Free Leaf

"Don't gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold..."

Location: Falls Church, Virginia, United States

I have a lot more questions than answers, but I just keep asking. I constantly want to leave, but somehow manage to stay. I am both perfectly happy and completely miserable because of it. I think I am misunderstood but that could just be a huge misunderstanding, either way I guess the best way to put it is, "I ain't often right, but I've never been wrong."


The Nature of the Beast

I haven’t written anything in a while, not that I didn’t have anything to say but I have been getting used to a new schedule. No, I did not get a new job or move to a new city, or do anything really dramatic. But, in the world of consulting schedules and locations and life changes frequently, it is the nature of the beast so to speak. And while I have talked about what I did for most of the past year (Here) I never really explained what its like to be a consultant. I usually don’t talk about it because, like my love life, it’s boring (Intentionally self-deprecating humor). Anyway, I figure since I try to explain this to people a lot and they just don’t get it I will try here one time only and hope that nothing I say will affect my clearance (Clearances get you the cool projects that you cant talk about) application.

If you look up the job category of consultant on monster or hotjobs or careerbuilder you will find a ton of jobs that are in the IT industry, basically a bunch of jobs that should be filled by engineers or people who majored in business with heavy computer skills and backgrounds. I am not one of those consultants, although they are trying to make one out of me. In my line of work there are two kinds of consultants, technical and functional, us functional folks are supposed to handle more of the business aspects of consulting. The work we do is pretty much like any business, we run meetings and create forecasts and schedules and deal with clients. But we also deal with large teams within our company, a lot of times being a functional consultant makes you a liaison between your client and the technical team (the guys who do all the hard work). For me this is great, dealing with people is easy most of the time, now I do have to learn about the work that is done by our technical teams and I do take some technical training but I try to know just enough to never have to do any of that work myself. Ideally, the work I do here will either put me on a path to being a corporate trainer or into some sort of project management role but those are both a ways off. Regardless of the differences between functional and technical there is one common nature between all consultants; nothing is static.

We move from client to client over and over constantly changing roles and locations and even hours. We don’t make more money for ourselves by switching clients, although we can make the company more money. And in the end all that really matters is that you are bringing in money for the company, that’s why our number one goal is to have a certain percentage of billable hours. In some ways it’s similar to the way a lawyer bills by hours but I am not sure if lawyers have three managers like we do, with one whose soul job is to find us projects to work on. And when you aren’t on a billable project, you are sitting “on the bench” or “on the beach” depending on how you want to look at it. But that is frowned upon and you have people within the company, who bother you constantly about your status, that force you to work on proposals so that we can get more work and get you off the bench. I do feel somehow fortunate that I work within the confines of public sector consulting, which allows for a little more stability than the commercial sector, when the government is your client you can find projects that last years unlike the months that max out a commercial job. In the few years that I have lived and worked in the DC area I have worked on internal projects (non-billable that will hopefully lead to proposals), proposals (the life-line of a consulting firm) and two projects (started my second one this week). All of them have had me working out of different locations, sometimes just a different floor in a building and sometimes from bed, doing completely different tasks and taking completely different hours, even within my new project the hours I have this week will not be the hours I keep next week. Luckily, I am on a 40 hour cap and I won’t call it a day any later than 6 or earlier than 4. Now I just need to get used to getting dressed everyday and things should be ok.


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