Corporate-vs-Consultant

Wow, I’ve been out of it for a while…

I’ve failed to mention my new job at TQL as Web Team Supervisor (best described as “all things web”).  Well, 2yrs ago isn’t “new” anymore, though.  The job was both a break for me and also an experiment to try A) being not a consultant, B) working for a non-IT organization, and C) working with bigger stuff.  The break/experiments are over now — my questions are answered and I’m back to working on Slingshot Solutions full-time (never actually stopped, but it was only for a few clients). 

Enough background.  Going into this, I wanted to start a “consultant-vs-corporate drone” comparison .  Coming back out, I do again.  So here it is.  I’ll just sketch it here and fill it in as I think of it.  Consider this in progress:

Hours

Working For The Man: Regular and Separate.
But too many, and for no extra reward but sacrifice to my own quest for perfection.

Working For The Me: Free and Easy.
“Working for the man” can mean “I’m the man!”  But sometimes it’s too free.  I often found/find myself working at odd hours I shouldn’t.  And often my boss was a jerk — time off doesn’t pay the bills, so no vacation and no sick time.  Chalk this up to I’m just a nincompoop.

Sense of Ownership

The Man: Good-ish.
Unfortunately, a strong sense of ownership without enough discretion = lousy follow-through and perpetual frustration.  Not my bag baby.

The Me: Great.
The only limit is my own capacity.  Time tends to be the biggest limit for me (I often suspect this is more a bachelor’s game).

Stress

The Man: High.
An uptight organization’s expections often venture outside of performance.  Uptight sucks.

The Me: High.
Remember that bit about Ownership?  It’s not all healthy.  While it’s great to own your own business, it really sucks when it owns you.  (works of my own hands … otherwise known as idolatry, I’d say).
OTOH, I noticed I smile, sing and play music, and play with my kids a lot more lately (at least when I’m not swamped).

Teamwork

The Man: Great.
It’s wonderful to let HR, Accounting, DBAs and Network Admins just do their thing, so I don’t have to.

The Me: Sucks.
Yes, I use good subcontractors, but everything is still ultimately my problem.

Motivation

The Man: Consistent.
There’s always someone else watching (or at least the sense that there is), which keeps me on my game.

The Me: Variable.
As a lone consultant, motivation is more easily affected by other influences like mood or weather (these snow days are killing me!)

Motive

The Man: Convoluted.
When politics/red tape get in the way,
it’s sometimes hard to tell if I’m fighting for project’s success or just
my own ego.

The Me: Clear.
Simple: My customers’ success is my success.

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2 Responses to Corporate-vs-Consultant

  1. Rob says:

    Interesting writeup, Jeff!

    I used to work at Quilogy (an IT consulting company somewhat like BIG) til they closed shop in Cincinnati in 2002. It was a great experience for me, and if I went back to "working for the man", that’s the situation I’d seek these days.

    In fact (and interestingly enough), I interviewed at BIG a couple years ago. I think Beth told me that BIG consultants are expected to bill 50+ hours per week. That surprised me. Is that still true?

    Now, I dive into my work anyway (a 40hr week for me involves vacation). Commuting downtown and paying for parking were added dings on that opportunity, but certainly not unusual.

    But for me, the real rub with going that extra mile for someone else is this: Where does that investment of my life go? In my experience, it mostly goes into the *hope* of recognition/promotion/whatever.

    And still someone else drives the car, so to speak. I’ve met ~2 natural leaders I would trust to drive, but that’s it. Mostly I see salesmen and gearheads -turned- CEOs who I wouldn’t trust to see the forest for the trees, much less stay on any road.

    I admit, though, I’d be just as bad if I let it get to a big scale (no pun intended). I hope to avoid that by A) partnering wisely (to g, and B) simply never getting big. (Don’t get me started on companies focused on growth instead of health).

    Meanwhile, my efforts have a very definite correlation to my success, and I think I thrive on that feedback (good or bad, but never numb).

    All that said (way more than I expected, sorry!) — I completely agree about working with a team. I’d take a team of (motivated) junior/mid-level devs over my silent office any day.

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