Tech on Tap is an ESP hosted happy hour and networking event that connects technology professionals and business leaders with other experts in the field. Last fall we launched our first ever “Tech Talks”, and had the opportunity to learn from three speakers about new languages, methodologies, and emerging tech trends.
Tech consulting is an expansive career choice. Over the course of my many years in the industry, I’ve learned that success in such a non-traditional and somewhat unstructured role heavily depends on a strong foundation. For me, Adaptation, Skills Growth in a Directed Career, Insightfulness, and Flexibility have been the four career-building “pillars” that have stabilized me, and granted me the strong foundation necessary to thrive. Your IT consulting career will present you with many opportunities to grow in these areas. By maximizing such opportunities, I believe you will be able to truly take command of your career and experience great success as a consultant.
Become Adaptive in an Ever-Changing IT Workscape
Consulting requires constant adaptation. I’ve done application design and development, infrastructure, and proposal work – going from Mainframe to AS/400 to Distributed; Client Server to E-Commerce and Web platforms. In parallel to that, I’ve transitioned from Waterfall to Rational Unified Process to Agile and into varieties of that like Banyan, which has included all sorts of mixing and matching and nuances along the way. I’ve helped more than several clients with their platform or methodology transitioning, leveraging an adroit adaptation skill to the hilt.
So how can you learn to become more adaptive as a professional in the ever-changing field of technology? Focus your energy on skills growth. Ask yourself the following:
- “What is the assignment, and what might be available for other assignments in the same or similar environments?”
- “How are requirements managed at the steps before they reach me, and after my work is complete?”
From one opportunity working with RUP I embraced the concept of traceability, and I’ve often pitched that skill as a value-adding dimension to my consultant career. RUP also conceptualized iterative development, which later gave birth to AGILE – another important takeaway from my tech gig. But even if a gig isn’t going to necessarily expose you to new skills or technologies, remember that every chance to work within a professional organization can benefit your consulting career simply by providing a networking opportunity. The connections I made from my IDMS expertise days in an IDMS/ADSO Users Group, I still find rewarding.
Grow Your Skills in a Directed Career for Competitive Advantage
Clients value the diversity of talents, skills and backgrounds that a consultant brings to team efforts, which is why it’s so important to grow your skills in a directed career path. To direct your career, it is essential to have goals. When I worked for one particular consulting firm, I was determined to fill in some critical knowledge gaps. I launched the role of account education coordinator, and proved myself invaluable to the entire team.
Later, my first goal upon becoming a project manager was to gain a close familiarity with all knowledge aspects – the methodology, processes, pros and cons – of the SDLC as specific to each platform and industry in which I had contracts. My second goal was to feel comfortable in forming, providing deliverables to, speaking to, and listening to a steering committee, and learning how to enlist and maintain the support of key stakeholders to sustain a project through implementation. Though my second goal was particularly geared toward project management, a good goal for developers could be to learn how to obtain support from your 360’s.
The best way to create these specific goals and strategically grow your specialized skills is by seeking out and building relationships with a variety of professionals, especially those who can provide information, intelligence, and career guidance. Your IT recruiter can be a very valuable resource to you. Let him or her know where you want to go in your career, what you want to do, and what your experiences are with the clients you are serving so that they can better understand and advise on what you might want to do next to maintain a competitive advantage.
Gain Broad Insights About Your Consulting Projects
Once you understand the expectations of the stakeholders, spend some time figuring out why such outcomes are desirable. Delve into what the competition in your industry is doing. Glean perspectives on where your client is coming from, where the company appears to be going, and where it desires to go. When I begin a project, I seek to gain these perspectives by uncovering what top management expects to achieve. From there, I’m able to examine my assignment and the project it is part of to determine whether it is in or out of alignment with those expectations.
While consultants generally don’t want to “rock the boat” too much or uproot major plans and systems, your client expects to benefit from your professional expertise – and this includes knowing when a project may need to take a slightly different course. On that note, it’s important to determine what type of information will be most valuable for you to communicate, and whom you should be sharing your insights with. By gaining a broad understanding about the motivation behind your specific project, you’ll be able to advise appropriately and experience the long-lasting benefits of a solidified reputation as a trustworthy consultant.
Become Flexible and Adept at Adding Value to the Client
While flexibility is essentially a mindset, there are some concrete steps that you can take to ensure you are bringing this valuable mentality to every project. In any consulting situation :
- Always consider all relevant information and use it to develop a big-picture perspective.
- Anticipate the short and long-term consequences of actions – see beyond the immediacy of your assignment to the ultimate goals of your client.
- Approach complex tasks or problems by breaking them down into their component parts and considering each part in detail – asking yourself what the practical implications of each component are, and what your various courses of action may need to be in order to address them.
- Apply yourself; the rewards are unfailing.
I’ve oriented my four pillars around career growth because I believe that the opportunity for terrific career growth is what differentiates consulting from the careers of other IT professionals. In order to reap all of the benefits that IT consulting has to offer, it’s important that you not only consider these four pillars when approaching every opportunity, but that you also strive to grow and develop your skill sets off the clock. Focus on learning new skills that may be required to break ground on a next career path, keep up to date on the latest tech trends and developments in your targeted professional area, get to know the business areas where you may receive assignments, and leverage your resources by asking others for feedback on the effectiveness of your approaches. Remember that when you embrace opportunities for developing skills with new technology, processes, and methodology, you’ll get to grow by relying on your “four pillars” – and ultimately set the course for your own career advancement.
About the author:
Bruce Krupnick is a Senior Project Manager with past experience as a programmer analyst, QA analyst, BA, and project lead. He received an MBA from St. Thomas and spent the last 21 years consulting in Healthcare, Government and Financial services on various platforms with different types of teams in diverse roles such as Development Lead, Technical PM, and some dabbling in program management. He particularly excels in the areas of requirements, risk, and change management. In his free time he enjoys baseball, playing corporate gigs with his band, and spending time with his wife, four kids, and two grandchildren.