No strategy → no focus → no improvements → no differentiators → no happiness in what I do → back to employee mode.
Without a strategy, one might temporarily enjoy the comfort of a well-established business with a waiting pipeline of potential clients, coasting on inertia.
Having no strategy in mind leaves the door open for competitors and partners to swiftly outpace me.
In just a single year, I could find myself back in employee mode, overshadowed by those who planned more strategically.
I transitioned from the corporate world to solopreneurship four years ago.
I aim to transform software engineering teams into a unique company asset: a dynamic force capable of outrunning competition and securing market victories for software companies in Central Europe.
In this journey, I have helped over 25 software companies, with some notable achievements:
- At Mews.com, as Vice President of Engineering, I guided the company through a Series C funding of $182 million, expanding the team from 40 to over 100 developers in just two years. My leadership was crucial in overcoming the challenges posed by COVID-19 and significant organizational changes.
- At Keboola.com, I played an integral role in their $32 million Series A funding. I provided mentorship to the CTO and Head of Development, focusing on stabilizing their delivery processes.
- At Manta.io, I contribute to their acquisition by IBM, offering support and mentoring the CTO to ensure a seamless integration.
- With CredoVentures VC, I collaborated to enhance the capabilities of startup engineering leaders through mentoring and workshops. This collaboration involved a series of Leadership Academy workshops and online webinars, aimed at hedging their startup investments.
My ultimate Mission is to
Augment 🚀 Engineering Management talent pool in Central Europe, empowering 💪 local software companies to outperform and beat the World 🌏, positioning us alongside major software hubs such as Berlin🇩🇪 and London🇬🇧.
That is why, my focus was divided into three main segments in 2023:
- Advisory: I served as a Fractional VPE for selected companies, typically three per year. My primary focus was on stabilizing development flows, enhancing leadership, and cultivating a positive culture. This approach led to over an 80% quarterly roadmap delivery success rate. Additionally, I offered Engineering Teams Productivity Audits to further streamline processes.
- Mentoring: I ran a bespoke coaching program for CTOs, Tribe Leaders, and Engineering Managers. This program was tailored to the unique needs of each individual, with 16 clients managed in parallel.
- Partnerships: Additionally, I conducted a 10-session mentoring program specifically designed for CTOs/mini-CTOs. This program was developed in partnership with the techexecs.cz community, offering targeted guidance and support for technology leaders.
See my full 2023 mentoring strategy.
My #2023 Engineering Leadership Coach solopreneur journey in numbers:
- Mentoring Sessions: Conducted a total of 417 mentoring sessions, engaging with 27 unique individuals.
- Advisory Work: Dedicated 96 days to advisory roles in 3 companies, focusing on reorganization, team productivity, and fine-tuning engineering efficiency with the implementation of strategic metrics.
- Time Allocation: Approximately 31% of my active client time was spent directly on engagements. The remainder was allocated to preparation, operational work, and continuous improvements.
- Income: Generated a total income of $228k (EBT) in 2023.
I share my business flow and income data openly, updated daily at https://www.kamenistak.com/data-flow-profit/
2024 Solopreneur Strategy Exposed
In 2023H2, I observed an emerging trend: companies becoming increasingly cautious about their budget allocations. This heightened prudence is primarily due to the looming risk of a recession in 2024, leading to a notable restraint in long-term investments, particularly in areas like external mentoring, coaching, advisory services, and conferences.
In response to this shift, I’ve meticulously adjusted my strategy for 2024. My revised plan is centered around five main areas, each carefully designed to align with the evolving needs and constraints of businesses in these uncertain times.
For a comprehensive view of my full 2024 solopreneur strategy, including detailed insights and approaches, please explore the landscape I’ve laid out in Miro.
Objective 1: Engineering Leaders Community
Since 2021, I have been at the helm of a community that now includes over 350 Engineering Leaders in the Czech Republic. Our focus is on hosting nine meetups annually, dedicated to sharing insights and facilitating the transformation of managers into leaders.
In this area, my 2024 goal is:
Objective: I’ll create a safe space for knowledge sharing among Engineering Leaders, especially those who may not have the resources for individual mentoring. The community is at the heart of this endeavor.
Key Result: Grow the community from 350 members in 2023 to 500 in 2024. Successfully organize 9 high-value meetups throughout the year.
Tactic: To achieve these goals, I plan to enhance collaboration with community managers and secure at least one soft company sponsor or partner. Additionally, I aim to engage our community base more actively by allowing them to vote on topics for upcoming meetups, introducing a suggestion form for this purpose.
Aligned with my Mission: Yes.
Objective 2: Mentoring
Mentoring and coaching of engineering leaders are not just my profession; they are my passion, my love.
In 2023, it was a joy to assist 27 unique individuals through a total of 417 mentoring sessions. The fulfillment I gain from helping others grow and develop is immensely rewarding.
Abandoning mentoring would not only diminish my personal satisfaction but also weaken my professional network and impact on individual leadership.
Therefore, my 2024 mentoring goals are:
Objective: I’ll transform additional engineering managers into leaders worth following, thereby supporting my mission.
Key Result: Continue mentoring 16 individual mentees concurrently, aiming for a 90% or higher positive reference rate.
Tactic: Dedicate two days each week exclusively to mentoring, which will allow for up to 32 sessions per month. Actively work to refill the mentoring pipeline with new clients and expand my professional reach.
Aligned with my Mission: Yes.
Objective 3: Fractional VP Engineering advisory
In 2023, I played a pivotal role in aiding three software companies as a fractional advisor. My efforts were focused on guiding them through layoffs and organizational restructuring while maintaining high efficiency levels.
My ultimate goal is to foster an environment where teams are enriched with valuable discoveries, consistently delivering at least 80% of their quarterly roadmap, thereby earning trust and pride.
Stepping away from advisory roles would mean forgoing the opportunity to encounter diverse situations and client models. Such experiences are vital for learning from real-world scenarios and evolving my professional practice.
With this in mind, my 2024 goal is:
Objective: To augment the performance of more software companies within the Central European region.
Key Result: Secure and successfully complete three additional fractional advisory missions as a VP of Engineering in 2024, concluding each with positive feedback.
Tactic: Continue dedicating two days a week to fractional advisory work. Actively promote my services to a broader range of companies, particularly those seeking to enhance the efficiency of their Engineering teams.
Aligned with my Mission: Yes.
Objective 4: Going Digital
In light of the increased financial caution among companies in 2024, the shift towards online formats is not just appropriate but necessary.
Currently, I offer a 4-day Leadership Academy workshop designed specifically for Engineering Managers. This has set the foundation for my digital offerings.
To build on this success, here is my objective for 2024:
Objective: Expand my reach by creating a new digital pillar in my service offerings.
Key Result: Develop and launch two additional billable services in a video format with a strong partner.
Tactic: Identify the most in-demand topics for online learning. Aim to attract more than zero clients with positive feedback in the first half of 2024. Collaborate with recognized ambassadors — individuals who truly embody the principles they teach and walking the talk — to create these programs.
Aligned with my Mission: Yes.
Objective 5: Awareness
I hope my brand is gaining more traction in 2023. Thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations, I have amassed over 8k LinkedIn followers, and I remain active in meetups, podcasts, and conferences. In 2023, I was invited to speak at 6 podcasts, participated as a speaker or facilitator in 3 meetups, presented at 2 major conferences, and recorded 5 videos. A notable highlight was speaking at the Plato Elevate conference in San Francisco.
With that in mind, my 2024 goals is:
Objective: Establish my name, ‘Marian,’ as a brand synonymous with company reorganization and growth among software companies in Central Europe.
Key Result: Aim to submit proposals for 8 conference CFPs (Calls for Papers), collaborate on 4 more partnering podcasts, and publish 9 substantial, valuable blog posts.
Tactic: To achieve these goals, I plan to expand my collaboration with my copywriter and engage more virtual assistants. This will help mitigate the operational overhead and free up more time for activities that boost awareness.
Aligned with my Mission: Yes.
I will NOT
It seems easy to say what I commit to accomplishing. It’s harder to express what I’ve voluntarily decided to give up and will not achieve in 2024:
- I will NOT write a book.
- I will NOT start selling worship and mentoring certificates.
- I will NOT shift entirely to online passive video content.
- I will NOT obsess over posting AI-generated posts four times a day on social media.
- I will NOT engage in conversations with people who lack a clear value proposition.
- I will NOT abandon dedicating one day a week to my learning habit.
Why? The “Don’t” above are not aligned with my principles.
For those on a similar journey, I hope we can mutually inspire each other to craft the right strategies for our endeavors.
From my personal experience, I’ve learned that operating without a clear strategy can lead to a wide, yet unfocused range of activities. This approach often results in engaging in numerous tasks, meeting countless people, but without a clear purpose or tangible results. It’s a path that can easily lead to inefficiency, where you find yourself busy yet with little client engagement, no significant outcomes, and ultimately, no real success.
So, how do I stay on track with my strategy? I keep it in plain sight. I print it out and pin it at the center of my front wall, ensuring that it constantly catches my eye.
This simple act ensures that I am constantly reminded of what truly matters.
It helps me stay focused and enables me to decisively say ‘no’ to tasks, ideas, and even people that do not align with my strategy or contribute to my mission.
- My Principles: https://www.kamenistak.com/#principles
- My Journey as an Engineering Manager Coach: https://www.kamenistak.com/engineering-manager-coach/
- My Solopreneur data: https://www.kamenistak.com/data-flow-profit/
- Public Speaking: https://www.kamenistak.com/#speaker
- Videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7d-nKd8TFWDEwipu_80CZvFobzilMhiE
- Blog Posts: https://www.kamenistak.com/blog/
- Portfolio Mind Map: https://www.kamenistak.com/portfolio-introduction/
If you’re a CTO/CPO, VPE, Tribe/Chapter Lead or and Engineering Manager/Team Lead, I’d be delighted to see you joining our Engineering Leaders CZ community and see you in person at our next meetup: https://talkbase.io/company/engineering-leaders-cz/events
I’d be pleased to get to know you and explore how I can assist you. If you see an overlap, schedule a meeting with me, please: https://app.reclaim.ai/m/meet-marian