TA Certain Consulting
After 30 years in the industry and more than 20 with Amazon, I’ve decided to try something new. I’m not looking to commit to something long-term right now, so I’ve started looking for short- and medium-term opportunities. After talking with a few folks about what form that might take, I’ve started pursuing the following four types of opportunities. If you are interested in pursuing any of these with me, you can email me at email@example.com.
When I was a Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, I always had a primary job that was focused on a particular service. Working with that team daily took up the majority of my time; however, all DEs (and PEs and SPEs) spend time working outside their areas, in a variety of roles. The services that I am offering are based on those experiences, as outlined below.
Deep technical reviews
All Principal Engineers at Amazon are expected to spend some of their time doing technical reviews for other teams. Often these reviews are general reviews for a new service, new microservice, or a refactoring of a system, and pull a diverse set of reviewers. Other times, they are more focused on the a particular aspect of a service. For example, I was a member of the AWS scalability review team, a group of Senior Principal Engineers and Distinguished Engineers that periodically reviewed running services to identify scaling risks and make plans to overcome them.
As an independent consultant, I am offering my experience to perform similar reviews. In these reviews I will read any materials you have describing the goals of the system, the overall design, and any detailed plans. I will then meet individually and/or in groups with technical leaders and developers to hear their perspectives on the system and ask questions. Finally, I will write a detailed report identifying areas of concern or question, along with suggestions for future attention from the team.
I would expect that these reviews usually take between 10 and 20 hours, though shorter preliminary (or very focused) reviews are possible.
Due diligence investigations
Principal Engineers are also called upon to perform technical due diligence investigations for potential Amazon acquisitions. These investigations are similar to deep technical reviews, though the focus is often slightly different. For one thing, due diligence investigations often are about evaluating both people and technology. I have done these investigations both for Amazon as well as for VC firms. In addition, I was deeply involved with interviewing at Amazon, leading part of the Amazon Bar Raiser program for a while.
The form of these investigations is similar to the deep technical reviews and usually takes similar time, but the artifact at the end is aimed at a yes/no investment/purchase decision, rather than a set of areas for further technical attention.
Senior individual contributor mentoring
In my time at Amazon, I mentored dozens of Principal and Senior Principal Engineers. For me, mentoring is all about helping ICs learn the leadership skills they need to be effective in a senior role. I don’t believe it’s possible to teach deep technical skills meeting with somebody for an hour every other week, but I do think that you can teach senior ICs to have more influence and impact on the people around them. Helping senior (Staff, Principal, etc) ICs grow their impact was one of the most rewarding parts of my job at Amazon.
As an outside mentor, I would expect to meet with an IC for an hour somewhere between once and month and once a week for 3-6 months. It important for the mentee to have specific examples of where they are failing to have the kind of influence and impact that they want in order for this work to be effective.
The advising role is similar to mentoring, but it also has a business/product/technical component. In this role, I will meet regularly with a CEO, CTO, or VP of Engineering to discuss current challenges and help create and view plans for addressing them. The focus in less on teaching skills to the client and more on using my background in product development, organizational design, and technical delivery to help the client follow a better path.
I would expect the term of these advising roles will be longer than the mentoring roles, though likely somewhat less frequent. I don’t expect the objectives to be as concrete as with mentoring.
Of course, if you have some other way you think that I can help you or your company out, I’m always open to discuss!
One thing that won’t be a match: if you need an expert in building on AWS. I am an expert in building some of AWS, but I have only moderate experience using the services. AWS has amazing solutions architects that are experts in building on AWS.