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CEO Pete Popov looks back on 2020

As we approach the end of December, it’s time to review a year that we will certainly remember for the rest of our lives. It hasn’t been easy, but all of us at Konsulko Group are still working hard, supporting the open source community and helping our customers build forward-looking products.

Even at the start of 2020, we knew this year would be different. The coronavirus was the talk of CES in January with some companies pulling out at the last minute, and everyone wondering what the global business climate would be in the months ahead.

By the time FOSDEM rolled around a few weeks later, it was clear the virus would disrupt commerce worldwide, and by the end of February, we had to cut short our presence at Embedded World because of new travel restrictions.

Then the world locked down completely. Since at Konsulko Group we all work remotely by design, we didn’t have to adjust our way of developing software, but as it did for everyone, we had to significantly change our face-to-face participation in embedded Linux, Yocto Project and other community events.

We taught ourselves to use video editing tools, and gave “virtual” presentations from our desks at the Embedded Linux Conference North America and Yocto Project Dev Day at the end of June, the virtual Automotive Grade Linux All Member Meeting in mid July, Linaro Connect in September, Virtual ELCE and Yocto Project Virtual Summit Europe at the end of October, and participated in the virtual Automotive Linux Summit the first of December.

In December, we also presented an AGL Webinar, Getting Started with AGL using Raspberry Pi.

Early in the year, we announced that we had become a Mender Authorized Referral Partner, and that important alliance has provided dividends to both Konsulko Group and our customers as the year progressed.

Konsulko engineers continued our series of technical blogs…

Helping Yocto Project work with Python 3

Getting Started with RAUC on Raspberry Pi

How Mender works

Using Rust with Yocto Project

Building a DIY SOHO router, 18 months later

…and we posted six new videos of our presentations:

Building Containers with OpenEmbedded

Highly Scalable Yocto Project Build Automation

Security Hardening with OpenEmbedded / Yocto Project

Open Source License Compliance with Yocto Project

Demo: Using Rust with Yocto Project

Software Update Solutions for Yocto and OpenEmbedded

Still, we have all been touched by the physical and emotional toll of COVID-19. Two of our engineers have endured a bout with the virus (and thankfully recovered). Some of us have family, friends or acquaintances who have become seriously ill or even passed away. We can only hope the post-pandemic world is now in sight.

In the long run, the challenges that 2020 have brought us closer together in many ways, and hopefully taught us valuable lessons that will make us stronger in a better new year.

Globally Employable Engineers

In 2004, we founded Embedded Alley Solutions, and many things we did for the next five years simply felt intuitive. We were, after all, embedded Linux engineers with little business, customer relationship management and human resources experience.

Intuition served us well. We were doing agile-style software development long before it became mainstream, and soon it seemed like everyone knew our name. Our ability to communicate internally was second to none, using nothing more than emails and irc, creating a close knit team that felt as though everyone is in the same office, although the team was highly distributed.

Our recruiting practice was not so much about hiring as it was about building and fostering relationships with top talent around the world until the time was right for both parties to make the move. Outside the US, we tried to find the best open source talent around the world, rather than building an “outsourcing center.” We grew the company with that stellar talent and were acquired in 2009.

In the years that followed, every now and then I would read advice in an article or business book, written by some acknowledged industry expert, and think “That’s right! That’s exactly what we were doing at EA!” It was interesting and amusing to find out from others that what we had done on the business side helped make Embedded Alley so successful. I note only the business aspects here because the engineering talent we had was hard to match.     

At Konsulko Group, I find myself having many of the same discussions with customers as we did back then, and I lean on that experience. One recurring discussion we had at EA was about our “offshore engineers,” as customers would often refer to engineers who resided outside the US. Embedded Alley had a small office in Europe, as well as single employees working from a home office all over the world. We always told customers that, no, we do not have a two-tier outsourcing strategy and these were not “offshore” developers. We simply searched for the best talent, with very specific software development experience, and that talent is not always to be found next door to our Silicon Valley office.

Fast forward 10 years after the EA acquisition. I recently found myself having the same offshore discussion with a customer. A specific principal level engineer was located in an European country not known as a center for high tech. Why was it that we were proposing to invoice him at the same rate as the other US-based principal engineers? This customer had done their homework and evidence showed that the average engineering rates in this European country are significantly lower.  

I paused on the phone and thought back to our Embedded Alley days. What did I tell customers then? I realized that we never had a good, quantifiable way to explain to a customer why our engineering rates for developers outside the US, though lower than market rates in Silicon Valley, were significantly higher than the typical “outsourcing rates” in a particular location. We had talked about our hiring strategy and looking for the best talent wherever we might find it, but there were no metrics I could lean on.

Then I thought about the work this particular engineer had done at Embedded Alley; and then after the acquisition, he continued at Mentor Graphics (always working remotely from Europe). When he left Mentor, he contracted for Texas Instruments, then another US company, and finally, after the founding of Konsulko Group “rejoined” our team. Meanwhile he had had other opportunities, from contracting gigs to full time jobs in the US with H1B visa sponsorship.

And that’s when it struck me. This was not an engineer working in an offshore office at an offshore salary. “This is a globally employable engineer,” I said on the phone, “and we pay him a US level salary in order to retain him.” I continued to recount his work history and track record. The buyer understood and we moved forward with the deal.

What is a globally employable engineer? In my mind, it’s someone that could get a good job anywhere around the world due to demand of their skills. It’s someone with a minimum of ten years of experience, highly talented, with excellent English language skills and some customer-facing experience. The ability to travel when necessary helps a lot, and that means the ability to get a B1/B2 US visa for occasional visits. Such engineers may choose to continue to live in their home country, or elsewhere in the world, but tapping their talent does not come at offshore salary cost.

It is time for the high tech industry to move beyond Outsourcing 1.0, and embrace the Globally Employable model to access the best engineering talent on earth, wherever on the planet they choose to reside.  

Looking forward to the OSLS Half Moon Bay

This week, Konsulko Group CEO Pete Popov will be attending the Linux Foundation’s Open Source Leadership Summit in Half Moon Bay, California. The OSLS has always been a premier forum for open source leaders convene to drive digital transformation with open source technologies, and learn how to collaboratively manage the largest shared technology investment of our time. An intimate event, OSLS fosters innovation, growth and partnerships among the leading projects and corporations working in open technology development. Hope to see you there.

New video released of “The Konsulko Story”

CEO Pete Popov and CTO Matt Porter talk about the Konsulko Group’s 20-years of experience with Embedded Linux, and introduce the Konsulko team.

Created by multimedia director Alex Vlacos, the video was filmed in October 2017 during the Embedded Linux Conference in Prague, where key Konsulko engineers gathered to give technical papers and demonstrate new technology.

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