Software Developers Journey Podcast

#233 Oshri Cohen self taught fractional CTO


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Oshri Cohen 0:00
And I try to explain to my founders and everybody else that perfect engineering doesn't exist. When you're young, you think you have to build everything perfectly. But perfect engineering doesn't use perfect software doesn't actually does exist. It's never seen the light of day because the company went bankrupt. That's the reality. They went bankrupt, right? It's the best. The best running teams don't operate, because they're too much focused on past running and not actually delivering. Deliver the damn software will deal with the problems later as we move forward. But the one thing that we don't mess around with is the foundation. That's it. Build a strong foundation, we spend time on that. Everything else is superfluous. We can we can cut corners, but you don't cut corners on your foundation because everything crumble crumbles down. And then you're done. You're done.

Tim Bourguignon 0:50
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host, Tim bourguignon. On this episode 233, I receive are surely going to the place where I usually read the guests bio, but that would be way too revealing or revealing way too many informations I decided not to do what can I say are three is self loop engineer whose journey led him to become a fractional CTO. And the rest he'll tell us. One more thing I want to say at the end, because I always say, if money was good, you wouldn't become a teacher. No question asked. I'm bored. Bow. I hope we'll come back to that. artery. Welcome to the afternoon.

Oshri Cohen 1:36
Thank you, Tim.

Tim Bourguignon 1:38
You're laughing. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew, and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests, then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. So I told you before the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story look like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual, initial, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place to start a figure? Definitely.

Oshri Cohen 2:30
The start of my Dave journey is when I was 13. And my father bought me my first computer, right? And naturally the second thing I did with my computer, the first thing we're not going to mention, but the second thing I did with my computer is try to download games illegally. Obviously, this is this is the first thing I did. I'm like how do I download games? Right?

Tim Bourguignon 2:52
So there was internet already. So it's something like,

Oshri Cohen 2:55
oh, it was 56 with 56 baud internet, it made that beautiful sound. And oh, that was that was a beautiful stuff. And it will take you know, four days to download, like one game of, you know, a couple of 100 megabytes because the connection would would go down all the time. And I learned a ton because I learned how to how to how to speak on IRC. Old school chat, I had to have my own server. And I learned a whole bunch of things in there and made some friends around, you know, around town and on the internet and everything and we download and the beginnings of my coding experience was kind of vigilante years old. Okay, yeah. Tell me more. Now, now now, while the listener was in the car, like, Hold on, I'm gonna park the car. And I'm just gonna listen to this vigilantism. Yes, yes, I was. I was an internet vigilante, we will download these games off of IRC. And they will be named exactly the way you would expect it. But he was not that. It was very, very disgusting imagery. See where that's not that if if you had them on your computer, now, the FBI will break down your door in five seconds. Now, this is the kind of disgusting imagery. And we're like, this is this can't be like, Who do we call for that? We actually tried to call the police. I called the police and I'm like, and and they're like you found what on were on what is what's the internet? What? Not Oh, no, you say this they they can they audit the entire internet, right? They scan everybody? They've got the for sale, but in the 90s they didn't have that 95 Right. So so we learned how to read viruses. Okay. Yep, we learned how to write a virus and I learned C++ and I learned how to effectively crash the the hard drive head back then when the spinning hard drive the hard drive and into the hard drive. Yep, because, right because back then the the memory address that controlled the head was always in the same place. Now, you can't do that anymore because the operating systems move things around to protect the, to reduce the attack surface. But we did that. And we destroyed people's machines. And then we connected it to ICQ to see whenever they were going online. And then we added more more functionality to record the screen and stream it to us because we wanted to see their computer crash, because we were, you know, evil like that. And

Tim Bourguignon 5:32
so man vigilante,

Oshri Cohen 5:35
right, so nobody we weren't, we wanted to attack the people that were doing the really bad stuff. That's the things right. So we would go on those IRC channels and name it horrible names, the files, horrible names, horrible titles, and they would download it and then ICQ would pop up, because we would have connected and then we clicked the link, and we had the whole connection and everything, we'd see the stream, because what firewalls didn't want to have firewalls back then we could just connect through there's just no issues. I want to connect to you. You're connected. Thank you very much. Right. And, and we will see the computer crash. That's how I learned C++

Tim Bourguignon 6:13
inside. Was it really the kicker of doing this? For good that really drove you into learning all this? Yes. Did you have the idea that this could become something more for your life after that?

Oshri Cohen 6:27
I saw I like many developers, as I was building this, I can remember that I still get this feeling all the time, right? This this euphoric feeling of software coming together and solving a problem and seeing it materialize. And then you can just take a step back and see it. Yeah, man, I built this. I did that. And and the problem has has actually been solved. Now. How do I make it better? And it was an absolute drive. Right? And but C++ back then plenty of developers, but nobody would hire a 13 year old. Right? What was I doing? So I learned some HTML and and started building websites as a contract for companies that you know, the age of 16, right? This cash business, like, just give me some cash. You know, I buy I bought a video game. I didn't know how to price my stuff. But I was all throughout high school. I was writing code, and I was working for people. Right. And I left high school. And what do I do now? I tried to get a job because I didn't have a degree. This was in 2019 90 992 1000.

Tim Bourguignon 7:38
I remember that there was something around that time,

Oshri Cohen 7:41
right? Something something small happened in the world, you know, nothing's, you know, horrendous stuff, but it is what it is. And I realized I couldn't get a job. I just I couldn't get a job. Because they're all like, Oh, where'd you get your university degree? I'm like, what do you what do you mean university degree, I can quote around Univer university degree, educated people, I mean, come on. So I ended up doing this, this this little program that was supposed to be a year to give me a certificate and saying, Hey, he knows how to program. I never took it out of the envelope. And it's been $15,000 to put something on my resume saying education. That's it, I should have lied. Honestly, I just showed you just like, because they never even verified it. They never verified it. I got my, I got my first job at 19 years old. Right? So at 19 I got this first job. And that was building payment systems. Back then for an adult video company. Very interesting work very, very disgusting work. But it was, you know, it is you needed a job and you got a job. C'est la vie, you know, we have to we have to make our way in life. Right. And, and in that one, I learned how to create effectively geographically distributed distributed servers and an applications for payment processing across the world, across currencies across languages across time zones. And what this is six months into my job, my first official salary job at 19, I was doing this, my friends was still in university, they were only in Canada, you have to do three years of CGF, which it's like a college, and then you do your three years or four years of university. So, you know, they're they're still in university. They're 1626 Sorry, right? I have over seven years of experience over them, which is pretty crazy. If you think about it, it's actually pretty crazy. But that's, that's if your account my first job. If not, I've got you know, so far, close to 30 years of experience, you know, more than 30 years of truth since when I've, I've been I started coding. So I've got I've got quite a bit of that and, and I learned massively scalable applications before the cloud. The cloud made it so easy. You know, you throw a credit card at the province. scale it. I'm going home.

Tim Bourguignon 10:02
You sound almost nostalgic. Just you know, let's

Oshri Cohen 10:05
just add some more notes to Kubernetes. A couple of replicas have fun. Knock yourself out. It's someone else's money. It's cool. It's cool. Right? So So I did that. And then afterwards, I thought I was a smartass. So I 23 I started my own business. As usual, I'm like, I'm smarter than you, boss. I wasn't. Because, you know, software is nothing without business. And I crashed and burned really badly. But I learned business. That's very important. I learned business.

Tim Bourguignon 10:37
Lesson take that. How did you come up with the ID muster the courage to say, I'm throwing every single avoiding and going through this? And how do you start?

Oshri Cohen 11:34
I saved $3,000 $3,000 My salary was at the time $26,000 a year, which, which I thought was pretty good for a non University graduate, right? I'm like, You're giving me money. So my, okay, fair 20 years ago, so a lot? Yes, 25 years ago. So you know, which, by the way, I'm annoyed at all the new developers, we're starting at $150,000 with diapers on okay. We're diapers and they get 150k. It took me a long time to get to 150k. Right. So, so, but I digress. I was living in my parents basement like I was living in my parents house. You know, I'm I was a good kid. I didn't move out until I was 26.

Tim Bourguignon 12:18
You startup in?

Oshri Cohen 12:20
It wasn't a startup startup didn't exist back then. No, Montreal, the concept of the startup didn't exist.

Tim Bourguignon 12:26
But even if it was created in your parents basement, it's it qualifies as a startup? Is it or back then it had to be

Oshri Cohen 12:31
the garage? Oh, you're right. That's a bit of garage. And you had to be weird with bad social skills. I was weird with bad social skills. So back then, I was I had to order three fine. 25. So So yeah, it was a startup I was. I saw the problem in software development early on. I saw the problem in software development early on. It was a problem where how can I say we had to build a lot of code, boilerplate code, foundational code, just to get anything done, just to get anything done. So I asked myself, What if I build a rapid application development tool? I'm like, Okay, right. Fair enough. What if I created a web based operating system? Hmm. All right. So I did that, because what hell do I know about the market? Whether they needed it or not? Right? So I built a web based operating system. You could customize. And and if you can imagine your windows seven, or Windows 95 desktop, that's how it looked like, right? When you study five desktop, you had the Start menu, but every program was actually a form for your database table. That's it. Okay. Right. And every folder, you could actually put records in there to keep track of them like, oh, to be worked on, you could drag records from your, from your, from your database into a folder, completely UI based, right? So I saw that I'm like, okay, that's kind of cool. And then I added fun features like Task Manager, you can run background processes and build them. And then you would see them right. And I tried to mimic the desktop experience before web applications, and I sold a few licenses here and there. Right. And people I think didn't take me seriously because I sold it for like $5,000 in perpetuity because, again, I didn't know anything about business. The heck did I know? I didn't know anything, right? I didn't know pricing. I didn't know I could sell that for 100k and somebody would have sold would have bought it probably per annum per year. Right? I didn't know that. So so. So I built that and I worked that out and also did a bit of consulting, I had employees. I found out that I could I could bring employees from Brazil and and teach them development and have them have them coach for me. And surprisingly, I didn't have to pay them a salary Which was really odd when the company reached out to me, like, and I don't have to pay them. No. What? What do you mean? I don't have to pay them. I have to pay them. No, you don't have to pay them. I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna pay them. Like i i Still I didn't understand this concept of an unpaid internship, right? I mean, yeah, it's it's technically illegal in Canada. For Canadian employees. You can't have a a unpaid internship in France. Probably not. Also, the government will crack down on you if you if anyone's unpaid.

Tim Bourguignon 15:32
I'm pretty sure hope so. But not even sure. Yeah.

Oshri Cohen 15:36
Knowing what I know about France, pretty sure pretty sure they will subject to the gift, they'll send you to the guilty. Okay. If you do that, right, and, and so I will pick them out. I'm like, Okay, listen, you got lunch on me. And here's a bus pass, and I'll take you out to dinner once a week. We're happy about it all I can tell you they. And they came here they flew down to Montreal to work. Oh, really? Okay. Yeah. It wasn't like remote, remote. Anything.

Tim Bourguignon 16:04
That's right. That's right. I mapped it out onto remote. Okay. They're working from Brazil. Yeah, no,

Oshri Cohen 16:11
no, they flew in here. They had like, they were like six developers living in one house. Why? The school I guess paid for their flight and their accommodations and their meals. And then they work here with me for six months, and then they left. And then I got another rotation. I'm like, Okay, I guess. As long as nobody, as long as the police doesn't come and bug me. Like what the government gets annoyed. It works it. But then I got my my my proverbial bleep handed to me in 2008 financial crash. Okay. Right. So so no new contracts, no consulting, income, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. And I kind of burnt out. I burnt out. I've retired at 28. I was working so hard. I was in a relationship. I wanted to get married, money was tight, all of these problems, right, all of these issues on top and on top and on top. And so I closed down my company, I let everybody go. I mean, you know, I didn't have I didn't pay them. So it was been a problem. Really, you know, I felt bad, but it is what it is. And they all went back home. And and I went back to work. That's it, like I went back to work comes in as an employee.

Tim Bourguignon 17:27
How did that feel that you are shrugging this right now I'd fall for it.

Oshri Cohen 17:31
At first, it was fantastic. Because I'd have to worry about payroll. Like, where's my next dollar coming? I didn't have to think about that. And I think I finally slept well, that first night after I started my job. But then I realized very quickly, that not to sound like I'm full of myself, but that I'm almost always the smartest guy in the room. And that was annoying, because I ended up being the architect the lead developer that this that that and towards the end because I had the experience of effectively a failed startup, right, the Federal there failed business. And that I made decisions with my own money technical decisions with my own money. How can I say? It afforded me the perspective of a CTO and a CEO. Because I made decisions. Someone would ask me, okay, let's do this. And I would calculate top my head, I'm like, okay, oh, cost us like $35,000, we could do this for 20k instead. And that was enough being I became known for that and became known for the guy who's, who's gonna come to you with, with the easy, the fast and the best solution, right? And you're just choose which one you want at that point, because he's not going to make that decision for you. It's not my money. It's your money. You're making that decision. But I was really, really fast that way. I up really, really quickly. And, and I worked for one in martec. I worked in, in medical, I worked in IoT. I worked in all in porn on this thing, right? You know, that's always people always ask additional questions on that. They don't care what I did at Mar tech. They care what I did, what do you do and what to do and the other one, and I'm like, you don't want to know, you have to buy me drinks first.

Tim Bourguignon 19:14
Since we're removed, the drinks don't work here. So

Oshri Cohen 19:17
yeah, so you know, so you know, give me a bottle of nice bottle and we'll talk you know,

Tim Bourguignon 19:23
but then I have a question, which is not really there. But the the learning experience of going through your own startup and having to make decisions based on your own money. Is there any other way than going through this this this Heartland experience in order to learn this? Or do you think?

Oshri Cohen 19:42
No, you can never really be pragmatic enough, unless, unless you work for the right people. Right? And you they teach you that pragmatism, you can never really get pragmatic and understand technology and business and how they work together and the value of $1 until you have spent your own money and burnt, you know, $2,000 on hosting fees by mistake. Right? You just You just don't. That's that's the reality, right. And back then I there was, you know, there was no cloud, I had to, in order to host my application, I had to buy servers, and I had to go and install them myself. And I had to go and sign a contract with a data center. And I had to go in every week to go in remote data and learn all sorts of things and automation and all of that stuff, right. I was, you know, startup, I was doing everything myself. So yeah, I don't know if you can ever feel what fire feels like unless you get burned. People can tell you it's hot. People can tell it's hot. All you want. It's hot. Don't touch it. Yeah, it's hot. How hard can it be out? There? Told you it was hot. But now you're no good. So philosophy I use with my kids now.

Tim Bourguignon 21:04
Control the experiment? Well, we'll call that a controlled

Oshri Cohen 21:07
experiment. Put your hand closer, closer. It's hotter. Yeah, don't touch it. It's gonna burn.

Tim Bourguignon 21:14
Fair enough. Fair enough. How long did you last not being your own boss, and not having to make those discussions those hard decisions on your own, but deferring to so

Oshri Cohen 21:24
it's it's interesting, because while I was working for people I attached, I ended up attaching a lot of my self worth to the title I got. Right, so I was lead architect. And then my next job, the company ended up folding. And so I found another job. And I ended up being CTO for a med tech company. And I'm like, Cool. I'm CTO. The, how does a CTO? Do you have no fucking idea? Pardon my French. I have. I'm talking to a French person. And I'm saying pardon my French. Pardon my Italian variable. Exactly. And so I ended up attaching myself worth two to these titles. And I felt unfulfilled. The only time I felt truly fulfilled, was when I was working in medical. Right, I was building an EMR. It was a, it was a beautiful experience. I loved working on that project I hated absolutely hated who I worked for. absolutely hated. The bosses. One job is to make sure that the employees, their key employees are happy, and they want to continue working. This guy did the exact opposite. He made your life hell, he yelled at you, He insulted you. And and I'm like, oh, but I'm CTO. So I just have to survive for at least one more year. But you know what being treated that way affected my mental health greatly. And because I attached my self worth to this to this job title. I'm like, who am I? If I don't keep going up, I can't go back down. I'm CTO can't go back down. I gotta go further and further and further. And I was still young. Right? I was 32. Right. Roy young. Yeah, as a CTO of a series a company. Like this is, you know, 32. But keep in mind, now I've got at least provable 12 years of experience. Pretty decent, right? And the fact that I had my own business makes me qualified for the job, but not really, because I didn't know what a CTO does. And frankly, most people don't know what a CTO does. Right?

Tim Bourguignon 23:34
Well, yes, in every company, the CEO does something else.

Oshri Cohen 23:36
So yeah, exactly. The CTO does something else. One guy. I've met a CTO while he does deployments, I'm like, Really, that's that's you just, you're the CTO of deployments. And then there's the CTO of development. Are you talking about? Okay, fair enough? Fine. You know,

Tim Bourguignon 23:54
that's interesting, which we're saying. So the only way is up, we only way was up there when your CTO,

Oshri Cohen 24:01
it said that there is nothing else. It's just the only way is up. And I'm like, okay, so I started looking for other CTO roles. The market wasn't that good. There wasn't enough in the market. So I stayed, and it affected me and affected me and effectively, eventually, eventually, I left. And eventually I left and the straw the not the straw, but you know, the rock, the massive boulder that broke the camel's back, was when they told me I couldn't hire someone due to their race. Because, and I couldn't do it, and I quit. And I couldn't do it. And I walked away. I'm like, I can't I'm sorry. You can you can insult me fine. You know, no, it's all fine. But you can do all these things. You know, I can work 12 hours a day and on weekends and on holidays and on vacation. I have no problem with that. Well, my wife had a problem with that at the time out, you know, I was married, you know, and I had a kid But but but that was the that was the my limit my ethical, I kept on pushing my ethics, my ethics, my ethics, pushing them aside, now I can't and I walked away. And I was unemployed for a while. And then I found another job as Director of Engineering and so on and so forth. And it was a step down. But, and the money was less, but it was less stressful, right. And then that company folded and I realized, a lot of leaders in the industry, a lot of my bosses had no whip no place being a boss had no place being in leadership. And, you know, I was director of engineering this one company, the CTO didn't know his head from his bleep about technology about product manager, because the CTO needs no product management, right? He's no product is the CTO is the CEO with plus coding. And technology. That's, that's what it is, at the end of the day, right? They encompass everything. So ctoc Poct altogether, make this the Venn diagram of building stuff. That's, that's what it is. And that's what a real is both of them. They either inherited the role, they either they bought into the role, of no place being there. No, no way in heck. And as I kept on looking, and I kept on applying for different CTO roles, I'm like you, but you want me to code every day. But that's not a CTO, I'm an architect, the CTO is the architect is the code reviewer is, is the the organizer of the team, creating a technology organization is the interface between engineering and business. That's the CTO. And I remember, I was, you know, for, for interviews into this role. Yeah, they were gonna pay me something like $400,000 a year, stupid, stupid amount of money, I would have taken it at a drop of a hat. I didn't get it. You know why I didn't get it? Because I didn't know AWS lambdas. That's why I didn't get it. What

Tim Bourguignon 27:04
you don't know anybody who has learned? Of course,

Oshri Cohen 27:06
I can't learn AWS lambdas. When the recruiter got back to me, it's like, yeah, you don't have AWS lambda experience. I'm like, what's yours? Here's the damn, I understand the architecture of AWS. I don't do lambdas. Because I don't think it's a smart idea. Personally, I wouldn't do it because it's, I don't like the concept of service. That's my personal technology, philosophy. It works for others doesn't work for me, I would never place it because I don't like the idea. But it was insanity. And, and that's when I got frustrated. So I got frustrated, and I realized, okay, companies don't know what a CTO is. 99% of the time, they don't even respect the role that they hire one for, right. They what they expect really as a, as a as a principal engineer, or an engineering manager, or, or whatever else. That's what they actually expect. And, and so I started, you know, working with different startups, just helping out, like for free, for free. I started I started working in Montreal with an organization a meet up the Montreal CTO meetup. Right. And I revived it it was, it was dead in the water revived it, it was run by a VC firm, and, you know, recreated it, started organizing, it started speaking. And I learned a lot, and I got a lot of mentors. And the one thing that I realized is that even startups don't understand what a CTO is. Right? They just don't get it, they don't get it. The CTO has to be so many different things. Right? And what I realized is, is as the CTO role evolves over four years, absolutely right. So here's zero, you start, you're an engineer, shut the heck up. You're an engineer, just Coke, just coke. But you're one you have to be a manager. Right? Because you have a team. So you're going from coding 100% of the time and architecting and designing software, and you know, listening to Rammstein your German you probably listen to Rush now listen to Rammstein I love that stuff. That's, that's my coding music, you know, like just loud craziness. I hit the right headphones, you know, heavy and, and you're doing that now you're asking the same person, this creative person who's probably really good at your job, because that's where they think a CTO is. That's where they apply for it. To now manage your one, okay? Some people can do it. But year two, they have to be a leader, because now they have multiple teams, assuming the growth trajectory of a startup over four years, right? You know, experiences. Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah, experiences may differ, right? But you gotta find anemia backend team. Now you're managing two teams, to complete different cultures to complete different tech stacks to everything. Now you have to keep all of this in mind. You're no longer coding But you're a coder at heart, you're a developer. That's it, you know, and that's just your to write. That's your to, you're a leader. Now, you are three, you have to be a visionary. Now you have to think about the business. How often is that the same person? Does that's the reality? How often right? Most people, I'd be happy just being an engineer with the rest of my of my days, if I knew the concept of a principal engineer, I would have never been a CTO, or just kept on improving my craft as a developer, right?

Tim Bourguignon 30:35
What is your definition of a principal engineer,

Oshri Cohen 30:39
Principal Engineer is an expert is an outright expert across multiple technology stacks, is an expert architect is the person who tells the CTO how things get done. They have, they have a seat at the table, they have authority, but they're an individual contributor. They don't manage people, right? Because he used to be because developers wide back before the Netflix's and the fat and the Facebook's of the world changed the game for for developers, right? In order to become to get paid more, you'd have to go into management, you had no choice, you know, Junior mid level senior manager. But But, and then we wonder why we have so many failed software development projects, because these guys and gals don't want to manage, they want to write code that's worthy for the rest of your life. But now you can do that. Nowadays, you can do that you can, you can be a principal engineer can be even a fellow engineer, right? In certain companies, you have stock, you have everything, and all you do is code. And you're fantastic. And you have you may have a team, but you're in r&d, you're doing all the sexy fun stuff. So So going back to the CTO thing, then you have to be a visionary. Now, a startup was giving what Give what 5% of the company to their CTO, you know, someone still wearing diapers, typically. Right? And being pushed around in a stroller, you know, not everybody, but some people, you know, because they don't they don't know, they don't know the real world. Yeah, they haven't they have they? Okay, you deployed a couple of systems. Okay, great, fantastic. But that's not what a CTO is, you know, you're just a really good developer with a really good title. And, right, you're the Year Zero CTO for a long time. And most of the time, that's what you say, but the startups will giving away their equity, and over 40 years, and then the person leaves after 40 years, because they invested their equity. They didn't go public, but they left because you're like, you know what, I'm tired of this. I'm burnt out how many people that I speak to that after a few years, they burn out because they're doing something that that their brain was not meant for? That they're who they are as a person. It was just not meant for that. Right? And so, that's how the fractional CTO concept came up.

Tim Bourguignon 32:57
So, tell us about it.

Oshri Cohen 32:59
I first I first found out about the fractional CTO business from European friends. Right? So because Because Because renting something is not a North American culture. North Americans like to own they like to buy, it's like, oh, you need an SUV for you know, one hour a week, obviously, you're gonna buy an SUV full time. Obviously, it makes total sense. You're gonna buy it, you're not gonna rent it, you're not gonna borrow it, you know, buy it. But in Europe, renting is big. Right? Leasing, renting, most people don't have a home, they have a rent an apartment in Paris, right? Unless you're you're in the right or on the small then you buy that's a different ballgame. You know, the closer to the Eiffel Tower, you're gonna you're not clear, you know if you can afford it, if you can afford it, but typically, if you're looking there, it's not a problem. You don't even look there, otherwise, you don't even bother. And so I identified that in, in, in Europe, in France, in Italy. I'm seeing these fractional CTOs. Their time is rented out to different startups a few hours a day. And I'm like, That's genius. Because most startups don't actually meet this full time CTO. That does real CTO work. Well, for the full time basis. They just they just don't need it. Right.

Tim Bourguignon 34:22
I have to pose here also, I mean, the image I have from startups. I mean, I work for a startup now. And to really do that as well, is really long hours, long days more work that you could do if you had 36 hours in your day. So how can that work with less hours in the day rented time? Not full commitment. How does it work out?

Oshri Cohen 34:46
I don't call you don't code. What you do is you offer a Frac a proper fractional CTO has at least 20 years of experience. That's the real CTO, you know where all the landmines are laid out. You understand technology and how it's applied you incent technology strategy. And and when you're going to hit the limit, right, hey, let's do serverless. But you know, what, what if you need to move to another cloud provider, because AWS is screwed you over with the bill, and now it's too expensive? Oh, we can't because we tied our entire intellectual property into serverless lambdas. And it's impossible for us to move out. Oh, oh, you didn't see that one coming? Developer? Yeah, you didn't see that one coming. But you know what, I see that coming, because I've been there and I've gotten burned. And I understood that, right. And, and so you lend that kind of vision, that kind of, of strategy, right? And you help the developers through whatever they need to go through now, fractional CTO, or a startup? One startup, I'm basically an engineering manager, I manage the team, right? So I organize the tickets. I do code reviews, I do architectural system designs, and I talk with product two hours a day. That's one team is in India, right? And then of course, Grand Designs and whatnot. I'm like, Okay, well, this quarter, we're going to try and get to 100,000 orders a day. Right? We've got to prepare the architecture for that businesses that 5000 orders per day, but they need to grow, I like to nice margin. They can grow as long as they want. And we can start focusing on architectural building feature set. So we, you know, that's that kind of thinking, right? That kind of thinking for another startup, I coached the the the head of engineering, I'm, I'm his counterpart, and I coach him in a help of another one. I'm a CEO. Oh, actually, it's funny. I'm a fractional CEO. So I'm doing product strategy, because it's in medical, and I know medical very well, I've been in it, I understand the industry, I understand the products, the technology that's out there, I've done it, so I can do that. Right. And another one, I'm literally a fractional CTO for for a precede company, and I'm figuring things out for them. And they, and I represent them with their with their investors. Right. Okay. So you fulfill multiple different roles when the role is required. I get paid on an hourly basis. And that's it. Right? So this this company while I was the engineering manager, at some point, I said, Okay, good. I did that we solve a couple of problems. Now we need to hire a principal engineer to take over that. So I can focus on more important stuff, hired a principal engineer, hired more people reorganize the team, right? Because I'm always seeing things from the outside as a consultant. I know people can't see the quotation mark quotes or fingers, the air quotes, right? But, but I lost my train of thought. But anyways, yes.

Tim Bourguignon 37:54
That's a good, that's a good point. I want to rebel and that this, there was due to a question that was floating in my mind, why don't you use the word consultant for this? Why why is this something different for you?

Oshri Cohen 38:03
consultant is a is a bad word, consultants, because bad rep. Yeah. It has a bad rep of it's like lawyer, tech lawyer. It's like, Oh, fine. If I need a lawyer, I'm screwed, man. It's, you know, nobody ever calls their lawyer to have a drink. You know, you know, you, you call your accountant to have a drink or try and make sure they finagle the taxes, right. But you don't you don't you don't call your lawyer for that. You don't call your consultant for that. Right. And so and a consultant typically stays with a company for three, six months full time. It's like I'm with you. And that's it. Right. But startups don't need it. They don't need a consultant. Right? That's the reality. They don't need a quarter. Okay, sorry.

Tim Bourguignon 38:50
I probably cannot afford it as well, a full time consultant for four.

Oshri Cohen 38:54
Exactly right. And you show me a consultant that knows how to run an engineering team, architect developed set up C ICD, hire more teams and has this cross functional capabilities, right? It's got functional capabilities to help an engineering team go from, you know, operating so badly that they're about to go under to performing so well with the exact same team without him fired anybody, right, by just tweaking processes in an intelligent way. Not consultants can do that. What's the limitation of an Agile coach? I guess? I know, hilarious, right? It's hilarious. But what's the limitation of an Agile coach? That's exactly what it is. It's they can only do this and that's it. But but in order to be agile, your architecture has to be agile, otherwise, you can't be agile. So so the fractional CTO is the one who's going to figure this up, not a technology consultant that goes goes I was gonna tell you what, you need server technology, but but they can't read the code. But you need the guy who also reads the code and can architect and get top product and get top business, the fractional CTO.

Tim Bourguignon 40:05
So basically you're you're, you're inserted, this time I'm making the air quotes as sufficiently high enough level to be able to float everywhere where the problem really is and solve that problem and float somewhere else. And at some point, you've sanitized the system, you put it on on good rails, and it can work without you. But it begs the question, how do you avoid burnout? I mean, this, this is a recipe for disaster, isn't it?

Oshri Cohen 40:32
I take a vacation every three months.

Tim Bourguignon 40:35
Okay, so it's a burning, you're burning your wings for three months. And then and then

Oshri Cohen 40:39
I take, I have to take a week off. I strictly never work on weekends, ever, ever work on weekends. But my days are so insanely packed. You know, I finished five interviews for one client, up until, you know, 10 minutes before the before recording this podcast, and I've got another three to run. And then I've got to work on a proposal afterwards. It's a lot of work. But it pays very well. That's the reality of it. That's the thing, it pays very well more than you would I would ever get anywhere else. And I end I change clients every three to six months, I come in, I make sure the engineering team operates. So well, they don't need a manager. That's the thing. You know, that's it, they can have an engineering manager for running the tasks, making sure they follow up and everything, and a principle to make sure that everything is that the code is written correctly. But they don't need a Director of Engineering and our VP of Engineering and our CTO, they won't need one, not 99% of startups don't actually need one. That's the, that's the CTO is typically the guy that or the or the gal the person that you call that the founders co founded the company with, because that guy knows how to write code and did that one time and build that one website in college. You know, let me call Tim, a, he does HTML, we need to build mobile apps. You want to be co founder Tim.

Tim Bourguignon 42:11
Okay. All right. And that's how you ended up being a CTO. Okay. Linking it back to to what we said at the beginning. The only way is up, what's what's after fractional CTO. It is a fractional CTO all the way down.

Oshri Cohen 42:26
Yeah, that's, that's as high as you'll get. Right? Unless now, you know, if my dream is to take a company public, that's what I want to do. That's my now it's no longer about titles. Now. It's about achievements.

Tim Bourguignon 42:40
But can you do that as a fractional CTO? No, no,

Oshri Cohen 42:43
no, not at all. I'm gonna close this company in about two months, three years? Yes, no, it can't be done for more than that. It can be done for more than that. They just can't.

Tim Bourguignon 42:55
So what's your goal for the next few years is gathering experience learning and then at some point saying well seen enough, now I can right

Oshri Cohen 43:01
now. I'm having so much fun helping people. Okay, fair enough, honestly. Like, I, you know, my clients get the benefit of having me on their on their slack all day long. I've, my founders text me on WhatsApp. And they're like, hey, I want to pass an idea by you. And I'm like, let's chat. Even though I just do two hours a day with each one. Right? And that's it. They can still contact me. And they have this this person that they can talk to. I was talking to a founder the other day at 10pm. Because they were freaking out about something. And I'm like, Okay, let's talk it out. Let's just talk it up. Yeah, the engineering team and this and that our money, blah, blah, blah, okay. Well, we're just going to scope the project down. We can do that. Yeah, buddy. We can do that. But what about tech debt? Never See that word again.

Oshri Cohen 43:51
Never mentioned that word again. You don't know what it means tech. That is a good thing. You

Oshri Cohen 43:56
want Tech Tech? That is good, right? I remember explaining this to the founder. I did it twice, I guess in the last couple of months. And I said, and I thought tech that is a good thing is like why is financial debt a good thing? Yes. Because it depends what you get. If you buy your house on your credit card. First of all, You're upsetting the rich, but it's stupid, because it's a bad debt. But if you get a really good deal on a mortgage, it's now you own a house. You pay it off over 30 years, or I don't know in this market, what 75 years I guess your kids are paying it off arguably subdue. Keith, but you own it right now and you get to use it is a mortgage a bad debt? Oh, I guess no, it's not a bad debt at all. If it's structured properly, and you make payments, good, that's tech debt. Instead of borrowing money, you borrow future time. That's it. You will have to pay it off eventually. But you're borrowing time now. For results right now, because and the one thing that I try to teach my founders and and To all the people that I coach, I coach developers as well, like here and there, right? Whoever contacts me for coaching, I'm like, Yeah, you know? Sure. Yes, I can coach you, you know, it's in my LinkedIn title. But I don't actually advertise it that all that much, you know, I just, I don't shut up on LinkedIn. That's as far as I don't shut up on LinkedIn. Because 90% of people I get, I've been following you on LinkedIn. I like what you say, I want to hire. Okay, let's hire me. I don't know, tell you never send out an email ever about being hired. So it worked out? Well, you know. And, and I try to explain to my founders and everybody else that perfect engineering doesn't exist. When you're young, you think you have to build everything perfectly. But perfect engineering doesn't use perfect software doesn't actually does exist. It's never seen the light of day because the company went bankrupt. That's the reality. They went bankrupt, right? It's the best, the best running teams don't operate. Because there are too much focus on past running and not actually delivering, deliver the damn software will deal with the problems later as we move forward. But the one thing that we don't mess around with is the foundation. That's it, build a strong foundation, we spend time on that. Everything else is superfluous. We can we can cut corners, but you don't cut corners on your foundation, because everything crumble crumbles down, and then you're in then you're done. Right?

Tim Bourguignon 46:24
And I'm not nearly it's the time where we have to cut at some point. So let's stop on one advice. If somebody is thinking and thinking, Well, sounds like cool, sounds like fun, this this fractional CTO stuff. I feel like that's something I could be doing. Where should the start? Or what should they? Should they do a double take in their own career and say, Hey, have you done this? Have you done that? Well, what would you what would be your advice for for somebody at this place in their in their in their life,

Oshri Cohen 46:49
or if they are able to work? Effectively 12 hours straight five days a week? Go for it? Sure. It's incredibly taxing. The context which, you know, if you're coding, and somebody bugs you, and you're annoyed, imagine having five people do that. And I manage close to 100 people effectively as a fractional CTO, right? Different cultures, different product, different problems, different markets, different everything. The mind, like the context, which is huge. Like I go from one problem to another problem. But the end of the day, I'm completely finished, I will lie down on the floor and just look at the ceiling. And then I'll start it over again. But it's fun. And it's really good money, fantastic money. Right. And it's an, it's great if you if you want to jump from one problem to another, and you don't want to focus too much on it. Fantastic, right? So it's a lot of fun that way. But if you want to be a fractional CTO, you better be more than just an a great engineer, or a great architect, you have to have that cross functional experience. Otherwise, what's the point of paying you? Right? And the last thing really, is to really understand your market, the fractional CTO, if I if I, if I work with a company two hours a day for a whole year, they've paid me 103 to $140,000. Okay, it's not bad. A real CTO full time not a real estate, but a full time CTO with my experience would have cost them 350 400k. Easy. Plus, but I'd taken 5% of their of their equity and, yeah, which I don't take never don't take equity ever, never take equity. There's a lot of charlatans, you got to separate yourself, never take equity. There's a lot of charlatans, we'll take equity for advice. Hang up the damn phone. Just hang up. Or tap, we still give us the hang up, right? slammed the phone down. Yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 48:48
absolutely. Slap your iPhone on the table.

Oshri Cohen 48:53
So. So that's it have that cross functional experience. Otherwise, you can be a fractional Principal Engineer. Sure, why not? You're a principal and you know your stuff. And the startup has a team of developers that are inexperienced, you come in and you inject some experience. Great. That's perfect, right? And then you walk away, you review some code, excellent. But the market is really important in this case, and I feel like I digressed a little bit. But knowing the market is really important because you're going you're targeting precede to pre Series B. Startups. It's a pretty big range. That's pretty big range. But between even Series B it's tough, because they've got the money already. Do they need a full time CTO? Or do they not? It's still sketch, right? And I tell founders, I'm like you're gonna pay what you want me full time. Sure. $400,000 Let's go. Um, you're full time. Right? Equity and bonuses and trip to Hawaii every three weeks? I don't know. Because you're gonna have to pay me a lot to go full time but still, you know Foot massage. I'm going to negotiate on this one. But you could hire, you know, two more salespeople or a product person or, or two engineers instead of having someone, what do strategy? How much strategy do you need as technology is not that complicated? You need someone who thinks and sets direction and then everybody knows how to follow that direction. It doesn't take that much time a CEO, you need a full time CEO. Right? See, oh, if you do implementations, well, you need a full time one. Sure, because you're involved in many things, but the CTO can be fractional. That's it. And if you're more than two hours a day, it doesn't, it's not doesn't make sense anymore for the company to hire you as a fraction, they might as well hire a full time because you're now nearing the $200,000 range. At that point, you can get a decent person. So it's keeping your cost, your hourly rate low enough that it's attractive, but high enough that it's interesting for you, and finding the right companies to work with.

Tim Bourguignon 51:00
Makes sense. Thank you very much. It's been a blast. Where would be the best place to find you. I heard LinkedIn is that the place to find you For you see you vehemently saying stuff?

Oshri Cohen 51:11
Yes. If you follow me on LinkedIn, your notifications will go nuts because I'm like, I'm active, like, four or five times a day. Right. And, and I'm wild on LinkedIn, or Shree cohen.me okay.me is very important. not.com That's the Israeli actor. I'm not an actor. I am not. I don't have you're gonna go on it right now, aren't you? Yeah.

Oshri Cohen 51:43
I'm not like shirtless, you know, and black and white, even though, you know, maybe I look like that. I don't know. You'll tell me. Who knows. Maybe it is me. I don't know.

Tim Bourguignon 51:52
After I stopped recording.

Oshri Cohen 51:56
Right. But so it's dot me on LinkedIn. And that's it. You know, and you know, you need advice. You want to talk to me, I'm always going to help you but I help people all the time. I love it for free. I'll help you. Maybe you hire me. Maybe you don't. Alright, fantastic.

Tim Bourguignon 52:11
You heard it. Andre. Thank you very much.

Oshri Cohen 52:14
Thank you, Tim. That was fine.

Tim Bourguignon 52:17
This has been another episode of Devil's journey. I will see each other next week. Bye bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Will you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m o t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info. Talk to you soon.