My Journey to Consulting
Hello. I’m Brian Powell. Some of you know me. Some of you don’t. Let me introduce myself.
At least in Austin, if you have “VP of Engineering” on your LinkedIn profile, you get calls almost every week from a recruiter saying, “Hey, there’s a local startup that needs a VP of Engineering–are you interested?” I’ll sometimes take a look, and more often that not, my reaction is, “No, you don’t need a VP of Engineering.” What you need is someone to come in and help you solve a problem. Here are some examples…
- It’s hard to hire good people, and then it’s hard to keep them
- My team is always fighting fires, and can’t focus on long-term goals
- I know my team can do better, but we don’t know where to start
Do those resonate with you? They sure do with me–I’ve had those problems myself, and worked through them.
So this spring, I set up my own consulting company, to help companies build good software and grow strong software teams.
In a way, it’s the same thing I’ve been doing as my “day job” working for larger companies for over thirty years. Throughout my 30-year career, I’ve paid attention not just to writing good code, but everything around it that makes good software possible–hiring and growing smart people, good planning and processes, good design and decision-making.
I spent the first 26 years of my career at National Instruments Corp., an Austin-based computer software/hardware technology company. I grew up there, learning what it means to be a software developer, a people manager, a leader. I learned a lot about business and business development, about marketing, about sales, and about working with customers. I learned a lot about company and team culture, too.
I mostly worked on NI’s flagship product, LabVIEW. It’s a visual programming language and development environment that is commonly used in the science and engineering communities. It’s great for when you want your software to interact with the real world. When I created LabVIEW Robotics, we talked a lot about “sense, think, act”–you take real-world measurements (reading data from sensors like LIDARs and cameras), you decide what you want to do (go left to avoid an obstacle), and then act (drive the motors to steer left). To see this in action, you can watch one of my old robot videos.
Since leaving NI in 2014 (a story for another day), I worked at a couple of great companies, athenahealth, Inc., and The Zebra. I learned a lot about cloud computing, healthcare, building websites and mobile apps for scale, and even more about company and team culture.
All of this leads back to the exciting, terrifying, and fun idea of starting my own business to help other businesses succeed. If your team needs help, visit https://stravaro.com and give me a call or send me an email.