I Consultant. As part of my personal growth quest I constantly challenge myself wether consulting is my career path. These are the questions I ask myself:
- Do you like solving engineering problems in the field?
- Do you like meeting lots of different people?
- Do you like to be exposed to tons of technologies?
- Hate cubicles?
- Do you possess some sort of expertise?
- Are you a go-to-person for the expertise?
- Do you like sharing your practices and insights with the world?
- Do you hate 9 to 5 thing?
As long as the answer to the question is Yes I feel comfortable being a consultant even though I am approaching midlife crisis age (I am turning 37 this year).
There are both upsides and downsides of being a Consultant though. I call it challenges and try turning it into upsides.
The Challenge – Career Growth
Common wisdom tells me that career growth is about climbing the management ladder. I definitely face a serious personal challenge here as I am individual contributor, not a manager. Many of my classmates and friends are VP’s and other seniors at their workplace. Am I a loser? I tend to think of myself as of a doctor:
- Reputation. The more practice a doctor has the more reputation she has.
- Focus area. Doctors usually have very focused area of expertise.
- Word of mouth. Good doctors are known through the word of mouth and not by their titles.
Said that, I am focusing on specific critical technical areas – security and performance engineering throughout the development lifecycle. I am building the expertise of guiding dev teams to plan, design, code, test, and deploy secure and fast applications.
The more people come to me – in person or through emails or the blog – for advice on security and performance the more I am growing.
The Challenge – Excelling Work
Working at Microsoft is a great experience. Seth, I am excited to work for Microsoft and I passionate about Vista (I admit, it took me some time to realize it, but now I am really crazy about it). Why it is so exciting about working at Microsoft? Among all other great things there are way too many smart people here.
Said that, here is the challenge: how can you excel when you surrounded by top guns? My answer is focus.
- Focus on objectives. Microsoft is known for its results. Setting objectives for anything you do is critical. My favorite question is "Why". When I am asked to do something I ask "Why". If it doesn’t not serve either my team’s or/and my personal objectives it probably will go to [not important/not urgent] quadrant (according to Steve Covey’s quadrants techniques for prioritization) unless it is really urgent and important relative to the objectives.
- Context. Microsoft is huge organization with numerous teams. Sometimes it is hard to draw a clear lines to understand the relations among these teams. Nevertheless, it is critical to sense the context that you operate in. As a consultant I know it is critical to know overall vision of the company, sales department objectives, services organization vision and objective, industry trends, product strengths and weaknesses. Being sensitive to internal trends is important as well. These help you focus on technical skills that are relevant which in turn helps you build trust with the teams.
- Reflect on yourself. Reflecting and self assessment is a part of the culture. My advice is building a personal practice on self assessment – daily, weekly, monthly. This helps to stay on track with the objectives and hit targets in predictable way. Hit target and get praised. Exceed expectations and become a hero.
- Time. This one is hard to overestimate. Time is most precious resources I have. As a consultant I am measured for several things. Time is one of major metrics. To manage my time I apply the following practice: Time Is Not Money. Time Is Budget. I plan and execute my time annually, monthly, weekly, and daily. It helps me hit my targets while leaving plenty room for self development.
How do I know I overcome the challenge? Simple. If I hit my goals [and beyond] without burning myself while having fun at the same time I feel I am on track.
The Challenge – Spending Time With The Family
It is a great pleasure of being in the field, working with the customers, being mobile. On other hand the lines between the work and life get blur, especially when you are part of the global team. It all depends on you how you separate work and life (WLB – work/life balance as we call it). There are two simple rules I follow to achieve healthy WLB:
- Work at work. I work at work, no phone calls, no leisure stuff, no useless Internet surfing or socializing. Focus on the objective – doing work. Reduce administration and other non productive time. Stay lean and reduce friction. Work smart – do not work hard. Doing != Accomplishment (!= means "not equal" ).
- Do not work when not at work. This one is really simple. When at home my laptop is only open for socializing, blogging, research, and training. And that is not on expense of the time allocated [budgeted] to be with beloved ones.
How do I know I overcome the challenge? If I am able to spend time with kids not only when they go to bed, if I have meaningful conversations with my precious wife [vs transactional communications], if I am able to free time to meet my friends, if am able to publish on 5 blogs, if I am able to train myself in new areas, if I have time to develop my mind, soul, and body I feel I am on track.
The Challenge – Being Successful
What is success? Is it title, is it big bucks? May be. Respect and financial solid ground are super important, but there is more to success. Here are the definitions for success I liked the most:
"Success is When the Response Meets the Challenge" – JD Meier’s blog.
"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable" – John Wooden.
I overcome my challenges with proper response, but most important my mind is peaceful and I breath with full chest. Am I successful?
- What you love the most about being consultant?
- What you hate the most about being consultant?
- What’s your definition of success?
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