Look! I Made a Company!

October 31, 2019 was an interesting date for several reasons. First, it was the date when the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union. Well, one of many such dates. It didn’t. Second, it was Hallowe’en, and I had plans to fly to Cluj-Napoca, the regional capital of Transylvania, to speak at a software conference. Yep – flying to Transylvania on Hallowe’en! Pretty cool, right? #goth

Things didn’t quite work out that way. I found out around lunchtime on the 31st that Skills Matter, the company where I’d worked as CTO since 2017, was being placed into administration with immediate effect. Now, I’ve left jobs before. There’s a couple of months of notice and handover, time to plan your next move, figure out where you want to go, what you want to work on. Not this time. On Thursday I was a salaried employee; on Friday I was unemployed. Or “unexpectedly promoted to freelance”, if you prefer.

I took a late flight to Romania on Friday so I could still speak at Devoxx on Saturday – and by the time I got back to London on Sunday evening, I’d decided I wasn’t going to look for another job. Not that the idea of applying for every “rockstar developer” job on LinkedIn didn’t have a certain appeal… but it was definitely time to try something else. Respond to change, instead of following a plan.

I’ve always loved working with computers, but over the past five years I’ve also discovered that I love teaching. I love travelling, I love working with new people and unfamiliar technologies, seeing how different teams have solved the same problems. The sort of work I wanted to do didn’t seem particularly compatible with any kind of conventional job, so, like a lot of folks who work in IT, I decided to set up my own consultancy, specialising in training, software development and technology strategy. I set myself a three-month deadline, to get something up and running in time for NDC London – and here we are.

Everybody say hello to Ursatile Ltd, Company No. 12414586. That’s right, folks – I have a certificate and everything! I have a website, I have a name, I have a logo, and I have over 20 years’ experience working with computers (which are dumb, but occasionally do some very smart things) and with people (who are smart, but occasionally do some very dumb things) – in fact, the only thing I don’t have right now is clients. Now, I’m no business expert, but I’ve taken some very solid financial advice and apparently the whole “start your own company” thing works a lot better if you have some paying customers. So I’m gonna come right out and say it:

Hire me!

I can teach you to code in .NET and JavaScript. I can teach you about software architecture. I can teach you public speaking, how to write amazing presentations, and how to communicate more effectively with your customers and teammates. I can show you how to design a hypermedia API – ideally after helping you figure out whether you need one and what you’re going to use it for. I can help you grow your team, build your next prototype or untangle your legacy codebase.

If we think face-to-face is the best way to do something, I’ll travel. I grew up in Africa, I’m based in London, and I genuinely love airports. I’ve taught and spoken everywhere from Sydney to Siberia, I’ve met amazing people, I’ve connected with wonderful communities all over the world, and I’d love the chance to spend a couple of days with your team, helping you figure things out but also learning about your company, your technology and your culture.

Remote is good too. I run workshops about how to use Slack, email and online tools like Trello and GitHub effectively; I’m not only happy to work remote, I might even be able to make it more effective for everyone involved.

My calendar for 2020 is pretty open right now, and I’m doing introductory rates for new training courses for the next few months – but get in quick: according to my business plan, by July I’ll be booked solid until the end of 2025 and charging £75K for a five-minute Skype call, so get in touch and let’s book something in before that happens. ;)

So, yeah. My new website is at ursatile.com. That’s not really for you. I mean, take a look by all means, but you’re already here and you’re still reading this, so I figure we’re already cool. The website is so that search engines will find me, and people like your boss will hire me.

I’ll be at NDC London this week – and I’m hosting PubConf London on Friday if you can’t make it to NDC – so if you’re around, come and say hi, and if you’re not, you can always reach me on email at hello@ursatile.com. I’d obviously love to talk to anybody who’s interested in hiring me, but I also want to know what you’re all working on and what you think your challenges are going to be this year.

And finally, a huge thanks to all the people who’ve helped me get this far. It’s been a difficult few months, and there’s still a lot of stuff I need to figure out, but so far everyone I’ve turned to for advice and help has been absolutely lovely – so thank you, all of you!