How to negotiate like a pro

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Moving up the ranks as an engineer is something that many accomplish. From the time I was nine years old, I wanted to be at the top of the technical ladder. My father gave me my first few lessons on how to be a pro; he ignited a fire in me that would burn until I stood at the post of CTO — several times.

Before I ever saw the words “Chief Technology Officer” written in an offer letter, I failed a lot. I paid my dues, slogging through 13 startups, building software, and growing businesses. …

And how you can make it happen for yourself

Man smiling and holding up hands in excited gesture
Man smiling and holding up hands in excited gesture
By StockSnap — 894430 from Pixabay

The abridged answer is I learned how to deliver value.

I’ve read oodles of articles about growing careers that, frankly, sound cliche. As a connoisseur of stuff that helps me strive toward excellence, I consume an impressive amount of articles. Sadly, I am unimpressed with the litany of unoriginal ideas. It’s easy to be bludgeoned by one-liners such as “be all you can be” for modest gains — at best. Many engineers wonder why they have colossal work-loads but remain on a financial treadmill.

Most engineers rise quickly and then plateau.

Earlier in my career, I valued the work. Coding was my dream job; it was existence itself. If you asked me in my 30s if I wanted to manage, I would have declared, “Management is for those who can’t code!” …

A Cheatsheet For Engineers Who Build Software

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Fully one in six of the projects we studied was a black swan, with a cost overrun of 200%, on average, and a schedule overrun of almost 70%. This highlights the true pitfall of IT change initiatives — Harvard Business Review

This staggering number is trumped by 43% of projects that go over budget. And, let’s not stop there; only 31% of projects meet their goals. Despite a planning-heavy industry, engineers expect to fail.

As a result, projects fail a lot.

Do you find yourself struggling to make deadlines? I bet you have been on projects with detailed planning, only to find yourself lost in a sea of lateness.
Software is no stranger to good intentions with missed deadlines. …

Simple advice for engineers

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The task seems easy enough. Get better at JavaScript or some other programming language, and your career is set. After years of wielding my coding sword, I found this to be false. While this topic is tough to swallow, I assure you that this article is not what you expect. And I hope my lessons help you.

Let me explain.

I spent countless hours honing my craft in the early to late 90s while taking an engineering-centric approach to my career. The truth is I didn’t manage my career. …

And, the 4 things you must know

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If you are a CTO, you need to see yourself as an executive. If you don’t, you will be fired.

In this blog, I give advice I failed to follow at the beginning of my career. It is advice, once followed, that propelled me to the top. Not only was I able to help take a company public, but now I run a successful consulting business. I use the same principles found in this article.

The meaning of CTO

Operating at the CTO level is the most counter intuitive endeavor you will ever take on.

If you are moving from a start-up CTO, to a larger company, it’s worse. It turns out that a computer science degree does not teach you how to deal with a board room. I’d venture to say, that no focused degree does. …

Don’t devalue yourself: Ask for what you are worth

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Engineers misunderstand true value, therefore they throw away their talents and hard work for ambiance.

A nice monitor, chair and cool glass to write on is more attractive than stock, profit-sharing or the notion of running their own businesses. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d wonder if the business world wants engineers to continue to focus on aesthetics, rather than being paid well.

And I mean, paid-paid, not just salary.

For most of my career, I missed it. I worked for years — running teams, building software, managing customers, and making other people money.

If you added up the year’s worth of salaries, you’d picture me sipping scotch off the back of my yacht. …

5 Ways For You To Command Respect

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Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

This is the most important advice I can give, if you want to succeed at the top… but I warn you, it will be hard to take.

CTO is the top technologist of the company, but the “Chief” part is misunderstood. Most ignore the Officer part, and if you are like me, you didn’t enroll in the “how to be an executive” course.

To get respect, you must act like an executive. It’s not tongue in cheek to say, you are the boss. But what does boss really mean? …

Don’t let the amateur route stop you from getting what you deserve

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Image by djedj from Pixabay

Someone else will make decisions for you for most of your career. Your fate will lie in the hands of a select few, invited to share their influence. It’s easy to spend a fair amount of time watching as others climb the ladder.

Imagine the “higher-ups” are talking to your colleague about a major project. You can see smiles and nodding heads as your teammate draws numbers and lines on the whiteboard.

Pretending that you’re focused on what’s on your screen, you wait until the conversation is done. You hope to get a whiff of what’s happening, so you low-key stalk the kitchen; maybe if you pass by and pause, someone’s eyes will welcome you into the huddle. …

A common-sense approach

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Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

You’re an engineer. Now imagine you have a deadline.

Sitting at your computer, you launch your favorite editor and think.

Then, you realize you need to draw diagrams to figure out what to do and how to do it. A stickler for getting things right, you start the engineering process.

You fill up your whiteboard with arrows, lines, shapes, and words. The end goal is in your head. Your colleagues will love your approach. You’ve envisioned your tech talk where you get to pick hands out of the audience to share your insights.

Pacing the room, you dump all your ideas on the whiteboard. You make your arrows straighter by erasing with your finger. Why not be perfect? This is why you sat through that engineering program in college — this is the engineering part. …

5 reasons why lowering your rates doesn’t help you

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Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash.

Hourly rates are a horrible way to extract value. It’s just plain silly.

You buy software services to deliver value to your company. If you use automation software, your goal is to make operations more efficient or faster. API integration is a means to connect your business to another in order to exchange data. Somehow, this makes you money, increases business engagement, or grows your customer base.

How much are your customers worth to you? And if you are planning a software development initiative, ask yourself what the value is in dollars.
If you don’t know the value of what you are doing, a lower rate won’t help you. …


James Williams

Founder of COFEBE, Inc. We build tools that make engineer’s jobs easier.

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