Finding my niche!

I recently read a very interesting article about an I.T. consultant who almost gave it up, why?  He said he was trying to sell anything to anybody, and being a “generalist” doesn’t pay.  So he found he would specialize in a narrow technical area that was in low supply / high demand.  He has been very successful since.  Hey, I admire deep self introspection – I tend to agree with him, however…..

Guys like me who have been in I.T. management for many years and then crossed over to consulting really have a very interesting set of tools.  Ok, this post is not an advertisement, I promise.  The purpose is to actually encourage my TENG and SIM friends who may be wondering when their “product” will be in higher demand.

I think that guys with our background are very valuable.  If we “grew up” in I.T., whether in applications development or infrastructure we “smell” things much differently.  If you progressed into corporate I.T. senior management you carried a valuable set of tools with you, and hopefully you had what it took to conduct yourself at the business level too. 

Then later, as some of us gave up the wonderful 70 hour work week in favor of consulting projects and enough spare time to play mandolin in a bluegrass band we have some really interesting tools, right?  From a senior management perspective you have an excellent “smeller”, and you already have the technical nailed – all you need to do now is to retrain yourself to:

  • Be an accountant
  • Be a marketing rep
  • Be a salesman
  • Be a project manager
  • Be a PRODUCER!

These things are VERY hard to do – and what’s worse, they seem oh so easy from a conceptual point of view – it’s easy to lure yourself into the trap of “hey, I know how the hard stuff works, surely I can master the business side!”

Well, you’re right and also wrong.  You can master it, but you have to use these tools to get there:

Be……

Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, clean and reverent!   Hmmm…. I think there’s one missing…  is there anyone who can help me with the missing tool? 

Anyway, I’ll get back to those tools that may sound familiar to you, but I never forgot them as a boy, they had high impact.  They serve me well, and if you use them each and every day on a consulting project you will succeed – I guarantee it.  You have to LOVE your customer to death.  You have to WANT the project badly, you have to be THRILLED about the challenge, you have to be CONSUMED with PLEASING your customer.  Never, never chase the money – same for Doctors, right?  Money and reward comes from the tools, not the desire to acquire the reward itself.  You have to be on time, produce quality and if your customer starts to wonder about your value pour it on my friend and don’t let up until he’s happy.  If you don’t quite get the project done in the agreed upon timeline, even if it’s not your fault, give him some free days, don’t even think twice about it.

Oh, one of the most important things – KNOW when to leave.  Let’s say you’ve just conquered a project.  To reward you they give you something else, but maybe not so exciting.  Maybe the project benefit isn’t quite as visible and the timeline fuzzy.  I’d say, hang around long enough to attempt to put value in the project – but if you can’t see that happening then you need to leave.  Don’t get caught running a stale project with low impact.  Point out the obvious.  If you don’t the funding will dry up and you will look like you’ve failed.  If you bow out they’ll invite you back for another day because they’ll remember your character, your work ethic and your impact and value.

Ok, back to the original point of this post.  Remember the guy that specialized.  All fine and good, but my point is that you can be a generalist and do very well as long as you dig in deep, covet the important and high impact projects and prove you will do what it takes to deliver.  Your exposure to new things will never cease – and I guarantee that too!

I wish all my consulting friends continued success in 2012!

-Patrick Bouldin

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