Please help review my profile for Exceptional promise

I am an embedded systems engineer and worked with a startup as the CTO for 3 years (2016-2019), then moved to another startup as a Lead embedded systems engineer (2019-2020) after which I started my PhD and I’m just about submitting my thesis.

Recommendation letters
1. A project manager from TotalEnergies (France) with whom I worked on a project in Nigeria between 2017 and 2019 (based on my work in the first startup)
2. Founder/CEO of the second startup I worked with
3. PhD supervisor

Mandatory Criteria
Reference letter from a second co-founder/COO in the second startup detailing my role and contributions to the growth of the company’s product.
My publications and research Impact, including citations, reads, and recommendations by experts in the domain.
Acknowledgment email from the editor-in-chief of an international journal, thanking me for reviewing an article for the journal.
Letter of reference and invitation email from a Professor based on an invitation as a guest lecturer for an MSc Module in control engineering. This involved 71 students.

Optional Criteria 3
Reference letter from Cofounder/COO (same as in mandatory criteria)
Employment contract
Product architecture of the second startup
snapshot of codes from the GitHub repo of the second startup

Optional Criteria 4
Master’s degree certificate (Distinction)
Deans recipient award certificate (During my Msc)
Acceptance email of a peer-reviewed paper for an international conference
Reference letter from PhD supervisor

My further questions are these.

  1. My work experience is between June 2016 and May 2020. Does this count as 4 years of experience when we are currently in 2023, as the other years from 2020 were spent on my PhD?

  2. The first startup I worked for went down in 2022, 3 years after I left and I could not get in touch with the CEO to obtain any reference letter. Does it matter that I got a letter of recommendation that referenced my work in that startup without any reference from the CEO?

  3. Is it a good idea to include the product architecture of the first startup and my employment contract without a reference letter from the CEO?

  4. If my years of experience count as 4, would it be a good idea to
    a. apply based on Exceptional talent with the hope of falling down to Exceptional promise if it doesn’t work out, or
    b. play it safe and apply for Exceptional promise and hope I get Exceptional talent.

@Francisca_Chiedu, @May, @alexnk, your feedback would be highly appreciated.

From the overall evidence, I see that they may not be very strong for exceptional talent, but it could potentially be enough for a promising route. However, I have a question that did you really start your career as a CTO in 2016? Any other career before that?

For the publication or journal in the MC, they must be in the professional or major trade publications, or specifically to the field you are in, otherwise, it may not be a good published material.

OC3 needs to show an impact or significant contribution.
-Letter and Employment contract are only for supporting your key OC3.
-While the product architecture needs to demonstrate the impact, possibly in the numbers if possible.
-GitHub account that contains lines of code clearly showing your continuing contribution

-Letters, Master’s degree and Deans’s recipient award certificates seem to be in the same category as a supporting document. They need to be exceptionally good or competitive though.
-Rather than just an email about a peer-reviewed papers. Would you be able to show more evidence of academic contribution? Include more evidence to make this strong evidence.

I understand that your PhD also counts as the normal day-to-day job. I might be wrong. But I have seen people just doing the PhD for 4 years taking this as their main career history. Let’s check with other experts.
Also be reminded that what you submitted as evidence only count those which happened within 5 years, or from Feb 2018 - Feb 2023 only.

You don’t need a reference letter from CEO anyway, but the person who is writing you a letter should know your work for at least 12 months.

They are good to include, but I would suggest you to add that 1 page each to a part of your other evidence only. They are not very strong as the main evidence.

-Well 4 years of experience, need to apply for a promise, and don’t worry, if the assessor reviewed it and you should be in a Talent route they will push you forward. But on the other side, I am not sure as well if your career + PhD would make it more than 5 years or not.
-And again is your first job in the Digi-Tech field really a CTO?
-My personal thought is that your evidence is not very strong as a talent. Talent needs to prove strong evidence of 2-3 on each MC and OC.


Thanks a lot, @alexnk. Your feedback was really insightful.
On starting my career as the CTO. Yes, I did. This was a few months after the company just started.
My activities referred to by the recommender are based on projects between 2017 and 2019

For the MC, I currently have 2 peer-reviewed articles in 2021 and 2022, in two high-impact journals with over 3000 reads each and 5 recommendations. one of the articles has 17 citations. The papers have pretty good statistics on researchgate. Is researchgate a good source to highlight the impact of an academic paper?

For the OC3, In addition to the letter of reference highlighting the impact of my work, I intend to show snapshots of my codes for the product as it’s a private repo. Given I am no longer with the company (Due to my PhD program) does the context of continuing contribution as you noted in your response become a problem?

For the OC4, my master’s degree was a distinction in addition to the Dean’s award (Best MSc student in the Faculty of Engineering). The academic contributions are 2 peer-reviewed publications in international journals in addition to the email on the accepted peer-reviewed paper.

Thanks again, @alexnk for your time.

If the articles and journals are well-known in your field, have many readers, popular in your field with good numbers of citations, ensure you include all those evidence snapshots and hyperlinks then.

For the continuing contribution of your Github, this really depends on the different situation/field, but usually continuity of the contribution usually take at least 6 months continuously, with frequent numbers of topics/replies, with good upvote and etc. You can evaluate yourself and give it a shot if you see it has a chance.

Best of luck to your endorsement application then.

Thank @alexnk, you’ve been really helpful in your replies