“What makes a good technical consultant?” It’s a straightforward question, but one that isn’t always answered well. Some describe a good IT contractor as a person who works hard, is in-and-out, and leaves a job well-done. When you ask about bad technical consultants, they’re described as “Someone who lacks a strong work ethic and communicates poorly.”
What’s wrong with these descriptions? While both are accurate, they leave out some finer nuances. In today’s blog post, we’ll discuss the six markers of a good technical consultant so that you know whether or not you’re living up to rock-star standards.
1. A Good Technical Consultant Is Someone Who: Attacks Projects
When a company brings on outside help, it’s because they have a problem they need solved, and they need it solved quickly. They don’t want someone who is going to sit around and ask a lot of questions. They want someone who will solve the issue and then seek out more work. In short? Companies want one-person, self-directed, quick-referencing, task-destroying animals.
Of course these types of consultants are appealing: they do what they are hired to do and yet want to do more. Yet, there is another reason that these contractors are deemed ‘the good ones.’ This sort of person does not require too much support. Questions are okay, but only after you’ve searched all the low and middle hanging fruit. Bad technical consultants don’t do this kind of research, and take up the rest of the team’s time. Companies like productive, self-reliant, hungry individuals.
2. A Good Technical Consultant Is Someone Who: Communicates Clearly and Often
You realize that there is no way task x can be completed by y date. What do you do? Do you tell management? Or do you keep the information to yourself?
It all depends on whether or not you’re a good or bad consultant. A bad consultant would keep this information to themselves. A good consultant, on the other hand, would warn management.
Good technical consultants keep people apprised of completed tasks, next steps, and arising issues. They communicate well, so there are never any last minute surprises. And, in the corporate world, no surprises are a very good thing.
3. A Good Technical Consultant Is Someone Who: Stays Out Of The Political Fray
While office politics crop up in any work environment, a good technical consultant does not get involved. The company didn’t bring you in to fight political battles, but to solve technical problems.
Leave the office politics to the full-time employees. It might not be as hard as you think. FTE often view contractors as little-invested, short-timers and newbies. As a result, your opinion is lessened in their eyes. Stay out of the fray.
The only exception? Self-serving, small-ball politics. It’s okay to play a little ball to get that week off or to convince people that you can do that other task. Outside of this? Get out and stay out. Drama seekers need not apply to technical consulting positions.
4. A Good Technical Consultant Is Someone Who: Offers No Unsolicited Suggestions
Have you ever been speaking to a family member or friend and they give you unsolicited advice? How often are you thankful? How often are you annoyed? Does it depend on the day? The adviser? They way it’s given?
It’s the same thing with hiring companies. Some companies will be thankful and others will be annoyed. If they want contractors’ input and suggestions, then great! Give it! If they don’t want your input, however, keep it to yourself. In this case, it’s kind of like office politics. They brought you on to solve an issue, not re-invent the wheel.
5. A Good Technical Consultant Is Someone Who: Does What They Are Told To Do
Has your boss ever given you a project and you’ve wondered why in the world they would ever ask you to do that? It happens, probably more often than you think. So, if you find yourself in this position, what do you do?
A good consultant informs their manager if they see something horrific in the code base. If their manager says, “I know. Please do it anyways,” then a good consultant will do it anyways. They recognize that there are two reasons, both technical and business, for building a code. Sometimes they clash. Do what your manager tells you – just don’t commit any crimes!
6. A Good Technical Consultant Is Someone Who: Never Misses A Deadline
Did you tell your manager that you’d have something done by Monday at 8 a.m.? If you’re a good consultant, you’ll have it done. It doesn’t matter if you have to work all weekend to meet the deadline. Have it done. If you do so, you’ll reach technical consultant rock-star status.
See what I mean? It’s all about the nuances. Sure, a good technical consultant works hard, is in-and-out, and leaves a job well-done. They do. But they also do what they are told, never offer unsolicited advice, and stay out of the political fray. There’s a lot to being a good technical consultant, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.
Thanks to alex012 for the use of their respective photographs.