Friday, October 14, 2011

Welcome to the Consulting Tips and Tricks Blog

I’ve been self-employed as a software development and management consultant since early 1998. I’m launching this blog to share some of the bits of wisdom I’ve learned since then, and to encourage others to share their own experiences and insights as well. These thoughts are in no particular order. They simply reflect some of the tips, practices, and tricks I’ve found to be useful over the years.

There are many types of consultants and consulting engagements. Although I’ve always called myself a consultant, in reality most of the work I’ve done has been training, so some of my tips are in the realm of making presentations. I’ve always worked through my own one-person company, Process Impact. (BTW, I’ve found that even in a one-person company, management is unreasonable and uninformed, and the staff are all lazy with bad attitudes.) Some consultants get work through agencies, or they are employed full-time by a company that contracts their consulting services out to clients. Because this blog is based on my own experiences while being self-employed, some of my suggestions may not apply to consultants who are employed by real companies. Nor am I addressing staff-augmentation contracting relationships in which companies hire individuals, who are often called “consultants,” to perform technical work. Feel free to contribute your own suggestions for these other kinds of consulting domains.

I should point out that nothing I suggest or describe should be construed as constituting legal advice. Also, you might find that things I've found to be valuable are an insanely bad fit for your situation, so it would be silly to take my advice. As with all such writings, your mileage may vary.

By way of background, let me tell you how I got started in consulting. I started as a research chemist at Kodak, moved into software development in 1984, and later managed a small software group. I began learning as much as I could about software process improvement through books, magazines, and conferences. Soon I found myself in demand to help other groups within Kodak with certain aspects of process improvement. Ultimately I took full-time positions leading process improvement efforts in Kodak's digital imaging technology areas and finally in their web development group, the people who bring you kodak.com.

In the early 1990s, I began giving presentations at conferences outside Kodak and writing magazine articles about various aspects of improving software development and management capabilities. In 1994 I received my first invitation to speak at another company about some of the software engineering work I’d been writing about. More such opportunities arose, thanks to my increasing visibility as a conference speaker and author. Soon I found myself providing consulting and training services for other companies on my vacation time, while I still worked full-time at Kodak. This was all done with Kodak's knowledge and approval. It was a safe way to begin my segue into a consulting career.

My first book, Creating a Software Engineering Culture, was published in 1996 while I was still at Kodak. Shortly thereafter, a well-known software consultant and author asked when I was going to leave Kodak and hang out a shingle as an independent consultant. Frankly, this seemed pretty risky to me, considering that I like to eat every day. But I decided to give it a shot. I formally launched Process Impact in December 1997, and a few months later I left Kodak to see how things might go on my own.

I learned several things right away. First, I was fortunate to get much more work than I thought it might. That was a relief, because many new consultants struggle to find sufficient employment. Second, I found that I really enjoy the flexibility of being self-employed. While at Kodak, I learned that I do not need to be managed and I do not like to be a manager, so self-employment has suited me well. Third, I learned that there's an awful lot to learn about being a self-employed consultant. I wish I had had a mentor to rely on for assistance. Perhaps this blog can serve as a useful resource for you if you're pursuing a similar career path.

If you have your own consulting tips to share, please add comments to the posts, or email me so we can talk about having you contribute a guest post.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

5 comments:

  1. Karl,

    I think this is totally awesome! I am sure to share this blog with my fellow BAs. You have been a great asset in my development and your techniques have helped me write higher quality requirements.

    F. Walker

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  2. Thanks for starting this blog, Karl. Being self-employed is something not everyone can do. It requires a totally different mindset, and a lot of discipline. I am looking forward to learn some valuable tips from this blog.

    ~ Yamo

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  3. Karl,
    Great idea! I look forward to reading your insights and experiences with consulting.

    Tom

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  4. I certainly need all the help I can get, on this subject.

    Thank you for offering something so valuable, so freely.

    ReplyDelete