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I'm working with a startup in Canada, and we're at about the 18 month mark where we get to do our final sales demo. Everything has gone great so far, and we've grown the company from 2 employees to 20, plus the CEO.

Because of the nature of our work (software security), we had to have two Professional Engineers on staff. It's mainly because it's easier to have ethical, trained people with professional licenses (and liability insurance) to sign off on various forms relating to privacy, guaranteeing our employees don't have hidden criminal records (background checks miss a lot, actually), etc.

The CEO of the company, just days before this final demo (which would yield a lot of cash for the company), did something that basically angered all the technical employees: did a stock split (I have no idea why? Why would this be a tactical advantage?), and awarded stock to the senior employees entitled to equity, but with conditions (stock must be held for 4 months, and can't be sold until the CEO sells his portions).

  • The first P.Eng., "Ted", simply walked out the front door, and said we'd be hearing from his lawyer, and smashed his company phone on the floor. I can't find the SIM or SD card from the remains either. He won't answer any calls.
  • The second (junior) P.Eng., "Federico", is still checking into work, but indicated that he doesn't feel confident on signing off on Ted's work in his absence, and won't answer a single question straight (dodges the issue or gives a textbook answer).

How can I get a Professional Engineer on short notice? Are there any that will learn a product and sign off on it on short notice? It's not the sort of thing I can find in the Yellow Pages easily. Also, does their licensing body, "APEG", have any means to force a worker back to work if they are screwing over a company?

Also, why would the CEO do a stock split? How does that help anyone? Can it impact my own bonus/equity?

closed as off-topic by Masked Man, Philip Kendall, gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Dukeling Oct 29 '17 at 8:21

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    I'm not sure I understand what's your actual goal here. It sounds like you want to "rent" a scapegoat to sign off in Ted's absence. What is your role in the episode? Why are you responsible for getting the signoff? Why was "Ted" so upset about the stock split? – Masked Man Oct 29 '17 at 2:53
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    @MaskedMan It was apparently not a simple stock split, in which the new shares carry the same conditions as the old ones. Rather, it was creation of new equity, diluting all existing equity, with a killer condition attached to the new shares: "can't be sold until the CEO sells". We also don't know how the new equity was distributed. "awarded stock" does not sound like a simple X shares per share you own. The senior PE can presumably get a new job very easily. The other affected people will probably not leave until they have new jobs lined up. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 29 '17 at 3:02
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    A professional engineer is not going to sign off on something that he doesn't understand. I very much doubt you're getting anyone to sign off on stuff on short notice. – Loren Pechtel Oct 29 '17 at 5:00
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    You can pay a cowboy to rubber stamp anything with enough money. – Kilisi Oct 29 '17 at 5:36
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    You can probably get an engineering firm to consult but they are going to want to redo most of the math before they sign off on it. Basically redo everything Ted did while on the project... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 29 '17 at 6:08
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The CEO has taken actions that, rightly or wrongly, senior technical employees believe reduce their financial prospects if the company does well. At the very best, the changes were explained badly. At the worst, the employees' impression is correct.

That has led to the loss of at least one key employee, possibly more as people find new jobs.

Personally, I would assign minimal value, if any, to "can't be sold until the CEO sells" shares, and look at my percentage of the company on that basis. I have accepted dilution of my shares in a start-up when the purpose was to get more financing, but I have never even been asked to do so to advance the CEO's personal interests. This is the CEO's mess.

Tell him that, even if you can hire a PE under the circumstances, it will take significant time for the new PE to become familiar enough with the situation to sign off on any documents. The CEO needs to choose between backing down and trying to get Ted back, or accepting a substantial delay before the documents in question can have a PE signature.

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You're pressed for time, so you use the assets that you have. Refusing to sign off on the part of the other engineer without reasonable explanation and timeframes for doing so is grounds for a PIP.

Put this in place ASAP and wake the engineer up. You risk him/her leaving, but if they're not doing the work that isn't a loss. The longer you leave it the more time the person has to job hunt. Put the pressure on.

Review the contract of the engineer who walked out and take whatever action you can. Do it now, you should have done it on day one. Hesitation to discipline is a sign of weakness and a weak startup fails before it get's going.

Meanwhile network and see if you can find a consultant who could come in and sign off on things at short notice.

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    If the junior engineer doesn't sign off on things because he doesn't feel comfortable doing it (too junior) in the absence of the senior engineer, then he is indeed doing his job. – gnasher729 Oct 29 '17 at 7:30
  • I beg to differ, you're correct in a way, he's doing his profession, but not in terms of business.. Refusing and being evasive instead of finding solutions is not acceptable. I'm giving strategies for the OP, not the engineer. – Kilisi Oct 29 '17 at 7:47
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    A junior engineer may not be qualified to check the work of a senior engineer. And he certainly professionally would have to redo the work himself which takes time rather than just sign off on it. Engineers who sign off on other's work without their own investigation will not remain employable as a PR for very long. The junior is protecting his professional career and threats will make this worse not better as he will have no option except to quit. – HLGEM Oct 30 '17 at 17:26
  • @HLGEM may not, might not... not my point, the engineer should make it clear if he/she is not qualified (not be evasive) and outline what is required. If he/she is not doing that, then they're not being professional. And in any case pressure is one strategy that should be used in this situation. At the very least it will get answers from the engineer rather than nothing. Not worth having if they can't give that, so no loss if they quit. – Kilisi Oct 30 '17 at 18:54

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