Project Management

Aligning an IT consultant's abilities to the potential client base

How do you align your abilities to meet the client needs that are available to you? Chip Camden proposes two approaches.

 A colleague recently asked me to keep an eye open for any IT consulting engagements that I might be able to throw his way. I don't mind obliging him because I have plenty of work to keep me busy, and I know that he would do an excellent job on any task to which he set his phenomenal mind. So, even though I regularly turn away potential business, why haven't I found any work that would be right for my colleague?

The short answer is that he's just too good. Many of the same reasons why I refuse consulting engagements for myself apply to him as well. Typically, these prospects want a consultant to provide a service that doesn't lie within my area of expertise -- so either they won't be willing to pay my usual rate, or they're likely to be disappointed with what they get for that rate. If I were truly interested to expand into that area of expertise, I might offer the client a reduced rate (or maybe a higher rate), but usually it's something rather mundane that doesn't interest me.

Granted, if I were really hungry for business (which, with the direction our economy seems to be taking, may happen someday), I'd be tempted to take anything I could get -- just like I did in my early days of consulting. One time I took an engagement to figure out a problem a local realtor was having with their accounting system. I had previously managed the development of an accounting software package for CPAs, so I thought this would be a slam dunk project even though it only paid $40 an hour. As it turned out, the accounting package (which I'd never heard of before) was specifically designed for realtors, and the documentation was sadly lacking. I fouled it up worse than it had been before. I ended up having to cry "uncle" and restore their data from backup to get them back to where they were prior to my arrival. Of course I didn't bill them, but what a waste of time for both of us.

I had one other experience like that before I finally realized that there's such a thing as business you just shouldn't take. When you stray well outside your area of expertise, you have very little to offer your client beyond your naive ingenuity. Even if you have no other business available, taking on an engagement like that will only use up your time on something you may not be able to collect on and probably tick off your client in the process.

So how do you align your abilities so that they meet the client needs that are available to you? I can think of at least two approaches, which are:

  • Broaden your horizons: Try to learn more about a lot of things. If you have many areas of knowledge, it provides a measure of career insurance because when someone asks, "Can you do XYZ?" you're much more likely to be able to say, "Oh yeah, I know all about that." Caution: Be careful not to spread yourself too thin -- you can end up with a cursory knowledge about a lot of things but master none of them. Your rate and your clients' satisfaction with your work will suffer as a result.
  • Deepen your expertise: Choose the area in which you want to become an expert, and then make yourself one. Unlike in previous generations, all the information you need is out there at your googletips -- you simply need to commit to learning the topic deeply and participating in public discussions about it. This helps grow your potential client footprint because, when you build your reputation as an expert, clients start hunting for you (instead of the other way around). Caution: Be sure your niche has enough demand and won't be obsolete soon. Even if you can bill $300 an hour for your services, it's not much help if there aren't enough clients out there to keep you moderately busy. It should also be something you can be passionate about.

Although these two approaches seem to be in conflict, a balanced combination of the two probably works best. If you have a deep knowledge and experience in a niche, this will drive business that pays very handsomely. On the other hand, you will be able to offer complete solutions (what engagement ever stays neatly within one domain?) and attract a larger potential client base if you have a broad knowledge of related areas.

Since you can't learn all there is to know about everything, the real trick is in finding the right mix for you.

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About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

27 comments
Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

These days I call myself a MOSS Architect (SharePoint), but as has become painfully clear -- this really means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Here is a good post on the topic: http://www.snipurl.com/moss-skills At the higher-end of the billing range, clients expect you to be both broad and deep. It seems like I need to re-invent myself on every new project. Sometimes doing pre-sales and more of a business analyist role, other times documentation, other time courseware development and training -- and even a few times putting the pizza boxes into the racks and physically building the systems I designed. I have yet to meet ANYONE who can honestly claim they are an expert in everything -- there is just TOO MUCH to know. For me, the most important factors to success (and an endless supply of future work) have been: - Excellent references. Including not only technical skills, but also business skills, communications and plain old ability to hit the ground running and 'get on with it'. I ask for a written reference at the end of each contract -- many contractors don't bother, but it is a HUGE benefit to have them. - A portfolio stuffed with 'sanitized' samples of documents created. Being able to say, 'ya, I did that' takes on a whole new meaning when you can SHOW that you DID that. - The ability to say NO, and turn down work. Yes, you may be able to squeek through on a project by learning the missing bits as you go -- but these days, (at least in the UK), there is such a high demand that you don't have to wait long for a project that is an excellent match and that you can excel on. I tell friends looking for work to do the following: 1. Pick the job title for what you'd love to be/do. 2. Go through all the job postings with that title and build up a list of expected knowledge, skills and experience. 3. GET the knowledge, skills and experience that are in demand. 4. While you are working on 3, don't think it is 'beneath you' to be racking those servers when necessary. Clients really love it when they don't have a prima-donna on their hands and can count on you to help out and get your hands dirty when necessary.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Did this post spark any insights for you? Or is broaden vs deepen something you thought through long ago?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Focusing on a goal is key -- a lot of people just say "I'm a consultant" and wonder where their next gig will come from.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

Given the past 8 years, I can understand your mistrust of government. I certainly hope that it will be partially restored in 2 weeks from now. Personally, I'm not a big fan of Canada's current administration either and wish it changed a week ago during the "illegal" elections. For Americans it's a catch 22: You need a bit of government involvement to start you down the path towards improving healthcare, but you don't want them to drag you all the way. In other words, > On the other hand, health care costs in > the US have become ridiculous. When > someone makes as much as I do, there's > no way that unreimbursed health care > should equal 50% of taxable income. As much as I'd love to relocate to San Diego, this is my biggest fear about living in the States, even as a young, single person.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

> Canada's caught between the political pain > of rapid increases in tax rates and a > healthcare system in dire financial > trouble, right now. From time to time, > the healthcare system appears to be > approaching solvency -- but at those > times, the financial problems manifest in > the form of surges of medical > professionals fleeing the market. Where do you get this idea that the Canadian healthcare system is experiencing dire financial problems? Yes, I agree that complete government control can make a system more costly than necessary and less efficient than necessary. But, I don't see signs of Canada's healthcare system collapsing anytime soon. If you do, please point me to them. As for surges of medical professionals fleeing the market, not so much. But, I do agree that a number of university grads do relocate to the United States to pursue better opportunities. In fact, some return due to their distaste for how the American healthcare system seems to place more value on money than the quality of patient care. Even, a nurse I dated recently moved to Canada because of the hospital "politics" that prevent her from providing the best possible care. Yes, the Canadian system does have problems, but I don't think they relate to underfunding. The main problems I see are: 1) Licensing of qualified immigrants Every year, thousands immigrants who were medical professionals in their home countries come to Canada. Some are even better trained than their Canadian counterparts. Yet, Canada in its sometimes stupid protectionist ways, makes it difficult, time-consuming and costly for these people to practice their field here. It would make sense to get them licensed so that they can fill the growing shortage of doctors. 2) Federal government's commitment to improving healthcare The federal government pays lips service when it comes to bring healthcare into the 21 century. It claims that it wants to put all health records online by 2012 (Good luck!), but is slow in allocating funds to the province. It's not that a budget doesn't exist, it's just that the government has released the funds yet. If government had followed through with its commitment, I wouldn't have such a hard time finding another healthcare contract, even in this economy. It's one reason why I'd prefer to see how other advanced countries run their healthcare systems so that someday, I can bring that knowledge of best practices back to Canada.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

After thinking about my own question at the end of my previous post, I believe that I can answer both our questions. The key to broaden vs. deepen is to practice both, but in different ways. To me " broaden" means "generalize across some dimension" while "deepen" means "specialize in some area". So, using this approach, one could specialize in one area (e.g. software development) while generalizing across industries (e.g. healthcare, alternative energy, non-profit). Or use the inverse approach. For example, I really like healthcare. Although I got my start in the field as a software developer, I could use my domain knowledge to enter other areas such as technical writing, business analysis and even project management. Another friend of mine is a top-notch business analyst, but she has spent the last part of her career playing this role in various industries (e.g. healthcare, financial services, telecom). Another option is to specialize in a technology (e.g .NET), but generalize by geography (e.g. San Diego) as many traveling IT contractors and even consultants from top-tier consulting firms do. Or if you love one city so much that you'll do anything to stay there, then you can try the inverse. Use "broadening" or "deepening" at the expense of the other presents many problems. If you overbroaden, then you risk: 1) looking uncommitted because it seems like you don't know what you like to do (even if you are good at everything) 2) losing opportunities because clients don't understand your competitive advantage or feel that don't understand their needs enough. 3) appearing money-hungry because people may assume that you're just chasing after big technology "jackpot" or the fad of the day. 4) not being able to charge higher rates because you're not perceived as an expert. Someone who tries to be all things to everyone succeeds only in being nothing to anyone. Overdeepening can create different, but equally dangerous problems because you risk: 1) appearing rigid and inflexible to prospective clients because you choose to stay in your comfort zone. 2) losing opportunities because you're so focused on your area of expertise. 3) failing to miss the changes in the "big picture" changes in the macro-economy. 4) not being able to charge same higher rates as before after switching to another area. The business world is survival of the fittest and very often the most flexible survive. The best option is to strike a balance between broadening (generalizing) and deepening (specializing). That way, you don't become irrelevant today or obsolete tomorrow. Depending on the person, the balance may lean on one side more than the other, to varying degrees. But, the important point is that practicing both is a healthy long-term career strategy.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

Just over 2 years ago, I officially began the latest chapter of my career: IT consulting in healthcare. One year before that, I vowed to switch to healthcare from financial services and never looked back since. So far, it has paid off somewhat (and I'm glad given the latest news about the shenanigans in financial services). I have even ignored so many promising opportunities from my old industry to point where some people questioned my sanity. But I did so because I lost all passion for it. Although healthcare is a growing concern worldwide (especially in North America) and an industry less likely to outsource work than others, I can't help but wonder if I made my decision too soon. Experience tells me that I made the right decision, but the question remains: Did I make it too soon? Eventually, healthcare will need IT people en masse just to keep itself going, let alone improve itself to satisfy future demands. The problem is that if that day hasn't already come what do I do between now and then?

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]I certainly hope that it will be partially restored in 2 weeks from now.[/i]" With the most likely outcomes being either McBama or O'Cain in office, I really don't see much reason to hope for a restoration of faith in government.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Where do you get this idea that the Canadian healthcare system is experiencing dire financial problems?[/i]" Mostly, I get it from Canadian news. "[i]But, I don't see signs of Canada's healthcare system collapsing anytime soon. If you do, please point me to them.[/i]" Have you been following healthcare news? Did you notice the massive reorganizations of a couple years ago? Have you seen the numbers on medical talent emigration? Have you been paying attention to the "outsourcing" tendencies of Canadian hospitals to the US for procedures that cannot be performed in Canada, and for people whose needs aren't being met because the wait for life-saving procedures is too long? Are you actually aware of anything going on in the realm of Canadian healthcare successes and failures, or are you just assuming there's no problem because you haven't heard about it (having heard about almost nothing on the subject)? Knowing where you get the impression there aren't problems would help me figure out how to address that lack of knowledge. "[i]Even, a nurse I dated recently moved to Canada because of the hospital "politics" that prevent her from providing the best possible care.[/i]" I wonder how long it'll take her to realize the problem isn't solved by moving to a place where the quality of care is necessarily limited by governmental politics and funding, in addition to in-hospital bureaucratic politics. "[i]It would make sense to get them licensed so that they can fill the growing shortage of doctors.[/i]" It's weird how you said that after talking about how Canada doesn't suffer an exodus of trained medical professionals, and how they're actually coming to Canada from the US, and so on. "[i]It's not that a budget doesn't exist, it's just that the government has released the funds yet.[/i]" . . . and why do you think that is? Might it be because of competing financial priorities, political issues with allocation, and other matters that might fit within the heading of what I said about financial issues? "[i]It's one reason why I'd prefer to see how other advanced countries run their healthcare systems so that someday, I can bring that knowledge of best practices back to Canada.[/i]" Judging by my experience in countries other than the US, and within the socialized parts of the US healthcare industry, socialized medicine is like hospitals run by the California DMV. I, for one, would rather not deal with that again.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I tend to deepen in specific languages and frameworks, while broadening in most other areas, including platforms, their competitors, and related technologies. As Marty said, to get the big bucks you're expected to be both broad and deep, but nobody can know it all (even in a single domain).

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... for getting out of finance. Health care has been a growing industry for at least the last decade. Of course, it remains to be seen what the next US administration and the economy will do to it (in the US at least) over the next few years. But I would venture a guess that health care will survive better than most markets.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... is waning crescent, but I had to check. It should be full, from the unwarranted animosity that I've observed in several online discussions over the last few days. IT.Consultant, I think you read too much into what apotheon said at first. He can be brutal when attacking ideas, and readers are often tempted to add "and that means that you're an idiot", when he didn't say that. Even if you feel strongly that his opinions are wrong, try not to take it personally.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]If you ever challenged (or rather insulted me) in public the way you did online, it may just require a test of your healthcare system.[/i]" Quoth Isaac Asimov, "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent." I'll refrain from making reference to the other obvious interpretation of your response -- the interpretation that alleges malevolence. Now -- please point out the insult. If I have wronged you, I'll be happy to apologize. No matter how many times I reread my previous statements, however, I see no offense. I have gone to great lengths to avoid descending into personal attacks the way you have. Considering one of the easiest ways to piss me off is to claim I intended meaning I neither intended nor delivered by literal word, I think I've been beyond reasonable with you. In case it helps you find and quote for me what exactly you found insulting, I'll link to [url=http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=275658&messageID=2622187][b]my comments that first offended you[/b][/url]. Please directly quote my offense, and -- for the sake of my apparently poor ability to recognize such misbehavior in myself -- explain to me why it is offensive. "[i]Or maybe you should start making use of it already for your personal problems, which include, but are not limited to your inability to 'challenge' people without insulting them.[/i]" Insinuating you have some special knowledge of my mental health in no way gives your "arguments" the appearance of validity. "[i]I like enlightening discussions or debates, not belittling attacks.[/i]" I suppose it would be childish of me to point out you "started it". Oh, well -- too late, anyway. "[i]Perhaps you're the one that is challenged.[/i]" The irony is palpable. "[i]The fact that you didn't, but instead resorted to attacking me shows who you are.[/i]" I'm having difficulty coming up with a term stronger than "palpable" at this point. "[i]You're the one claiming that you follow Canadian news. So, provide your 'facts' first. Then shove them where they count.[/i]" This is non-responsive. In no way does it address the question to which it is a reaction. With comments like this -- is it any wonder the discussion isn't getting anywhere? Even when you fail to take everything personally, and refrain from flaming me, you provide no traction for discussion. Instead, you attack straw men. Perhaps you didn't notice I wasn't asking you to prove anything with the line of discussion I was pursuing at that point. Do you somehow think I was? Is that where your objection to what I said arises? "[i]What's your point? Is this type of activity the exclusive domain of Canada or healthcare for matter?[/i]" I do not think you are very familiar with the process of reasoned argumentation. Not everything one says under such circumstances is a point, in and of itself. Sometimes, one must lay the groundwork for an argument before making the argument. If you insist on reading unintended meaning into everything I say, we aren't going to get anywhere. Of course, by responding with simple questions and an expression of disagreements with accusations and offense, you pretty much guaranteed that we wouldn't be able to get anywhere useful from the very beginning. "[i]Or really? What about your pathetic rants on socialism and socialist systems?[/i]" Just for the sake of argument, I'll assume what you said was something reasonable -- like "What about your implication that there are problems with the Canadian system suggesting that its primary aim is doing more harm than good?" . . . to which I say that I can claim the US system can do more harm than good without implying the Canadian system isn't -- and vice versa. The successes of the two systems are not inversely proportional. "[i]Not true. But, I'd rather get my information first-hand supported by secondary facts rather than just rely only on the 'news'.[/i]" You missed my point -- that your use of personal experience and dismissal of mine as unworthy of a response is extremely hypocritical. "[i]You're right I did show condescension, but I was merely giving you a taste of your own medicine, which apparently you can't handle even in the smallest of doses.[/i]" Your claim that I opened with condescension is unsupported. Was that a preemptive strike, then? "[i]Go find someone who cares about your opinions and stand to listen to them beneath all that self-importance and bitterness.[/i]" I find the tendency of some people to assume self-importance in others just because they believe something strongly, and bitterness in others without any reason for it at all, whenever they find themselves disagreeing with those others, quite strange. "[i]Never before, has my opinion of someone online sunk so quickly as it has with you.[/i]" I wonder why you keep bringing up your opinion of me. If you just repeat yourself again, I shan't attempt to point out your erroneous assumptions any longer.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

"It's always easier to respect an opinion that agrees with yours. It's more challenging to respect an opinion that disagrees, but does so with good reason." Who are you? One of my university professors? If I didn't like challenge, then I wouldn't participate on Techrepublic. No one except one notable member who is so maligned by most members here is this "challenging". If you ever challenged (or rather insulted me) in public the way you did online, it may just require a test of your healthcare system. Get my drift. Or maybe you should start making use of it already for your personal problems, which include, but are not limited to your inability to "challenge" people without insulting them. I have got more challenge out of my elementary teachers than I ever did with you. Yes, I can agree to disagree, but cannot agree to being disagreeable like you. Of course, I like to be challenged, but not by the likes of you. I like enlightening discussions or debates, not belittling attacks. But I resent being addressed like a little infant. Perhaps you're the one that is challenged. I hope you realize that this thread would not have descended to this level, had you just pointed me to the links I'd asked for in the beginning. The fact that you didn't, but instead resorted to attacking me shows who you are. "How do you expect me to find out what kind of information you have at your disposal if I do not ask? I think you're reading malicious intent into simple questions, where that intent is not evident." You're the one claiming that you follow Canadian news. So, provide your "facts" first. Then shove them where they count. "I suppose the fact that every year people are laid off by companies in dire financial trouble that they thought were doing extremely well doesn't give you a hint for why living in Canada and working in healthcare doesn't make me think you know everything there is to know about the financial status of the healthcare industry in Canada. ..." What's your point? Is this type of activity the exclusive domain of Canada or healthcare for matter? If anything, this industry is only following the bad examples of those before it. This happens more often and to a larger degree in the United States. Wow, your level of reasoning just baffles me. "What makes you think that it has to be different from the way the US financial industry is imploding to be a sign that there's something wrong?" "Considering I never implied perfection (or even overall, imperfect superiority) in the US system in this discussion, I think your reaction to what I said is pretty funny." Or really? What about your pathetic rants on socialism and socialist systems? "It's interesting how you expect me to take your personal experience as the final authority on the quality of healthcare in Canada" Not true. But, I'd rather get my information first-hand supported by secondary facts rather than just rely only on the "news". "Go away. You accuse me of insult and condescension based on absent evidence of behavior I didn't exhibit, then spend the entire remainder of your lengthy diatribe insulting me and condescending to me." ROTF :) You go first, but straight to !@#%. You're right I did show condescension, but I was merely giving you a taste of your own medicine, which apparently you can't handle even in the smallest of doses. I just merely putting your place, hypocrite. Mission impossible: Go find someone who cares about your opinions and stand to listen to them beneath all that self-importance and bitterness. I'm done with you. Your contributions mean nothing to me. Never before, has my opinion of someone online sunk so quickly as it has with you. Save your thoughts for someone who cares and for those are willing to pay a penny for them.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]I really respected your opinion until your previous post.[/i]" It's always easier to respect an opinion that agrees with yours. It's more challenging to respect an opinion that disagrees, but does so with good reason. "[i]So, if he doesn't berate me, then take a cue: I don't expect it from you.[/i]" You must be using some definition of "berate" with which I am unfamiliar. "[i]Go ask this question to your children or direct reports, not me.[/i]" How do you expect me to find out what kind of information you have at your disposal if I do not ask? I think you're reading malicious intent into simple questions, where that intent is not evident. "[i]It's not a question of me not following the news, since I already live in Canada and work in healthcare.[/i]" I suppose the fact that every year people are laid off by companies in dire financial trouble that they thought were doing extremely well doesn't give you a hint for why living in Canada and working in healthcare doesn't make me think you know everything there is to know about the financial status of the healthcare industry in Canada. At least, what you're saying seems to indicate that you haven't gotten such a hint. I haven't been able to figure out why, though. "[i]Or, in your case, ones that feed your obvious hatred of socialism.[/i]" Your dismissive -- and fallacious -- approach to arguments with which you disagree does nothing to endear you to me. "[i]What you fail to realize is that the news in general is quite bias and does distort people's perception of reality.[/i]" Where you you get your secret knowledge of what I do or do not realize? "[i]Also, the news mentions that Canadian IT professionals go to U.S. never to return. But, is the IT market here collapsing? No, because enough immigrants and new graduates come to fill the void.[/i]" Has it occurred to you that the IT job market is hostile to local talent -- in part because of immigrants? The fact that enough enter that market to fill the void of people fleeing the market does not suggest to me that the market is healthy. A high turn-over rate for skilled work is [b]always[/b] a sign that something is wrong. "[i]What is your point? And how exactly does this development differ from what's happening in any other industry, especially the mass consolidation among banks and investment firms in the American financial industry happening now?[/i]" What makes you think that it has to be different from the way the US financial industry is imploding to be a sign that there's something wrong? "[i]For your information, a well-known healthcare leader just offered me a job in San Diego. My contact there warned me that the company is undergoing reorgs.[/i]" Good for you. On the other hand, it's a common tactic for a company in trouble: fire the high-paid long-time experts, hire new people who don't draw as much salary because they don't have as much experience, or new people who they feel they can use to replace several of the old-timers at once. I also didn't suggest that reorganization always portends ill -- but then, you didn't bother to think about the implications of my question before you just decided you knew everything going on in my head, and that it must all be intended as some kind of insult, regardless of the actual words used. "[i]Who is to say whether a reorgs is good or bad until after it happens?[/i]" Whether or not a reorganization effort is good has nothing to do with whether or not it was undertaken because of problems in the organization itself. "[i]And so what about the numbers of highly qualified Canadian immigrants work in their field of choice? Then, it must also be a problem in the U.S. where ironically, even some caregivers at hospitals can't get health coverage, if affordable at all.[/i]" You may have to clarify that statement. I don't see what it has to do with what I asked at all. "[i]True, but the news also mentions a growing trend of American patients flying to countries such as Thailand and India for medical procedures. Do you know why?[/i]" I know the reasons in many cases. I also know that there's more at work there than the eeeevils of capitalism. "[i]But, the point is who cares if the service is available when it isn't affordable? It's like flaunting candy to a sugar-addicted child who is not allowed to eat it.[/i]" Who cares if the service is affordable when it isn't available? In any case, if you bothered to actually argue the case with me rather than attack straw men and assign insulting, malicious intent to those who do not bear it, you might eventually find out what I actually think -- which is, apparently, mostly unrelated to what you have chosen to believe I think. "[i]It's one thing to have a healthcare system that is actually trying to help everyone with some services which are somewhat flawed.[/i]" It's quite another to . . . oh, wait. No, it's [b]exactly the same[/b] as having a healthcare system that is [b]trying[/b] to help everyone, but [b]failing[/b], and pretending that trying is good enough to ignore the negative effects of that failing system. There's more to consider than simply whether the system fails to suck worse than a neighboring system (in some ways) in determining whether it's a good system. "[i]I have left 1 project because it was an outrageous and dishonourable waste of taxpayers' dollars.[/i]" Good for you. Clearly, you are not a direct part of the problem. "[i]Not once I did imply perfection, just an improvement over the one in the U.S. in many ways.[/i]" Considering I never implied perfection (or even overall, imperfect superiority) in the US system in this discussion, I think your reaction to what I said is pretty funny. "[i]If you're really so well informed, then why don't get your facts from a first-hand source (i.e. Canadian friends) instead of allowing the news to shape your twisted world view?[/i]" If you're really so well informed on where I get my facts, what I know, and how evil and condescending I am -- why don't you just have your conversation without me? You clearly don't need me to say anything to decide what I do and don't want to say. "[i]I mentioned that some healthcare professionals are leaving Canada, just not the majority as you claim.[/i]" I did not say "majority". The options, as I see them, are three-fold: 1. You don't know what majority means. 2. You jumped to a conclusion based on nonexistent evidence. 3. You decided to just make up a bunch of nonsense because it's easier to argue against than what I might actually say. 4. You just have some cartoonish image in your head of the incredible evil of people who disagree with you. "[i]The American dream is quickly becoming a nightmare for many.[/i]" No kidding. "[i]This quote really doesn't deserve a response.[/i]" It's interesting how you expect me to take your personal experience as the final authority on the quality of healthcare in Canada, but you think my statements of personal experience don't deserve a response. "[i]Prove me right.[/i]" Go away. You accuse me of insult and condescension based on absent evidence of behavior I didn't exhibit, then spend the entire remainder of your lengthy diatribe insulting me and condescending to me. I do not respect your opinion, based on that performance.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

I really respected your opinion until your previous post. Not even Chip Camden whom I greatly respect ever addressed me in this way even when he disagrees with me, even though he's much more knowledgeable and experienced than me. So, if he doesn't berate me, then take a cue: I don't expect it from you. Don't you ever address me that way again. If you must, do it your family or those who report to you. If you ever do, trust me I won't be so nice as I'm trying to be now (biting my tongue literally as I write this post). Your post smacks of arrogance and bitterness, which I have time for neither. I really don't appreciate your condescension and really don't know where to begin or finish. But, I will add that your post is an example of why people feed into the myth (notice the word myth) about Americans. "Have you been following healthcare news?" Go ask this question to your children or direct reports, not me. It's not a question of me not following the news, since I already live in Canada and work in healthcare. It's more a question which nsources do you choose to follow. Ones that offer a balanced view. Or, in your case, ones that feed your obvious hatred of socialism. Personally, I really don't care what your problem with socialism is as I might have still respected. Just don't vent it on me. What you fail to realize is that the news in general is quite bias and does distort people's perception of reality. With violent crime being the most reported topic, the news in Ontario will have you believe it is rising, when in fact it has dropped over the years. Also, the news mentions that Canadian IT professionals go to U.S. never to return. But, is the IT market here collapsing? No, because enough immigrants and new graduates come to fill the void. "Did you notice the massive reorganizations of a couple years ago?" What is your point? And how exactly does this development differ from what's happening in any other industry, especially the mass consolidation among banks and investment firms in the American financial industry happening now? For your information, a well-known healthcare leader just offered me a job in San Diego. My contact there warned me that the company is undergoing reorgs. Who is to say whether a reorgs is good or bad until after it happens? "Have you seen the numbers on medical talent emigration?" And so what about the numbers of highly qualified Canadian immigrants work in their field of choice? Then, it must also be a problem in the U.S. where ironically, even some caregivers at hospitals can't get health coverage, if affordable at all. "Have you been paying attention to the "outsourcing" tendencies of Canadian hospitals to the US for procedures that cannot be performed in Canada, and for people whose needs aren't being met because the wait for life-saving procedures is too long?" True, but the news also mentions a growing trend of American patients flying to countries such as Thailand and India for medical procedures. Do you know why? Because for a fraction of the cost in the U.S. and the flight being the highest expense, the patients can get service at places that resemble 5-star hotels than they do hospitals. Yes, the wait list issue still applies here. But, the point is who cares if the service is available when it isn't affordable? It's like flaunting candy to a sugar-addicted child who is not allowed to eat it. So try telling your doom and gloom story to the retired pensioned couple who lost their home and went bankrupt because of skyrocketing healthcare costs. It's one thing to have a healthcare system that is actually trying to help everyone with some services which are somewhat flawed. However, it's quite another to have one with better services, but only help everyone who can afford it. "Are you actually aware of anything going on in the realm of Canadian healthcare successes and failures, or are you just assuming there's no problem because you haven't heard about it (having heard about almost nothing on the subject)? ... Knowing where you get the impression there aren't problems would help me figure out how to address that lack of knowledge." Successes and failures in Canadian healthcare are quite familiar to me as I have taken part in both. I have left 1 project because it was an outrageous and dishonourable waste of taxpayers' dollars. However, I have participated in many more successes which still reside in production today. But, nothing in Canada can compare to the billions that Kaiser Permanente has wasted on Epic, which is viewed by some as vaporwares. Where did I mention that the Canadian healthcare system is perfect? Contrary to your beliefs, the Canadian healthcare system, while far from perfect, is decent. Not wonderful, not fabulous, not fantastic, but decent. Am I clear? Not once I did imply perfection, just an improvement over the one in the U.S. in many ways. As a patient, I should know. If you're really so well informed, then why don't get your facts from a first-hand source (i.e. Canadian friends) instead of allowing the news to shape your twisted world view? "It's weird how you said that after talking about how Canada doesn't suffer an exodus of trained medical professionals, and how they're actually coming to Canada from the US, and so on." What? Where's the contradiction? Don't twist my words. I mentioned that some healthcare professionals are leaving Canada, just not the majority as you claim. For some, the U.S. is not the top immigration destination, or at least not any more. The U.S. is a great place to visit and in many parts a great place to live. The American dream is quickly becoming a nightmare for many. "Judging by my experience in countries other than the US, and within the socialized parts of the US healthcare industry, socialized medicine is like hospitals run by the California DMV. I, for one, would rather not deal with that again." Wow. This quote really doesn't deserve a response. Since when does your experience count as gospel? All I can say is that you need help in dealing with socialism that not even my highly sought-after, professional healthcare skills can provide because it must have scarred you deeply. Most people who get this type of reply will probably dismiss you as a complete overbearing !@#$%. But, because I actually respected your opinion until now, I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt. Prove me right.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

I think that broadening and deepening together will be a matter of survival for most IT consultants in the future. Marty built on some of my earlier points by being more specific. Yes, you're quite that right in that it's impossible to know absolutely everything even about a single domain. My main message is that to be a successful IT consultant, you should strive to be a "versatilist". In other words, become specialized in one area and apply your transferable skills to another related area. Although my current experience lies in healthcare, I have a strong background in financial services which includes 3 banks. Right now, I'm being considered for a contract with a supplier of personal health insurance, which I see a combination (or middle ground) of healthcare and financial services. Pushing my expertise in both industries may help me win the contract.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Many of us deeply mistrust any solution that involves more of the government in our lives. On the other hand, health care costs in the US have become ridiculous.[/i]" Health care costs have primarily gotten ridiculous [b]because of[/b] government involvement. As government gets more involved, costs will only increase. It may not superficially look that way, but that's only because a lot of the costs are managed indirectly, through taxes and effects on the economy rather than direct payments out of individual income. Canada's caught between the political pain of rapid increases in tax rates and a healthcare system in dire financial trouble, right now. From time to time, the healthcare system appears to be approaching solvency -- but at those times, the financial problems manifest in the form of surges of medical professionals fleeing the market. I won't be running to Canada for the health care any time soon. Its success is a convenient facade -- or, from our side of things, an inconvenient falsehood. edit: typo

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Many of us deeply mistrust any solution that involves more of the government in our lives. On the other hand, health care costs in the US have become ridiculous. When someone makes as much as I do, there's no way that unreimbursed health care should equal 50% of taxable income. We've had maybe more than our share of medical expenses, but we're certainly not alone. I hate to admit it, apotheon, but there have been times when we've considered moving to Canada just for the health care coverage -- if they weren't still waffling on autism every now and then we'd have probably skipped over the border already. But I hope we can come to a solution in this country that isn't run by the government.

apotheon
apotheon

I think I'll just leave that one alone.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

What I meant was that the Canadian government has made good healthcare for all a much greater priority than the American government. The Canadian healthcare system is free and its policy is not to turn people away because they can't pay. Most personal health insurance plans here are relatively cheap, even for the self-employed. Good and free healthcare is the birthright of all citizens, especially those living in a democratic and industralized nation. It saddens me to hear that millions of Americans are uninsured. Ironically, the ones who need it the most and the ones can least afford to go without it (i.e. the sick, the poor, the unemployed, minors, elderly, the retired) are the ones who can't get it. Please don't be offended by my statements as my intention was not to badmouth the U.S. Since I believe that the U.S. is a great nation, I know it can turn things around. But, it has to begin by treating all of its citizens better. I really hope that your new government will bring about better changes.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Though at the political, policy and perhaps process level, Canada is ahead.[/i]" A lot of that depends on your (personal) politics.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... since the time we spoke about your rates. although most of what I said still applies, California specifically has been hit very hard.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

Technology-wise, healthcare in the U.S. is ahead of Canada. Though at the political, policy and perhaps process level, Canada is ahead. It must be good to have your type of luck with healthcare clients! Most seem to just want to hire you as an employee. Contract rates seemed to have dropped dramatically. In California, most employers and clients alike want to pay the bulk of your pay in "sunshine dollars".

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Some of my clients are in health care, and their business is booming in the US.

IT.Consultant
IT.Consultant

so it would seem to an industry observer. Many patients who have long wait times to see doctors only to be refused coverage or treatment may disagree with you. But, the fact is a lot of that growth has not trickled down to IT. A floodgate of untapped or unsatisfied patient demands and highly anticipated spending on IT needs to happen before I, as IT consultant, will call healthcare a promising industry. In terms of IT usage, healthcare is probably dead last behind all industries.

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