This one-of-a-kind system, burnished in the fires of actual life or death projects, delivers measurable results in quality, performance, innovation, and happiness 🙂

Pioneers in the field of Software Quality Prove There Is A Better Way

For the past two decades the Exceptional Difference team has proven that software development does not have to be a painful process full of unknowns.

Our unique approach cuts to the core of the problems in a way that traditional training and consulting cannot. In doing so, we help organizations achieve results they did not think possible.

Meet The People Behind The Magic

Julia Mullaney, PRINCIPAL

With a commitment to changing the world of software engineering, Julia Mullaney, a co-founder of Exceptional Difference, is an award-winning engineer, instructor, leader, and consultant who has worked with software companies in many industries across the globe.

While at IBM, Mullaney was instrumental in process improvement efforts and had a major role in defining and implementing defect prevention. At the Software Engineering Institute (SEI,) Mullaney was a key contributor to the Personal Software Process (PSP) and Team Software Process (TSP) through the development of training, certification, licensing, and applied research at leading software organizations. She is a Certified Smart Grid Maturity Model (SGMM) Navigator, PSP Developer and TSP Coach, and served as Chairperson of the IEEE/ SEI Watts Humphrey Software Process Achievement award from 2018 to 2020.

Her cybersecurity work at the SEI includes participation on the Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model V2 project, Team Lead of the Expert Guidance and Strategic Support to DHS, and the management, development, and release of the SGMM. Mullaney currently serves as the leader of the Software Excellence Alliance (SEA) Executive Team and is focused on growing the SEA into a sustainable network of professionals who are passionate about software excellence.

Mullaney is the recipient of many awards including: the IBM Quality Award; AJ “Amplify” Award Winner for SGMM; the Customer Service Award for TSP in Practice; the SEI Achievement Award for TSP coach training, certification, and licensing; and the Customer Satisfaction Award for Gunter SSC Support.

Additionally, she was nominated for the AJ “Dedication” Award and has contributed to numerous special reports and courses for the SEI.

Mullaney’s passion for her work was molded as a child. A Japanese American born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mullaney’s parents were both in the arts scene. Her father was in the music business but left it to pursue his love: philosophy. She learned to follow her heart and to do what she is passionate about from them.

When Mullaney began her career in engineering there were few women in technical fields—for many women with an interest in math, their best career option was to become a math teacher. However, she believes there is a place for all different kinds of people in the systems engineers and hopes to see more women gravitate to this field. Although early on Mullaney was in artificial intelligence and thought she wanted to program computers to accomplish what people do, she found her strength was in working with people and teaching people how to program computers.

In 1994, Mullaney had a life-changing experience that paved the way for her current mindset and approach to her work. Through a Personal Software Process course with Watts Humphrey (the “Father of Software Quality”), she learned how to apply engineering principles to knowledge work, primarily the development of complex systems. Humphrey gave his team the outrageous commitment to “change the world of software engineering,” and Mullaney has been pursuing that challenge ever since.

Mullaney earned her B.S. in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. She is also an active leader in her East Tennessee community. She served in the Leadership Knoxville Class of 2014 and is the President of the Knoxville Opera Guild and sits on the Board of several other organizations. She cites her family as her greatest success and loves how participants can find work-life balance in their lives through Exceptional Difference.

Mullaney looks forward to making steady progress toward the commitment she made 25 years ago. As she mentors exceptional engineers, she hopes they will be forever changed just as she was. And, as they start to apply Exceptional Difference principles to all aspects of their lives, they will start to feel control and power in ways never imagined.

Alan Willett, PRINCIPAL

Expert consultant, speaker, and award-winning author of Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People, and Lead With Speed, Alan Willett is co-founder of Exceptional Difference. Alan works with clients around the world, including the UK, Turkey, South Africa, China, India, Canada, and Mexico, and of course, throughout the United States.

For more than two decades Alan Willett has consulted to HP, Oracle, Microsoft, NASA, General Motors, Intuit, NAVAIR, Orbital ATK, OnStar, Cornell University, Rutgers University, Technological de Monterrey, Acxiom, and many more. Alan’s passionate work has focused on leadership, with laser focus on the unique challenges of leading in the elevated pressure environments of high-technology developments.

Alan is the founder and president of Alan Willett Consulting, a consultancy that elevates leaders and organizations to world-class performance. Alan’s background in technology started with the first program he wrote at age 13, and his passion has continued to this day. Earlier in his career, Willett was a key leader at Xerox and designed high-end production systems, including the first-ever internet print production publisher. This product alone resulted in $40 billion in revenue for Xerox. Alan had access to many of the technologies Xerox invented at its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) before they were introduced to the rest of the world through products from Apple, Adobe, and others.

After leaving Xerox, Alan joined the world’s leading think tank on high technology development, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), located at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. At SEI, Alan joined other renowned thought leaders in developing cutting-edge methodologies adopted by corporations globally, including the Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI) and the Team Software Process (TSP). The TSP was rated the top Agile methodology by Capers Jones in his seminal book Software Engineering Best Practices: Lessons from Successful Projects in the Top Companies (McGraw-Hill: 2010). Through this work, Alan was able to establish a worldwide network of peers and thought leaders that constantly push the high-tech development world to “do better.” It is from this position that Alan launched his consultancy in 2012.

Alan has been quoted and featured in a number of interviews and publications including The CEO Wisdom Exchange, #NextChat, The Matt Townsend Show, Associations NOW, The Globe and Mail, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Health Financial Management Association (HFMA), Skip Prichard’s Leadership Insights, Pete Mockatitis’ How to Be Awesome at Your Job, RocketMBA Rocket of the Week, South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper, and others.

Alan has designed and taught many different workshops at universities and corporations around the world, reaching over 2000 people directly. His personal backstory enlivens his writing and his speaking. He grew up on a dairy farm that had been in the family for over 170 years, and which was honored as the dairy farm of the year for New York State for many years running. Alan has run across the United States from ocean to ocean with his college team, beating the record of the Pony Express and earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. He is a co-founder of EcoVillage at Ithaca, the largest co-housing ecovillage in the world, which is spotlighted in news on a global basis, including Japan and France, and featured in the book “Ecovillage at Ithaca: Pioneering a Sustainable Culture” by Liz Walker, (New Society Publishers: 2005).

Collaboration with Exceptional Difference Principal, Julia Mullaney, inspired him to double down on his love for training the best engineering minds in the world. Willett holds a B.S. Computer Science from Rochester Institute of Technology, and Master’s in Technology from Walden University.

Alan encourages everyone to get out there and make a positive difference in the world.