The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 88

From IC to global leadership: career growth as a Technical Advisor

with William A. Adams

Jun 14, 2022
We explore the career journey of Technologist & Technical Advisor William A. Adams. We cover how he identifies his next career challenges, the technical advisor role and how you can build your skills to grow into the role. Plus we get into the “people challenges” of the job, how the “human work” is the secret to unlocking creativity, and why building the social fabric of work matters.
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William A. Adams (@LeapToTech) is an award-winning D&I innovator, engineering trailblazer, and philanthropist. He was named the first Technical Advisor to Microsoft’s CTO, Kevin Scott.

As co-founder of the LEAP apprenticeship program – Microsoft’s D&I Program of the Year in 2020 – he helped launch the training of more than 26 cohorts around the world. His most recent collaboration with the U.S. Virgin Islands aims to train technical talent and build critical technical infrastructure.

Early in his 30-year career, William was one of the first Black entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. He developed mission-critical custom enterprise apps for NeXT computers and pioneered an instant messaging service purchased by the CIA.

Today, in addition to his role as Technical Advisor at Microsoft, William is the philanthropic founder of The Event, a collaborative, community-based hackathon. When he’s not tinkering with code, the husband and father of three builds cabinets, knits, and rides a motorcycle.

"The predictive part of it, it's just pattern matching. You have to see it and go, 'What is that going to lead to? Let's play this out. Let's say AMD IS right. And this thing does come to pass. What will that mean?

Let's say cloud computing IS going to be the thing... What is THAT going to mean for the (micro)chips? It's gotta be optimized 'power for efficiency.'

So whoever can do that best is going to be the winner in that game.”

- William A. Adams 

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  • William’s career journey from developer to Technical Advisor to the CTO @ Microsoft (1:55)
  • Identifying your next career challenge & why William conducts a career assessment every 2 years (4:36)
  • What is a Technical Advisor & how do you grow into the role? (9:21)
  • How to gain buy-in and build influencing skills (13:02)
  • Becoming a better synthesizer (15:21)
  • Making long term predictions about technology (21:53)
  • People challenges & solving the human equation (24:02)
  • How to create shared understanding by listing assumptions (28:23)
  • Why the "human work" is the secret to unlocking creativity in remote facilitation (30:42)
  • Building the Microsoft LEAP Apprenticeship Program (33:01)
  • Why creating the social fabric of work matters (42:16)
  • Rapid Fire Questions (44:22)
  • Takeaways (52:15)
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