with code. My areas of expertise are back-end web development and infrastructure.

Rather than presenting an exhaustive list of technologies, two examples of web stacks I've worked with extensively are:

Stack 1:

  • Front-end: React, Redux, TypeScript
  • Back-end: NodeJS, Express, TypeScript
  • Data stores: PostgreSQL, S3
  • Infrastructure: AWS, CircleCI, Terraform, Docker

Stack 2:

  • Front-end: Angular, JavaScript
  • Back-end: Python, Django, Celery
  • Data stores: PostgreSQL, S3, Redis, Kafka
  • Infrastructure: AWS, CircleCI, Docker

Many of my skills are cross-functional and I'm always happy to learn new technologies, although this may depend on the duration of our work together.

I've worked to scale systems from pre-launch to heavy production usage, and will always try to choose an implementation to fit the level of maturity of your product, balancing the need for extensibility with avoiding overengineering.

I pride myself on communicating effectively with both technical and non-technical team members, as well as producing high-quality, robust and well-documented code.

Goals

With my experiment-driven approach in mind, I've set myself some goals for this new chapter, as well as considering metrics that I can use to measure my success.

♻️ Create sustainable revenue

A key goal for the coming months is to prove that consulting is a viable way for me to earn an income. It's critical to me that I can do this in a sustainable way. With this in mind, I'm aiming to work a 4-day week, giving myself time to balance delivering on my work goals with enjoying life outside of work.

Metrics:

  • Reach an average revenue of £5000 / month - As an initial income goal, this will prove the success of my experiment by allowing me to comfortably sustain my lifestyle. I'm confident that the value I bring will allow me to reach this goal in a fraction of my available schedule. Once I've proven the sustainability of the model I will set a new revenue goal, but for me the long-term aim is to reach a threshold that allows me to enjoy my life, not to earn as much as possible.
  • Maintain a 4-day work schedule - Experience has shown me that I can deliver timely, high-quality work in a 4-day schedule. I want to have a healthy balance between my work and other important aspects of my life.

🌱 Help organisations that align with my values

It's important to me that I work with organisations that I believe are doing something positive in the world, so I want to achieve my revenue goal without compromising on my principles.

This is a bit of a tough goal to measure, since my assessment of an organisation as 'good' is completely subjective, but I'd want to be able to make a credible argument to friends and family for how each organisation I work with is benefitting the world and fits with my morals.

Metrics:

  • 100% of clients pass the 'credible argument for good' test - See above.

✨ Build a reputation for excellence

I want people and organisations to want to work with me. I believe that I've left a good impression on my previous colleagues, and I'd like to continue to do so with my clients.

Metrics:

  • 100% of clients would like to work with me again - I want to build positive relationships with anyone I'm helping, and leave them satisfied that my work brought them value.
  • X% of new work comes from client recommendations - Not sure what a good number to put against this is, but ideally I want to get to a place where word-of-mouth recommendations are driving a good chunk of my inbound work.

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I aim to be transparent about my progress towards these goals, both to hold myself accountable and because I think it's interesting. I really enjoy reading about other people developing their businesses in the open, so it seems reasonable to try to take the same approach.

Why now?

My career in software has taken me in some interesting directions so far - from travel to politics, from coding to managing to leading. I've had the privilege to work in a variety of roles that have allowed me to better understand the landscape of technology organisations, and to discover my own strengths and topics that I'm passionate about. I'm sure that there's some nostalgia talking, but it's always felt to me like the next step on my journey was clear - when one chapter finished, the next one quickly began. Now, for the first time I can remember, that next step isn't so obvious, so I have to make my own way.

It feels scary to put yourself out there and trade solely on your own merit, which has held me back from launching this experiment over the last month that I've been seriously thinking about it. However, I've always liked the idea of working for myself, and with the expertise I've developed, I feel confident enough in my abilities to give it a try.

Work with me

If you like the sound of what I'm setting out to do, and you think I could add value to your organisation, please don't hesitate to get in touch to outline how we could work together. You can drop me an email at work at jw.pe, or send me a message through another medium if we're already in touch.

I'll likely be spending at least some of this month on setup and promotion, so my short-term availability may be limited until December. That said, if you have a small project where I can help you immediately, I'd love to hear about it. I'm currently discussing some larger projects in the new year, so if you have something sizeable in mind, the sooner you can let me know about it, the better.

I look forward to hearing from you!