The Challenges of Being an IT Consultant

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For those of you who have functioned in a role as a consultant before, you know that it is exciting, but sometimes challenging work. I am writing this article so that persons who may be considering consultancy as a line of work will have a better understanding of what it entails. This article may also be interesting to consultants; allowing them to see their work from someone else’s point of view.

This article does not highlight the challenges that all consultants may face but it highlighted the ones that I have faced in the past. If you’re familiar with these challenges, let me know your thoughts after reading this.

Manage Customer Expectations

The Challenges of Being an IT Consultant - Manage Customer Expectations

As a consultant the customer expects that no matter what question is asked, you will know the answer. Ideally I do, but if I don’t, how will I handle the situation? Do I mislead the customer into believing that I know, or do I let the customer know that I need some time to research and come up with a solution? In my experience, the latter choice is always the best choice. The goal is to have the customer understand that I need to come up to speed on the scenario, while at the same time allowing them to feel secure that I will be able to resolve the issue in a timely manner. How do we do this? That leads me to my next point:

Confidence

The Challenges of Being an IT Consultant

The customer needs to know that I’m confident in my abilities to solve the problem, only then would they have confidence in me as well. Are you confident in your abilities? If not, how can you gain confidence? The two main factors, in my opinion, to develop confidence are knowledge and experience.

Knowledge

The Challenges of Being an IT Consultant - Knowledge

While it is not possible to know everything in the IT world, we need to make an effort to be knowledgeable. To do this I try to continuously learn new technologies and then train in them. This does not necessarily mean always getting certified when I learn something new, although certification is good. I try to test and improve my skills by doing scenarios on a regular basis. The scenarios generally grow in intensity as I become more familiar with the topic. This helps to maximize my potential. Knowing that I am capable, at least in the office with scenarios, helps bolster my confidence to take on real world problems. This training also helps develop my analytical and problem-solving skills. This means that I am more willing to take on new challenges as they arise. While knowledge can increase our confidence, the best motivator (in my opinion), is experience.

Experience

The Challenges of Being an IT Consultant - Experience

This is something that will obviously increase the longer we stay in our role; which is a good thing. The question is, however, what type of experience will we accumulate? Do we only try to do simple projects that we know won’t challenge us? Or do we willingly take on the challenging projects? The challenging projects may seem daunting at first, but they help improve my knowledge in ways that training sometimes can’t. Each customer is different, so although we may have done a similar scenario (or deployment) in the past (or not), the different variables inside the environment can provide a nice challenge. Every time I complete a difficult project, it gives me that confidence that I’m ready for another. One thing to keep in mind though, is that complacency or overconfidence is not good. Preparation is always the key to a successful project.

Balance

The Challenges of Being an IT Consultant - Balance

With all being said, I don’t sleep in the office. We all have personal lives and families that need our attention. Having balance helps keep me sane as a consultant. I need to be able to go home and think about non-work-related things (like what to curry), this relaxation helps me give my best while at work. I have read many articles and heard first-hand about the dangers of not having that work-life balance. If we don’t find balance but work long hours every day and never stop thinking about work or the next project, we can burn ourselves out. If this happens we will not be able to give our best on any project. Even if we don’t burn out, our family and personal lives will suffer, this is something that we definitely don’t want.

This has been my take on the challenges that I have faced or seen others face in the consultancy field. Feel free to let me know where you agree or disagree in the comments.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Roger De Four

    Succintly put, and even though I have been, or currently going through some of the challenges enumerated, your article has added value , by highlighting the fact that I’m not alone, and the “santiy checks” that I have in place are also “well tested”

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