Evan VolgasData Engineer
Bio

Evan is a tap dancer turned analyst turned engineer turned entrepreneur who enjoys other people’s imaginations and laying the groundwork to get there. He's got a knack for building data teams and leaders who know how to work well with them. Evan loves learning and hates to see people get stuck. You’re likely to find him wherever there are dogs, cantaloupe, or coffee. You may also find him at tech conferences where he gives seminars on data literacy (and often provides highly-available, machine learning-powered, blockchain-fueled snark-as-a-service for the modern data-driven-off-a-cliff enterprise)



Recent Answers


"I am the head of sales for a new start up "App". What is the best way to get the word out? This question has no further details."

Going out on a limb here but I feel like sharing some details about your app (what it does, who cares, etc) when you're asking questions about how to get the word out about it might actually be a good place to start vis a vis how to get word out about it.....


I'm going to answer this from the perspective of an engineer who has worked in similar environments and who has had leadership changes that went well, as well as ones that didn't

Basically you're describing an environment in which people aren't doing as much as they are capable of, they were working in a hostile environment in which threats were common, and there's a sort of lack of accountability + poor communication / collaboration.

Okay first thing, I wouldn't recommend using analytics to hold people accountable. Not yet anyway. It's a carrot and a stick problem and bringing out the stick first... you're likely to add demoralized staff to the list of problems you're trying to solve.

What if instead you talked to everyone and explained your vision for the company and then followed up with each employee over the next week or two. Figure out what their vision for their own career is and what they want the next year to look like, the the next three, the next five. If you can align your employee's goals and ambitions to your own, I think you'll have a lot more luck getting people to solve the disfunction that they can. And they'll be a lot more understanding when you start taking measures to hold people accountable.

Again, just my perspective as an engineer. I would bet you that the people you are working with are aware of the same problems as you. And they would probably agree with you that people need to be held accountable. But you need to be careful about how you do that. Accountability right now probably will look like more micromanagement and intimidation. Paint a picture for where you want to go and commit to helping your people reach where they want to go... well, then accountability isn't such a bitter pill and it will likely be seen as necessary, not more of the same toxic leadership that wrecked the culture last time.


It depends on what you mean by "Visualized Data."

Do decision makers use graphs, charts, dashboards, etc? Yes of course.

Are there some visualizations that wouldn't be of any value to a decision maker whatsoever? Also yes of course. You can't show me a word cloud if I work as a portfolio manager for a bank and expect me to make any decisions from it. That being said, the social media team might be able to. It all depends on the audience, and whether or not you're making patterns they care about easier to detect.

If you are talking about graphs/charts/dashboards, what I would do if I was in your shoes is I would try to make one dashboard with (say) 3-4 graphs inside of it, and then I'd show them that dashboard and say something like, "You know, I've been thinking about that conversation we had. And I definitely appreciate the point you made about fluff visualizations. But I also really think there's at least a few charts that would be really valuable to you. I whipped a few together (on my time, not yours!). Do you have a few minutes that you could spare to come have a look at them with me?"


Well first off I wouldn't recommend trying to power your client's database with the standard WordPress database instance. They can use WordPress for the website all they like. But with millions of records like that, you really don't want to move those data in with WordPress.

For that matter, you're probably gonna want a dedicated database server to answer those questions, if the client doesn't already have one. You might also need to investigate something like Elastic Search, depending on what your search requirements are and what sort of database they are using (pay close attention to whether or not it provides full text search ability).

Beyond that, and somewhat obviously, you're also gonna want SSL on the website and to make sure you're up to date on federal and state privacy requirements for data like this, as well as best practices for securely transferring data over the web (port configuration, ssh keys, etc).

The privacy concerns would raise a flag for me. If those data have anything personally identifiable in them - which they very probably do - then you're really gonna want to make sure you do your research on security of personally identifiable information. Government specific privacy /security /auditability requirements may also apply, so double check that too.



"Still even after all those years I never managed to charge what I think I am worth. All my client projects run around from US$ 10 to 15/h. Every time that I try to charge more I lose the contract because there is always someone that offers smaller rates."

First things first, don't compete on rates. Ever. Someone can always go lower than you. It's an arms race you don't want to be a part of. Losing a client who prefers a cheaper option is not something you should lose sleep over.

Second, ask yourself: "If not rates, what I am competing with?" Ask yourself, "Why should someone hire me at $50-100 per hour instead of $10/15? What is it about what I do that makes it worth their investment?"

Avoid getting trapped in the weeds when you think about that. The correct answer to those kinds of questions is not really, "Cause I'm a good programmer." A lot of people are good programmers. A lot of them are cheap too. Whatever justifies your higher rate, it's gotta be more than just "I'm really good at code."

As well, whatever justifies a lower rate, it's gotta be more than "Cause I live in Brazil/India/whatever." People who are working with consultants in India/Brazil/etc because the rates are lower aren't the clients you want to attract. You need to attract people who want a consultant who knows what s/he's doing and doesn't care where in the world you are. But before you can get any clients like that, you need to know why it's worth paying you more... what do you bring to the table that others don't and who are you competing with?

Give that some thought... and best of luck!


I don't agree with the logic behind charging different customers different prices based on their revenue. If I want to buy a car, the price is not determined by my income. Same with a house. Same with legal services. I guess in some extremes that's not the case (subsidized housing, state-provided legal resources, etc) but in general the price is the price and your income has nothing to do with that. Charging customers with less revenue a lower rate is, like it or not, a subsidy.

If you did provide lower rates to customers with less revenue, your higher revenue customers would be quite right to ask you why you're charging them more, if they ever found out you were doing that. Pricing practices that I can't defend if they become public are, in my mind, not a good idea.

That being said, whatever rate you pick, here's one bit of advice I'd very strongly encourage you to consider. Pick your normal rate, the one that applies with a (say) 3 business day turn around. Multiply that by 1.5. That's the priority rate - within 24 hours. Multiple the priority rate by 3 That's the emergency and weekend rate.

So, with $50 as the normal rate, the priority rate would be $75. The emergency/weekend rate would be $225.

The idea is, a single unreasonable client who wants everything "right now!!!!" can ruin your customer service for everyone and make your life miserable. Make "Right now!!!!" extremely expensive relative to your other rates, and incentivize reasonable expectations on behalf of your clients. You'll sleep a lot better at night if you do that, it'll be easier to stay focused on school (since you're not constantly getting "right now" requests), and (if your experience is anything like mine) your clients will understand and appreciate the rate sheet. It does in fact protect reasonable clients from very unreasonable ones, and it gives clients the option to prioritize things when they really, really need to.


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