Adam Drake

Right Now

I help boards and executives at growth-stage technology companies continue (or resume) rapid acceleration by advising them on improving their leadership capabilities, operations, and technology. While I specialize in executive advising on leadership and process, I can also dive into deep technical problems with Data Science or Software Engineering departments.

If you think I can help you and your team, contact me by email or on Twitter! I’m always interested in learning about what other companies are working on and how I might be able to help.

I have a few tech projects in progress that will undoubtedly become blog posts. I’m working on an e-book about leadership in organizations, as well as a field manual for triaging performance and architecture in growth-stage startups. I sometimes write code for open-source projects like TinySite and CompressTest. I also work on ApplyByAPI, a tool that helps companies focus on quality over quantity in their tech hiring process.

Recent Publications

Novel Results Considered Harmful

August 1, 2018

Introduction Ravi Adve from University of Toronto graciously invited me to give a public lecture at the university earlier this summer. I was very grateful for the opportunity. The university’s facilities were fantastic, and Ravi did a wonderful job organizing everything. The audience was engaging and asked thoughtful questions, and the attendance was much higher than I had anticipated for a Tuesday morning lecture in the middle of summer! There was great representation from multiple departments, including Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics. [Read more]

Always Be Shipping

July 1, 2018

Introduction Sometimes when I’m advising startups the topic of a feature freeze comes up in a variety of contexts. The context I’m referring to is one in which technical debt, poor architecture decisions, and other related issues, have accumulated in a system to the point that it has become seemingly unmanageable. The situation has allegedly become so dire that all new development of features for the business must stop in order to dedicate all developer time and energy to cleaning up the mess. [Read more]

Leaders Eat Last

June 29, 2018

Introduction When leading teams, one of the most important things to keep in mind is to lead from a perspective of wanting the team to grow and improve in order to achieve a higher goal. The biggest part of that is taking care of the people on the team. This can mean things people may typically think of, like supporting and encouraging someone on your team while they pursue their career goals. [Read more]

Artificial Intelligence and The Heilmeier Catechism

June 11, 2018

As part of my advising work, I encounter a plethora of companies. Most of these companies want to begin, improve, or continue initiatives surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Data Science, Data Analytics, or other such labels applied to a project wherein data is used to accomplish some business objectives. The difficulty is that these labels often serve to obfuscate the true nature of the project in order to make it sound more exciting, and to entice funding from those with the power to grant it. [Read more]

Speak with Confidence

June 9, 2018

Introduction When I’m asked to spend some time with a startup to help them continue their growth trajectory, by far the most common issues I help to solve are problems relating to leadership. Specifically, I’m usually asked by the investors and/or executive team to work very closely with the technology leadership in order to help them improve their output. The best way to improve output is to improve leadership skills. [Read more]

Don't Categorize, Prioritize!

June 4, 2018

Introduction When I begin an advising engagement with a client, one of the first things I try to understand is what their top priorities are as an organization. This seems like an obvious step, but there is a subtle difference between what most people say are priorities, and what they actually do when they think they’re setting priorities. This is because people say they prioritize, but they actually categorize. [Read more]

Three Things Your People Need To Know

June 2, 2018

Introduction As part of my work with scale-up companies, a critical component of the process I follow during an on-site visit is having interviews and discussions with a variety of people. I have these discussions with everyone at the company, not just the CEO and CTO with whom I most often closely work. People who are lower on the organizational chart often know more than the executive team about what is actually going on in the company. [Read more]

Scalable Machine Learning with Fully Anonymized Data

June 1, 2018

Note: This article will likely be revised and expanded before being submitted for review and publication. At the moment it is missing critical sections, that will be added later. If we have suggestions for improvement, please send them to me directly. Abstract In this article I will discuss the well-known technique of feature hashing, but with the modification of performing the hashing step on the client-side before sending data to a server or daemon performing model training and prediction. [Read more]

Big Data, Small Machine

May 28, 2018

Introduction I was honored to be invited by DevTO to give a talk at their May meetup. The organizers were keen to have someone speak about high-performance machine learning, and I was happy to oblige. The general thesis of the talk is that, for the purposes of machine learning, setting up large compute clusters is wholly unnecessary. Furthermore, it should generally be considered harmful as those efforts are extremely time consuming and detract from solving the actual machine learning problem at hand. [Read more]

Hello, Recruiter!

May 11, 2018

Hello Recruiter! Thank you very much for your message and your consideration. In order for me to consider the role more fully and determine if a call is warranted, would you please provide more information? Please send over a JD/role description including the following: The specific company that is hiring How they see the role and its associated responsibilities fitting into the future of the company Composition, size, and working style of the current team Reporting line for the role (up to Board/investors and two levels down) Compensation details, including a breakdown between fixed/variable cash and options/equity/bonus, if any Any additional information that you think would be relevant in considering if the role is a good fit I’m happy to consider the above information and determine if the role is a good fit for me. [Read more]