Before you begin to consider whether you can afford to leave your job and live without a salary, take an unvarnished look at your programming skills and the additional skills youll need to be a successful programming consultant.
A successful independent or brokered programmer consultant has all the skills of an employee programmer and the skills of an entrepreneur. You need to be a quick study.
As a consultant you can be thrown into a different industry every week, and you have to be able to jump in there and learn what they really want, knowing that you have this programming skill and you can make things happen on a computer, Dennis Mulcare says. You could be doing accounting, like general ledger work, or it could be trying to automate a warehouse so that when the packages come down the line they get put into the right shopping trucks , or that when a customers order comes into the warehouse they can find the size item they want. How do you program that?
Denniss experience as a multi-dimensional player in the world of information technology made him the quick study he is. His various jobs (programmer, systems analyst, salesman , marketer) got him out of his companys office and into the laboratories, factory floors, and offices of many clients . That not only gave him the experience that turned him into an expert, but gave him a working relationship with a series of IT directors who knew his work and might hire him as a consultant.
There are people who dont like to visit with people too much, and want to just have the problem to solve on the computer, Dennis says. These are not people who should consider a consulting career. When I was an IBM systems engineer, then an IBM salesman, and then a vice-president of marketing for a software development company, the job was to go out to a customer, find out what he wanted, and see if your computer or your custom program or your software package could meet his needs.
As a systems engineer at IBM, thats what I did. Id go out to the non-technical world, find a requirement, then come back and see how I could solve it. Maybe Id need to bring a package in and modify it, or do some programming in a new area. Maybe I could solve the program through hardware technology. Ive been up against everything from automating laboratories to automating shop floors, where I was trying to track production going through a plant or warehouses and finding out where Id need to bar-code things.
My bentthe best thing that I can offer nowis working with people-to find out what the companys requirements are, and then bringing those requirements back into the technical work I do. Its developing the business solutions that is my real expertise. (Heard that theme before? Itll need to be yours too.)