Oops: The Cobbler's Kids' Shoes Edition

Rian Schmidt

February 03, 2023

Table of Contents:

Why I do this consulting work

Passive marketing

This is where I apologize

It's a new day!

No news is not necessarily good news

Hooboy. So, you know how I'm this tech guy, right? I've been doing this computer stuff for nearly 40 years, if you count using the mainframe (kids, ask your parents) as a student in middle school.

Why I do this consulting work

Roll forward, and I've got this lovely full-time CTO job with a great company and a side-gig as a technical consultant to the stars. I've got some really awesome clients that I help with advising and/or hands-on technical work in the evenings or on weekends.

I'm sometimes asked, given that there's always more to do at my day job and I don't really need the money, why I'd want to maintain these consulting relationships. They cut into my evenings and weekends. I can get frantic calls from people at all hours. It can honestly be a hassle sometimes.

The answer is really about diversity.

In my job as a CTO for my employer, I do a variety of things, but... they're generally the same variety of things: our stacks, our process, our people, mostly the same issues year after year. For instance, we now have a platform built on plain old React and GraphQL, hosted in Azure. It's big and important to the company by now.

I introduced it as an evolution of our existing core Windows desktop app a few years ago. Since then, we've invested a lot of time in developing the stack and making changes to how we do that is a tall order. We have so much to do that suggesting changing paradigms when "it's not broken" gets me some serious stinkeye-- even if the change would lead to incremental improvement.

Passive marketing

So, I love to take on completely new things-- different markets, different constraints, unsolved problems. It's always good to have an open door to new prospects, in case someone has something that I could get really excited about learning and creating.

On the other hand, I'm pretty busy already. I don't really have a lot of time available, and I don't want to spend much of it marketing myself. So, this site. I hand the URL to people who are interested in working with me. It gets picked up by Google for some terms. Perfect! Done!

I probably get a dozen or so bona fide leads per year-- people with actual projects and actual budgets. But it's not unusual to have dry spells where I hear nothing from anyone for a couple of months. So, I thought nothing of the fact that I hadn't seen a lead in a few months. Was it a few months? More? When was the last time I saw a lead come through?

This is where I apologize

Oh, they were coming in. My mail was misconfigured. Some package got upgraded, or I made a change to an environment variable, or... something. I don't actually know and don't want to take the time to figure it out since I've got a better answer.

There were about ten genuine leads over the past year or so that went into my CRM, such as it is, but I didn't get the notification. If you were one of them, I'm sorry I didn't get back to you. I usually only take on a couple of new gigs each year, but I do try to be responsive. Oops.

The cobbler's kids have no shoes.

It's a new day!

As part of my ongoing project upgrading this site from Next.js to Remix, Material-UI and Strapi v4s to v5s, etc. I switched my mail delivery to Mailgun. I've used them successfully with clients, and I just never bothered to switch my own from the homemade mechanism I'd been using.

I consider this a reminder that just because I haven't heard any complaints doesn't mean there's nothing wrong. It's remarkable how a little "friction" in the process will shut someone down. These folks all had genuine needs, but submitting a form and not hearing back looks, for all intents and purposes, like being blown off.

Most people won't take the time to double-check that you received their message. They'll just move on to option B.

I don't blame them. So, it's up to me to keep on top of it.

Good lesson.