Name: Edoardo Turelli
Former positions: Interim CTO at Focaldata & Airfinity, VP Engineering at Hadean & Adbrain, CTO/Founder at Koinup
Short bio: Exited Founder/CTO • Built world-record-breaking deeptech • Led multiple scaling
Hi Edoardo. Thank you for joining us. Can you tell us about your life before coaching – what roles and projects did you work on?
It’s been a long and varied 25-year journey; I’ve been a programmer for 10 years, a founder for five and an exec leader for another 10. I’ve developed all sorts of Web0, Web1 and Web2 things, from mobile apps to marketplaces to API platforms.
I’ve founded a niche social network, which got acquired. I engineered data science at the petabyte scale (which nowadays is also called AI) and built deep tech that broke a world record and pushed the state of the art in the industry by 2 orders of magnitude.
And I failed many times!
Why did you choose to go into coaching?
Without my mentors and coaches, I’d still be lost in the wilderness of the engineering world 😵💫. They have patiently answered my million questions. They helped me solve tech dramas, build products, lead engineering teams or just be a better person.
I am now often asked questions. And weirdly, I have answers. Things I learned from amazing mentors and the incredible people I’ve worked with. Things I learned going from ideation to MVP to commercial traction to scale multiple times.
So, I decided it would have been good to put my experience to use helping others with coaching.
Do you have a coaching specialism or interest?
I love helping people being in a new role for the first time, whether it’s an engineering manager, VP or CT/I/PO. I also love helping those who are struggling to progress in their management career in technology, potentially because they struggle to understand what needs changing to move forward.
My sweet spot is founders and scaleup-stage leaders of tech companies. Having done substantial work in the 3 areas – technology, management and entrepreneurship – and having seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t allows me to leverage my learnings at best in this scenario.
How do you build trust between you and the person you’re coaching?
A good coaching session is when there’s space for vulnerability, the space for saying things that are difficult to admit or hard to ask. For that to happen, the coach must be able to create a psychologically safe environment, listening with empathy, asking the right questions and having expansive thinking – no judgment involved.
Have you been coached before, and if so, what did you learn from it?
Yes, I have, and I wish I’d have done it sooner!
I learnt so many things, from some practical management tools (that I still use) to some fundamental mindset you can lead by – based around the “multiplier” paradigm. I learnt the hard things about putting them in practice; my coaches have been fundamental in the journey.
How does your background in tech help you to coach individuals?
There are two aspects which I think help: the first one is that the technology sector has been florid for quite some time, and this has created competition for talent. This has led companies to experiment and push the boundaries of what “working well” means, aiming to attract the best talent. We were lucky to be part of this and to have absorbed this cutting-edge good way of working.
The second one is analytical thinking, which is necessary to work with technology. It seems illogical, considering that coaching is fundamentally a human relationship. However, analytical thinking is profoundly important to distinguish what could be aspects that need coaching because of a “human” reason or a practical reason – allowing us to pick the best coaching approach.
Can you tell us something interesting about you that not many people know?
I can tap dance! I love that you can create all sorts of rhythms with just your feet, and it’s so much fun 👐
What are the key skills you think every coach needs?
Emotional intelligence for sure, especially to build trust, as I mentioned above. The other one is the ability to pick, from the vast set of leadership styles and management tools, the right one for the right moment. It heavily depends on the characteristics of the person needing coaching, the phase they are in their growth and the wider context in which they operate. It’s half knowledge and half art.
Can you tell us about when you really made a difference to someone as their coach and why?
I think it was when I coached a manager who found herself coaching a friend on the same things she learned in our sessions. She was explaining things in her own words, with excitement and joy – seeing her going from learning to helping others in such a short time was really powerful; kudos to her!
At what stage in a tech leader’s career do you think they should have a coach?
I think there are three phases where having a coach is instrumental. The first is when you’re doing a new role with more responsibility, especially if it’s for first-time management.
The second one is when things seem to be more “business as usual” and potentially stuck. That’s a great time to try new things and approaches and push yourself to grow without external pressure.
The last one is when going through a challenging time in your career. For example, when struggling in your current role or not seeing the promotion you’ve been waiting for a while.
A coach can really make a difference in these situations.
If someone isn’t sure whether they would benefit from a coach, what would be your advice?
There are phases in our growth when we need to explore, try out new things and listen to what our “gut feeling” is telling us about the direction we’re taking. In that case, the coach can do little, if not pointing out more options to you.
But in most of the other cases, a coach can profoundly impact the pace of improvements. They act without self-interest, they can guide you in complex territories you have no experience in, and they can surface the most optimal things for you to try and adopt – without wasting energy and time in a frustrating trial and error process.
In your opinion, could even the most experienced tech leaders benefit from a coach, and why?
One of the benefits of having a coach is to have an external perspective, fresh and competent. With time, we inevitably build a blind spot in some areas, and having someone providing a new perspective can be very valuable.
Also, having someone who doesn’t have their own agenda is rare to find, and a coach can be that person you can trust who will tell you things that are purely for your benefit.
What’s your favourite coaching exercise, podcast or recommended reading?
I’m going for a book; I’m a bit of a “there’s a book on that” nerd.
It’s Drive by Daniel Pink. It’s a fundamental read for any manager and leader. It’s a first-principles book explaining how we as humans are motivated (spoiler alert, it’s not carrot and stick). This is a great video of its core concepts.
What he explains it’s counterintuitive; it’s important to read it so we avoid the “obvious” (and detrimental) ways of managing.
I find the book valuable for both first-time managers and higher-level roles; it can be the foundation of how we think about structuring teams, defining objectives and structuring operational processes in a way that becomes a flywheel to both nurture individuals and achieve business success.
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