Reflections on a Year of Consulting

I last posted an entry in this blog more than a year ago. There have been quite a few changes in my life during that time. From a professional perspective, the most significant one was that I switched jobs.

I had been thinking for a while about the next step in my career. I felt that I needed to get more hands-on programming experience in a variety of projects in different industries. The best option to achieve that goal seemed to be to join a software development consulting company. So when I was offered the role of a Senior Software Engineer at Terazo - formerly APIvista - I jumped at the opportunity.

The experience so far has been great. After getting promoted to a Lead Software Engineer role, I now have two teams each working on a different client project. The coolest aspect of the job is the amount of learning I have been able to do in the past few months.

Since this is my first experience as a consultant, I discovered a few interesting things about the field. Here are three of my observations:

  • There are many models of engagement a business could employ when working with a software development company. These range from temporary staff augmentation to complete outsourcing of all development. A common scenario is to bring in consultants with specialized skills that do not currently exist in-house. So even though the market may seem pretty saturated with suppliers, there are plenty of opportunities too.
  • While the contracts are negotiated and signed by senior management, the key to a successful engagement is the level of trust between a consultant and the client’s staff, she interacts with, on a day to day basis. In the beginning, it is essential to gauge the culture of the organization, identify the gatekeepers and build relationships with them. The real delivery work starts later.
  • Referrals are the leading source of new clients for a consulting company. Having a unique and focussed brand helps but not as much as the good old “word-of-mouth” advertising. On the other hand, repeat business is almost always guaranteed if the consultants provide the client with great service during the initial engagement.

I am sure there will be more revelations as I continue on this path and I will make an effort to write about them here.

Wish you all a prosperous new year!