Hi, I’m Patrick Lee Scott and I am Hackernoon’s first contributing writer of the year. I began my programming journey when I was just a kid and have now been the CTO of multiple startups, one of which was through an Accelerator teaching Lean Startup principles funded by Anheuser-Busch InBev, which had a successful exit via merger into their e-commerce division.
I have helped 1000s of engineers learn about containerization, orchestration, building microservices and Fullstack applications, through my free course GDD with and my articles on HackerNoon and elsewhere which have been read hundreds of thousands of times.
I want to help you learn everything you need to know about using your engineering skills to stop building systems for some MBA or product manager type, and start building systems for yourself to organically grow a small business without needing any VC funding.
Hint: Marketing and advertising done right MAKES money, not loses it… Meaning a dollar in equals more than dollar out… got it?
I didn’t at all, and I want to share they story with you of how I discovered this, and how Cloud Native Entrepreneur came to be.
The year was 2012 - I was about a year and a half into my first software engineering job and I was feeling pretty good about myself.
Having this job finally allowed me to move out of home for one. My dad likes to tell the story of how I told him:
“What are you doing up so early?” asked my Dad.
“I have an appointment… I’m getting a tattoo”. I replied.
“Oh no you’re not, not while you’re living under my roof!”.
“Yea, we need to talk about that too… I got a new job, found an apartment, and I’m moving out tomorrow!”
And so I got that tattoo, and moved out. Freedom has always been a big driving factor for me. I guess you could say I’m a bit inclined to “go against the grain” as well.
I always knew I didn’t want to work for some big company. I was pretty obsessed with the idea of entrepreneurship and already had several projects with dreams of bigger things in college, such as “GeoCreatures” and “InstantCircle”.
Being an entrepreneur seemed so cool. I was a software engineer, and it seemed to me that engineering was a key factor in building a tech company so I sought to be one of the best.
The idea of the freedom - the pure absolute freedom - that one could obtain by making it big in software was enthralling…
My parents weren’t great off after a drawn out divorce which cost them mostly everything. With tech money like that, I could buy them both a house.
I wanted a startup of my own, so it made sense that I found a startup to work at once graduating. I wanted to learn how it’s done… At this startup job I found, the product I was working on was a multi-channel marketing platform named “Conversen”, and I was the 8th employee. I didn’t know it then, I was just in it for the programming, but years later it’d turn out that I very much enjoyed the marketing part of things.
Over almost two years there I’d become respected at the startup, and even got my buddy a job working there, too. We had internal soccer teams and frequent team lunches that were a lot of fun. It was an exciting time, as the company the year before made it on to Inc. 500’s list of fast growing private companies, and internally, we’d just heard word that we were being acquired by a multi-billion dollar company - Experian.
Many people know Experian as the Credit Monitoring company, but at the time, in 2012, they already had a multi-billion dollar marketing division - and they were looking to expand. With the acquisition, I’d now gone from 1 of 8 employees to 1 of 20-something as the company grew, and would now be 1 of 15,000 employees. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea given my penchant for startups, so I was already having some thoughts of moving on when a recruiter called and told me they’d pay me double what I was making to move to NYC to work for a billionaire in an internal “innovation” division building new products for his company.
There was just one problem, though, I had to pass the interview first… You see, the problem with that, is I’m pretty bad at interviewing. Interviews make me nervous and I still literally fail all of them to this day.
Which is why now I just get people to come to me - like you, hi, hello there - Breaking that fourth wall in text… :)
Long story short, this interview didn’t go any differently. I failed the phone screen right away. I wasn’t ready to give up that easily though! I decided to virtually track down Jason, the phone screener’s email, which, I might add, was not an easy thing to do. Once I finally found his email addresses through utilizing my thorough Googling skills, I wrote him a long email explaining all the answers that I screwed up on the phone, and then said something super smooth that I can’t quite remember so he’d give me another chance. This got me on a train to NYC, where I met the engineering manager Stefan. Goes to show the value of being persistent in getting the things you want.
When I met Stefan, he was surprised to learn that at 24 years old I was really into things like Domain Driven Design and based on that and my experience as a Fullstack UX Engineer decided to hire me.
So there I was, living in Manhattan, working for a billionaire with a job that paid $135k/y with great benefits. I lived in a room in a 7 bedroom apartment with a music studio, sharing it with some super cool dudes in the Upper East Side - Erik, Paul, Manny, Krish, and Tom
Moving to NYC and living in that apartment was basically the coolest thing I’d ever done up until that point. The music studio was run by Erik and Paul. Tom was also a musician with his own setup in his room. They would all frequently collaborate. In the early days I’d heard stories of scary people they brought in from CraigsList who’d scream into microphones (and not in a good way) and generally make everyone around uncomfortable. They now have worked with artists whom you know. For example, The Chainsmokers used to come to our apartment to make music, as well as many more.
Today - several years later - there are Instagram posts out there of P. Diddy telling you to listen to Paul’s new band, and I’m very sad to tell you that Erik has passed away in the past year, so everyone make sure to pour one out for my homie! <3 It’s from him I learned to live life to the fullest and say cool things like “New York City!? More like No Work City!” Though I always worked a lot more than him it seemed, it was fun to say it too, and live vicariously through him.
I still aspire to get on his level in that regard.
My other roommate, Krish, also happened to be business minded like myself. Krish was a relationship and sales person, and I was confident I could build anything. This dynamic became important later on as we’d always brainstorm business ideas together and say things like “Let’s start a company, bro!” and “Lean startup!”.
I was most definitely an aspiring entrepreneur - I LOVED writing code, but felt any job made you, as the rapper Stiches says: “A job-ass bitch.”
Meanwhile, I was still on a journey of engineering excellence… I still figured I could just focus on building things and find someone else to do the business stuff…
I had been pretty obsessed with designing scalable systems ever since college, but a computer science degree didn’t really teach that. It was back in college that I discovered Domain Driven Design by Eric Evans. It was an amazing new way to think about how to design software - unlike anything I’d ever heard at the time. I decided I needed to learn how to implement the ideas discussed in the book - I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the start of a ten year journey in learning.
On that journey, I soon discovered this new thing called CQRS/ES or Command Query Responsibility Segregation with Event Sourcing. It was sort of an evolution of Domain Driven Design. The best thing I could find on it was a choppy few hour long video from Greg Young, but that was enough to get me HOOKED.
Yet, I still found all of the ideas too complex to be able to put it into code.
Fortunately, I did something that would save me years of time… I found a mentor…
Mentors are amazing for collapsing time-frames, and time is the most valuable asset we have.
People always tell themselves “I don’t have enough time!” …
… Yes. You do.
Time is the only thing everyone has the exact same amount of. You literally have all the time there is!
Some people believe money is more valuable than time, but to that I say, money replenishes - time does not. I’d much rather save time by spending money than vice versa!
Anyway, it came down from the higher ups that we were hiring a senior engineer and I was on the interviewing team. I figured having someone who could tell me how the hell to implement CQRS who’s actually done it would be great. When I saw Matt’s resume, I knew he was the one. He had done all of the DDD and distributed systems things I’d been trying to learn for years!
We have been friends ever since, and in a few years time, I’d learn enough from him to actually be really effective at microservices, but I had some of my own mistakes to make first! And some arrogance and blind optimism to squash!
Then I made a decision that would chang my life forever, though not in ways I expected…
I decided to quit my high paying job and take a shot at being an entrepreneur.
My dad thought I was crazy. “You might never get a job like that again!” he told me.
It was bound to happen eventually… I had an entrepreneurial itch that needed scratching, and conversations with Krish most nights led us to decide to start our own company! Better yet, he had met some millionaire dudes through his line of business that were super cool and could raise money easily, and so of course we were super pumped! Sure, they didn’t want to officially make us founders, but would give us a good amount of equity and $450k of cash to burn, and the titles CTO and COO to boot!
The problem was we weren’t very good at this whole “starting a business” thing.
Truth be told, we were kinda winging it.
Sure Krish and I both read a lot of business books, and even attended a Lean Startup Machine workshop, and even a Lean Startup conference, but real world experience was sorely lacking!
That cash to burn? Yea… we burned it. We spent close to two years building an awesome product, and close to nobody cared.
We were coming to the wire but I was committed. I’d ride it out with smaller and smaller checks just to stretch things as long as possible and rack up a bunch of credit card debt.
All the while thinking and hoping that success could be just around the corner…
I wanted badly to succeed. To not have been wrong about quitting my job, but here I was getting deeper and deeper.
At a time where we needed to be extremely agile and flexible while trying to pivot into different areas, my arrogance in building scalable, maintainable systems began to bite us as well. I chose to use a flawed shared database design pattern, which made anyone trying to make changes aside from myself super difficult, and still difficult for me even, as it could have unknown effects in other parts of the system. Every change that we wanted to make to pivot to try to save us was slow and painful when we needed to be fast and nimble.
I was on the downward slide because…
We didn’t know what we didn’t know, which turns out, was a lot… Like marketing for one, at a company level, or just how significant having systems in place to reach and attract clients would be. Personally, I didn’t know as much about building scalable distributed systems as I thought I did!
Needless to say, I felt very humbled.
I felt like I wouldn’t ever become an engineer who could be able to implement such complex systems, and a fraud for calling myself a CTO or entrepreneur.
I was definitely feeling a fair share of impostor syndrome.
That’s when I truly hit rock bottom…
Our designer Manny offered to let me sleep on his couch to make ends meet after I accumulated nearly $60k of debt trying to live in Manhattan with smaller and smaller paychecks.
“People need to make sacrifices like this to succeed” he told me.
… Do people need to make sacrifices like this to succeed?
But it was too much already…
Krish had been removed from the company in a last ditch effort to turn things around already and I wasn’t making enough money to pay for Netflix anymore, yet alone rent.
That I failed as a co-founder and CTO.
That I let my team, my friends, and my employees down.
That I failed to build a system that was quick and easy to adapt to changing requirements or that was simple for others to understand and modify.
And I definitely didn’t know squat about how to get people to use what I’d made!
That’s when I decided something had to change.
I had to learn not only how to build software systems better, so they’d stay nimble and flexible and easy to change, but also how to reach people, because, as it turns out, “if you build it they will come” is a lie.
“If you build it they will come” – A liar
Then, something happened that changed everything…
After our business failed, I decided to take up some advice in a book I’d read that said if I wanted to get rich, I shouldn’t work for money, I should work to learn skills that can be used in my own entrepreneurial journey.
Problem was… I kinda needed money.
That’s when I found that two of my roommate Erik’s friends who were “digital marketers” who were hiring a software engineer who could build them some web sites called “funnels”. Apparently these funnels were making them 7 figures a year between the two of them!
Seems how one of my failed startup’s major weaknesses was marketing, I decided I needed to learn how to market. This opportunity seemed like a perfect fit - I’d be able to get paid a nice freelance rate to learn the marketing skills I was missing! Win, win!
Oh, and they wanted me to spend a month at a mansion in Cape Town, South Africa with them.
How could I not?
That was the spark I needed. I was excited and motivated, and knew I was on the right path!
I got to work.
As I mentioned, one of the main things they wanted me to build was something called a “funnel”.
A large part of this effort was recreating the PSDs that they had a designer make in HTML and CSS. Once working with them more closely, I found it strange that everything that they wanted me to build for them was for marketing and sales, rather than product like I was used to.
My whole life every person I’ve ever talked to who wanted to start a business was always completely obsessed with what the “product” is. These marketers had a whole bunch of products – information, services, camps. What they were really clear on was WHO they were serving and what RESULT they wanted to get them. They had many products to help them acheive that goal.
I know now a product is only a small part of business, but honestly it took me a few more years for that to sink in. I was watching Shark Tank a few weeks ago and Mark Cuban said to one of the contestants: “What you have is a product, not a business. I’m out!”
And what I was building for them was a system to help people effectively discover and purchase those things. Thousands and thousands of people poured through their “funnels”, from one step, to the next, in this carefully crafted sequence… AND THEY WOULD MAKE IT RAIN. Which I could see as I built the analytics portion for them as well.
It was interesting to see how they thought about each step averaging a certain percentage of people taking action…
So I started to understand, when they say “funnel” they just mean a sequence of web pages that lead customers down a specific, predetermined path. Kinda like a helpful sales associate in a store guiding you through the purchase and any accessories you’d need to hit the ground running.
What went in the funnel was the magic, not the simple web application itself… It was the culmination of sales techniques, copywriting, persuasion, influence, marketing, design, and development. Very interesting…
After a few months getting acquainted with them and their products and approaches, it was time for the Cape Town trip.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited… One, because it’s freakin’ Cape Town and it’s basically the most beautiful place on Earth. It’s full of mountains and beaches, and even penguins! Some of my favorite things! And two, because I wanted to use the opportunity to figure how everything actually worked in their company behind the scenes and how they were able to grow so much without any VC funding!
My girlfriend Angelly and I packed our bags and took the 36 hour trip to Africa - and let me tell you - that was a brutally long flight. From NYC to Ghana, to Johannesburg, and finally to Cape Town. 36 hours door to door.
When we landed at a layover in Ghana we weren’t even allowed to leave the runway…
We were told the plane needed to be searched as military looking guards boarded the plane and took the cushion off of literally every individual seat to search underneath as we all stood awkwardly to the sides. They also fumigated the plane with something they assured us was safe to breathe while we were trapped on it.
Finally, after another layover in Johannesburg, we arrived in Cape Town… The mansion they rented was breathtaking, and not in the same way I feared whatever they used to fumigate the plane was.
It was carved out of the side of a rocky hillside overlooking a private beach that only the gated community, LLandudno, had access too. There was an infinity pool overlooking the ocean and even a cave area under a giant boulder that went through multiple floors of the house and ended as the wall of our bedroom.
Now this! This was the startup life I had dreamed of… I mean I didn’t want to be the employee in the relationship, but hell, sure beats an office!
Btw, this place cost $16k/month to rent, but it had 8 bedrooms, which makes the cost an average of $2k/m. Similar or cheaper to a month of rent in a big city. Some experiences like this are more accessible than you’d think… if it weren’t for those damned morning standup meetings!
After settling in, I eventually had a conversation with the founder of the company, Taylor.
I remember thinking: “I build complicated systems all day long. If he can sell millions of dollars worth of information products with no VC funding”… granted, he was extremely talented at what he did… “then I should be able to do it for something I know about, too, by following the same framework!”
That’s why when I asked “What inspired you to build your company in the first place? How’d you get started?” and he replied “I just really like building systems" my mind kind of exploded.
“I just really like building systems” – Taylor
“Great”, I, the systems architect, thought “Systems…“ How incredibly vague.
I really like building systems, too!!
Obviously we had a different understanding of the word “system."
I was building complex systems daily. I had built systems that allowed transactions of private equity in dark pools for institutional investors. I was pretty sure that whatever system he was talking about, I should be able to understand and build it, too. In fact, I’d spent the last several years obsessing over how to build complex systems simply and well.
Turns out, there are a lot of different types of systems…
Systems like I was used to for building and scaling technical solutions, sure, but there are also systems that are designed specifically to make money, and systems to attract and nurture leads, systems to get traffic to your pages, and etc!
I had been learning the wrong systems if my intent was to make money.
This was a spark of a new passion.
I became obsessed with understanding the marketing and sales side of building a project. It simply was not enough to build something cool. That was pointless if no one bought it. There is no point of building something if you cannot market it, and no point of marketing something if you cannot build it.
This is the point that I began searching for marketing and sales podcasts, blogs, experts, courses and anything else I could find that could help me learn how to build these systems — the systems that are designed to make money - leading to me spending tens of thousands of dollars in the process over the next few years, and even more than that invested by others in me.
The knowledge was enthralling! I was obsessed. People asked me what I do for hobbies and I’d say “marketing”. They’d look at me and sorta laugh and I’d sorta laugh back. I was serious though, I spent hours upon hours every single day devouring as much information as I could.
Still, I had more to learn, and debt to recover from before I was willing to take the risk of a new entrepreneurial journey of my own. For this reason, I eventually moved on from working with the digital marketers back into a consulting gig for Anheuser Busch - back in NYC where I gained a much higher consulting rate of $112/hour.
I had learned a lot of lessons and one of the key ones was that learning from mentors greatly collapsed timelines. I mentioned this before, but at this point in my life, I actually understood it and took advantage of it.
You know the saying - “Knowledge is power.”
I now believe knowledge is not power. It is potential power. For knowledge to become power, it requires action.
I was ready for action.
My Three Mentors
My first mentor was Matt Walters.
As I mentioned, we’d been working together for years already, and I already had learned a lot from him a few years earlier when we worked together for that billionaire guy. After a couple of failed engineering experiments going off on my own, however, I knew I needed to gain a lot more of his wisdom.
He put out a super helpful video through the NYC Node meetup (which we organize) about CQRS in Node and taught me about his “5 microservice patterns” which I’ve written about and shared on Hackernoon to the tune of 76,856 views of that article alone (and counting!).
Matt has since moved to Austin to pursue other opportunities and we still work on consulting projects together until this day (we make a hell of team if you’re looking).
Finally learning how to properly use CQRS and Event Sourcing to build microservices led me to my next technical challenge.
An important lesson learned from Matt was that “with simplicity of services, some complexity necessarily moves into the architecture and infrastructure.”
I wasn’t content with just writing microservices, I’d need them to run them in production confidently as well. Ideally, I wanted that to be easy, codified, and automatic.
Luckily, I stumbled across a book by Viktor Farcic on LeanPub and through his slack channel, he became my second mentor.
Again, through having an invaluable mentor relationship with Viktor I was able to finally able to achieve what I like to call “DevOps Bliss”.
Meanwhile, at ABI, I was offered the opportunity to be the CTO of an accelerator funded by them with my buddy Conrad as the CEO where I was able to combine my love of Fullstack engineering with microservice systems and apply everything I’d been learning in DevOps, all while learning more entrepreneurial lessons! Another win, win!
We were part of an innovation accelerator funded by Anheuser Busch InBev. It was led by several coaches they hired for the program, including the author of “Lean Analytics” from the Lean Startup series, Ben Yoskovitz.
I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity of being through a real accelerator.
This wasn’t my first encounter with Lean Startup processes but it was certainly my most thorough.
I had read the namesake book by Eric Ries many years earlier, as well as attended a Lean Startup Machine.
Long story short, we raised a successful follow on round after demo day, and several months later, our project “Brewgorithm” was merged into ABI’s e-commerce division.
Although it was a successful exit, I still wasn’t satisfied…
As cool as the process was, it still hadn’t really been mine.
Something that really bothered me was that I really love my freedom, and compared to the two partners of the information business I’d worked with before, this was not it. That was “mansion in Cape Town free” — this was going to an office everyday and appeasing investors.
I knew that had we done something more similar to what those digital marketers had been doing, and the concepts I was reading about and studying on the side, we could have had much more success. Why weren’t they teaching these things in accelerators!?
I realized the answer to that question) years later…
I still had the itch…
The itch for business number three, but this time it was going to be entirely different.
I finally felt confident that I could architect any system I needed end to end, and had a successful venture under my belt.
After having two companies - my first failed startup, and the second “success” through the ABI accelerator, I also felt I understood what it took to create innovative products.
Even with the successful accelerator, I still didn’t experience the freedom I was searching for… And truth be told, I’d been learning a lot about marketing on the side, and was looking to turn my knowledge into power.
And that’s why I knew I couldn’t stop there.
I decided that I wanted to build a company that had no Venture Capital funding.
I wanted to be absolutely free.
I wanted to be able to spend months in mansions in Cape Town or work from a beach if I felt like it.
So that’s when I sought out my third mentor who could help get me there.
Listen, if you want to learn how to be jacked, find a personal trainer who already is (which is why I’m looking great compared to last year, btw).
I wanted to learn how to build a business without Venture Capital, and I found man singing that exact tune. Russell Brunson, founder of ClickFunnels, a company with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and no VC funding.
After buying a few of his books, and smaller courses, I decided to go all in and to join his $30k/year coaching program called “Two Comma Club X”
I’ve learned some really amazing concepts, such as “a self liquidating offer” which shows the math behind making literal money machines where you put a dollar in and get at least a dollar out, and the time I spent building funnels for other marketers finally made so much more sense. The overall strategy, the reason for creating the pieces of the system finally took shape.
Not only did I know how to build amazing funnels, software, and systems, but now I also knew how to get people to use them, exactly what to put in them, and why they were designed the way they were. I understood the psychology behind marketing and sales.
Now I’m able to attract my own clients and help others achieve what I am truly passionate about: helping engineers become entrepreneurs.
Through my efforts in creating insanely valuable content, hundreds of thousands of engineers have found my articles, almost 2000 engineers have taken my introductory DevOps course, and dozens more financed the creation of the Beta version of the courses in Cloud Native Entrepreneur. My supporters were also nice enough to award me with HackerNoon’s “Contributing Writer of the Year” award in the tech category.
Thousands more follow my live videos on my Facebook page “I make things for the internet”
This makes me feel like I found my place in life - my “true calling”
I enjoy helping these technologists arrive at the cutting edge of technology, empower them to earn much higher rates, and be confident in their tools and processes to build nimble and scalable systems that take full advantage of the cloud. Beyond that I’m also able to help them understand and implement stategies to actually get people to use all of the cool things they build so they achieve what we’re all really after - life the way you want it.
I have to tell you… it’s a really nice feeling sitting in a coffee shop with your mother on the weekend and feeling your phone buzzing in your pocket from Stripe telling you you are making money…
What I’d like you to take away from all this is…
Never give up when things are looking at their worst. All journey’s have ups and down.
If you really want to do anything find the WHY so you can refocus and get energized to finish, and then find the WHO that will save you years in getting there.
In a competitive industry such as software engineering you always have to grow and evolve! Though this really applies to all areas of life and business!
And finally, if you’re looking to be a bad ass technical co-founder, CTO or even a solo entrepreneur, there are frameworks and systems to learn and people to learn them from that can save you years of time!
At Cloud Native Entrepreneur, we seek to teach you these systems and frameworks so you can approach building business from solid foundations. In order to build these systems there are often a baseline technological skillset required, and therefore we also provide training in those! Check out our blog posts if you’re new here, or you can see our premium courses on the “Products” page!