GitHub had about 50 employees when I joined back in December 2011. Seven years later, it blew past 950 people and Microsoft acquired it for $7.5 Billion. What would you say if I told you it could have been way more valuable than that?
You might say I’ve taken up paint sniffing as a hobby. After all, this is a tremendous exit. And the truth is, I’m ecstatic about it. I’m not complaining by any means. GitHub built a valuable business and was worth every penny of Microsoft’s money. Everyone at GitHub should feel proud.
At the same time GitHub had some missteps as it underwent rapid growth. The type of missteps many young companies in the same situation experience. This is by no means unique to GitHub. But many of these challenges are easy to mitigate with the benefit of hindsight. Especially if you know what to look for.
For example, GitHub started off with no managers. In the early days, this was a productive means of operation. As it grew, that changed. So when is a good time to introduce managers? When is a good time to introduce directors? How do you make sure the introduction of managers solves the problems you expect it to solve?
It turns out you can’t just sprinkle some manager juice on top and assume it’ll all go well.
This is why I started Haacked LLC back in November of last year. I learned a lot during my time at GitHub (and Microsoft prior to that). I learned what works and what doesn’t. I learned what to watch out for as a company grows. And now I can lend the benefit of my hindsight and experience to organizations on a similar path to GitHub.
If this sounds valuable to you, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Bit of Backstory
If you read my last post about my experience at GitHub, you might wonder why in the world would I start a company now? In that post, I stated:
But I’m also excited to take a break from full-time work. My family had a rough time in 2017 from a mental health perspective, and while we’re doing much better, staying that way takes a lot of work and vigilance. For example, we’re homeschooling my son which is time consuming, but rewarding.
Starting a company doesn’t sound like taking a break. Maybe there’s something to the paint sniffing joke I made earlier?
I assure you, no paint cans have been harmed by me. It turns out that opportunity waits for nobody. I enjoy mentoring people and companies. A few months ago, a friend put me in touch with his friend who is a CTO of a company in Seattle. He thought we would have a lot to talk about.
This CTO wants to hire a VPE (Vice President of Engineering). They have a great business and interesting growth challenges ahead. I’ll admit, the idea of going for the position myself was tempting. But I meant it when I said I needed a break from that level of responsibility.
Instead, I advised him about how to go about the search and what to look for in a VPE. As we continued to talk, it occurred to both of us that we should make my advisor role more formal.
The idea intrigued me, but it had been so long since I had been a consultant. What does one charge for that?
Lucky for me, I have a wise friend in Paul Nakata. He noted I should not charge for my time. Instead, charge for access to my experience and expertise. On his advice, I suggested they keep me on retainer for a monthly fee. This is a common practice for lawyers.
The company went for it and are now my first client!
This is not the only service I plan to offer under Haacked LLC. For example, I am also co-writing a book and will continue to blog right here.
Over time, I plan to offer an assortment of services.
- Advisor/Consultant: I prefer to do this on a retainer basis, but I’m open to short term hourly engagements if there’s a specific task in mind. A lot of my focus is on engineering management and leadership. I have a unique expertise and experience in leadership for remote distributed teams. I also have experience in product management from my work at Microsoft building Nuget and ASP.NET MVC.
- Speaker: If you’d like me to give a talk to your team, org, or company, reach out to me! One talk that’s been popular is a variant of a keynote I’ve delivered at conferences entitled “Build Effective Teams - The Hard Way.” It’s based on my career experiences, but also backed by research. But I can talk about any aspect of my experience that would be helpful to your team.
- Technical Advice/Training: When I was at Microsoft, I was the program manager for ASP.NET MVC and Nuget. It turns out that experience is valuable to teams that use those tools to build software. Likewise, I know a thing or two about Git and GitHub and developer workflows. If your team is looking to modernize its software development workflow, I could be a big help!
As I mentioned before, I am not interested in full-time work at the moment. But I do enjoy mentoring people and companies. I would like to work with a few more companies that are intentional about their growth and would benefit from my help.
If there’s a way I can be of help to your organization, let me know at email@example.com.