Outsourcing

Consultants are pros, while corporate IT staff are minor leaguers

IT consultancy owner Erik Eckel discusses common challenges he has observed corporate IT pros face when trying to transition to consulting.

IT consultants are essentially the equivalent of baseball's major leaguers, while corporate tech staff members are typically minor league professionals. And before you start the inevitable flame war, know this: minor leaguers probably possess more talent, experience, and know-how than 97% of most people. That's impressive.

I've owned and managed an IT consultancy that has experienced double-digit growth every year for six years straight, and the experience has taught me many lessons. The single biggest factor restraining my IT consulting firm is its ability to hire qualified support pros, administrators, and engineers. Unfortunately, corporate IT staff recruited to serve as consultants have been intimidated by the sheer volume of work and variety of projects our consultancy must complete every day.

Corporate IT professionals' ability to transition into consulting is a critical issue for two reasons. First, corporate IT staff members need to know what they're getting into if they're thinking of changing jobs or opening their own consultancy. Second, consulting offices need to properly understand typical IT pros' limitations in order to successfully recruit corporate professionals and teach them to become effective consultants over time.

Why IT consulting is the major leagues

Corporate IT pros typically work for organizations that fulfill a single business model, serve one or two project managers, report to one CFO and one CIO, support only a handful of remote sites, manage a few constituencies of users, and maintain a finite number of applications. This is a lot of work, and only a professional can meet all of those demands. However, our IT consultancy completes work for hundreds of commercial clients, each with its own CFO, CIO, office-manager-in-charge, remote sites, budget, business model and requirements, thousands of users in dozens of states, and a unique mix of applications.

In the corporate world, an IT pro might be responsible for managing a site relocation, managing the project through six months or a year of meetings, scheduling, preparation, and, ultimately, the site relocation. My office sometimes gets eight hours notice for the same project; this includes the responsibility for managing telecommunications circuit relocation, telephony migration, server rack needs, power requirements, physical equipment relocation, new router specifications, and workstation breakdown, moving, and setup.

Here are the two primary elements to keep in mind when corporate tech professionals attempt to transition to IT consulting:

  1. The volume of work is intimidating. On any given day, consultants must respond on-site, identify a complex software issue, obtain replacement hardware, implement and test a fix, all within 45 minutes or an hour, and then get on to the next call. You'll repeat the process four or five times a day. Because of consulting's nature, the need to get the business back up and running fast is critical; it's always a stressful environment; there's no time to learn on the job; and there is rarely time to grab lunch or even hit the restroom.
  2. The vast range of required technical skills is complex. In the corporate environment, there are often specific individuals who troubleshoot failed backups; another set of individuals might manage difficult site-to-site technical routing issues; and other staff might be responsible for remotely walking users through troubleshooting failed VPN connections. There might also be a specific group of administrators who manage physically changing failed disks in critical servers, rebuild the failed array, and determine the best virtualized server solution and network setup to support 25 locations working on a shoestring budget. One tech working for an IT consultancy might be responsible for knocking out all of those tasks in one day.

I realize that it's bold to state that seasoned corporate professionals aren't major leaguers, but consultancies too often must slow down and train corporate professionals on simple and basic processes. These are fundamentals that I think it's fair to claim any big leaguer should have mastered.

Real-world examples

Here is a sampling of tasks I've seen corporate technology professionals struggle with that IT pros must master in order to work for an IT consultancy:

  • Configure a common telecommunications provider modem to authenticate a PPPoE session or work in bridge mode.
  • Program a Cisco or SonicWALL router to support a new VPN connection.
  • Recover a corrupted Microsoft Exchange email database.
  • Properly license and deploy a Microsoft SQL Server.
  • Physically remove a failed disk, reinstall the new drive, and rebuild a disk array.
  • Run and terminate a category 5e cable in a pinch.
  • Physically migrate servers between sites, accommodating reverse DNS, DNS A, and MX record changes in the process.
  • Meet with a client, listen to their needs, and recommend and price a complete solution within 5% of the ultimate project cost.
  • Diagnose and fix the cause of a failed driver on a 10 year-old, no longer supported software platform.
  • Correct backup errors on systems using a variety of backup applications installed by numerous third parties backing up to a wide variety of media, ensuring all backups can recover all business operations should a failure occur.
  • Recommend and implement email solutions for companies with 100 users, spending only $20K.

Conclusion

With the correct expectations, and patience dedicated to bringing corporate IT pros up to speed, though, the transition to working for an IT consultancy can be made successfully. Corporate staff simply must learn to hit these myriad and frequent "curveballs" clients throw when you work at an IT consultancy.

Sound off

Do you agree or disagree with my points about the challenges many IT pros face when trying to transition into IT consulting? If you found the transition process a breeze, tell us about your experiences. Join the conversation.

Also read: TechRepublic contributor Justin James has written a response to this post: Consultants are no better than internal IT departments.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

128 comments
CPearson2
CPearson2

I almost got upset until I visited his website. Louisville Geek, Specializing in AVG, Malware Bytes, "Wireless Internet Connectivity" and a web portfolio that's anything but stellar? How do you manage? I've never read your blog before (and won't ever again), your title did its' job. Unfortunately, I don't see how you did your business any favors. After reading your attitudes regarding those a "proper" consultant partners with (meaning corporate staff), I can tell you aren't very good. "Your work and attitude speaks for itself"... Oh and you may want to consider a redesign of your site. My advice? Hire a "good" consultant. He will work with you AND your IT staff. TechRepublic, screen these guys, will you?

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

"Know this. I wrote this piece to do two things: (1) warn consultants that most corporate IT pros are ill prepared to immediately begin work as consultants and (2) warn corporate IT pros that they're in for a rude surprise if they make the leap into consulting." I don't think anyone here has taken any exception to your stated purpose. Indeed most agree with it. However, between the title and the way you supported your thesis, you drowned it in gasoline and should not have been surprised when it burst into flames.

cbader
cbader

In my years in IT Ive pretty much done all of the roles: tech support in a phone bank, helpdesk, Sys Admin for smaller companies, consultant, and Sys Admin for a Fortune 500. In my opinion everybody at the smaller level is pretty much on the same level. The consultants I have worked with are on par with the Sys Admins at the smaller companies that only manage a few servers and no more than 30 employees, they have a limited scope of knowledge because they dont work with the high end Enterprise technologies. Where I have encountered the real professionals are at the large Enterprise companies who manage hundreds of servers with a large amount of end users and remote offices. And for the record I stopped consulting for two reasons: I was bored working with the same low end solutions over and over again, and I didnt like driving all over town every day to the various customer sites. Otherwise, I can definitely handle the things Erick claims to be so difficult for the minor leaguers in corporate IT.

ramonramirezg
ramonramirezg

both staff workers that work off hours off the reguler job and IT Consultants have diferent kind of knowledge, there is no a "know it all" efficient IT guy/girl, you must do what you do better and what you don`t.... find the person who does.

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

One item I should note, and this is my fault for not anticipating the vitriol it would generate, is I don't view the minor league analogy as a disparagement. I've been to dozens of AAA baseball games. The athletes regularly include professionals earning in excess of $1M a year and are incredibly talented. I've sat behind home plate and watched pitchers carve the plate with incredible grace. You ever see a AAA pitcher throw a cutter that breaks three feet? It's pretty cool. But I see now how "minor league" could offend, and for that I want to ensure corporate IT pros I'm nothing but impressed with their skills. It still doesn't mean they're ready to manage the vast range of tasks a consultant must cover, unfortunately. Consultants, almost always by trade, must possess more knowledge. You have to hit the cutter, the slider, the two-seam fastball, the sinker, the slurve, the four-seam fastball, the knuckleball, the splitter, sometimes a spitter, etc. each and every day without skipping a beat, or you simply don't get paid. That's the nature of the role. Future articles will expound on why (and offer advice for eliminating confusion between what tasks a consultant fulfills, how a contractor is different, why a knowledge gap so often exists, etc.). Another item I left out (a 400- to 600-word blog is often tremendously limiting) is it often isn't going to make fiscal sense or even prove efficient for a corporate IT professional to know *or do* everything a consultant must. A CFO may be the first to realize this. For example, if a corporate pro is migrating 25 remote sites to a new VPN platform, should that corporate IT pro really to take time to coordinate the order, design the topology, unbox a couple dozen units, configure 26 routers (25 for the sites and one for the main office), travel to 14 states to do all the work, neglect his/her regular duties in the process, etc.? Or, is it a better use of that companies' resources to subcontract this project that might be completed exactly once in its IT pro's career?

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

A good debate, thoughtfully executed, is almost always healthy. Too many readers, I fear, are misinterpreting what I wrote. Just because I suggested corporate IT professionals aren't "major league" doesn't mean corporate techs aren't capable, intelligent, hard-working and talented. Far from it. Corporate IT pros possess skills that exceed probably 98% of the rest of the world. But some of you just want to shout. That's fine. Know this. I wrote this piece to do two things: (1) warn consultants that most corporate IT pros are ill prepared to immediately begin work as consultants and (2) warn corporate IT pros that they're in for a rude surprise if they make the leap into consulting. I stand by those statements. In the past month, I've had former corporate IT pros serving as contractors to my firm tell me they don't possess the skills consulting requires and it makes them so uncomfortable they need to return to the corporate fold. Further, my consultancy is routinely approached by large companies with their own IT departments to help solve problems their in-house staff doesn't possess the expertise to accomplish or simply hasn't been able to fix.

mbkavka
mbkavka

I'm sorry, but in most corporate IT departments, people tend to become more specialized. the get a lot of knowledge about x,y, and z and loose some of the other skills. Consulting or working for a company that does consulting has the following Major drawbacks IMHO: 1) Pay level. Most places that do IT consulting try to pay as little as the possible can. Most consultants that I know of are well underpaid compared to the high diversity of skills and experience that they have. 2) Training/Conferences. Again, most consultants that I know of have to pay for their own training and/or conferences. things such as Tech Ed, Interop, Black Hat/Defcon and the like. To add insult on injury, we have to use vacation time for something that is work related. Now, not all Staff IT get benefits such as what I just listed, but the odds are greater that the company will work to keep you on staff, and want your skills to increase, etc... Unfortunately, consultants are a dime a dozen, and employers know that.

dhearne
dhearne

'Mainstream' consultants (consultants that are subcontracted out by big players like EMC, HP, Dell, etc, etc.)are usually a whole lot of worthless. They come in. Fail in their original goal. Usually cause collateral damage, and then skip off into the sunset with their money. Private guys might well be a bit more reliable, but any internal IT guy worth his salt ought to be able to match a consultant in his or her area of expertise. Consultants who do 'everything' are usually no good at anything..

Phil.Knuth@CommuniceerLLC.com
Phil.Knuth@CommuniceerLLC.com

I've worked in two fortune 100 sized companies, and yes, IT pros get very compartmentalized and specialized, but the architects (my former role) have to grab the "boot straps" and tough-it-out across departments to deliver on business needs. But, as this article points out (and being on the consultant side now) I can honestly say that I've had to "conjure up" all the skills and experiences I've EVER had in order deliver quality results on VERY short notice.

john
john

Is this a media stunt or an honest article?

rlindenm
rlindenm

When I was a consultant, we called drivel like this an ID10T error. The author is showing his P(roblem) E(xists) B(etween) K(eyboard) A(nd) C(hair). He shows the basest disrespect for his clients, and if I were one, and read this, I'd sever our relationship immediately.

ssl648
ssl648

Actually to continue your baseball analogy, a consultant would be a pitch hitter, a specialist brought in for a very specific skill set and purpose, and generally lacks the fundamentals or familiarity to fit in with the rest of the team dynamic. I will concede that some consultants are well rounded, and occasionally have a superior skill set to staff IT, but without the familiarity existing systems, they often cause more disruption than benefit. Maybe it is a matter of perspective, IT staffers view consultants as vagabonds and ne'er-do-wells of the IT world, preying on the gullible and feeble-minded. While Consultants probably view themselves as "still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem...if no one else can help...and if you can find them...maybe you can hire..."

Rico Federico
Rico Federico

Traceroute reveals your CDN provider is Akamai. You are not nearly big enough to have that direct with them. I assume you are re-sold. Server = AppleIDiskServer.1G3010 X Responding Server = hpng027-0 X Dmuser = erikeckel Cache Control = max-age=60, must-revalidate Etag = "z-1g3s18hn-6htp-1glpykbjb3-sr0q6zefa0" Last Modified = Fri, 06 Aug 2010 15:04:21 GMT Content Type = text/html Content Length = 314 Vary = Accept-Encoding Date = Tue, 05 Oct 2010 00:09:00 GMT Connection = keep-alive http://www.erikeckel.com...hosted by reseller of Akamai CDN services.... http://www.louisvillegeek.com = your lame repair and basic networking site for small businesses. 100 email users under $20,000.00? If you even neared $20,000 than you are lazy in your research. Security? If you offered real security services, you would offer total packages AND custom designed services meant for each client, with the inclusion of at least ONE customer software build with added support and dev-to-test-to-production support (We real professionals in the industry call this Lifecycle Management). You offer none of this to your clients, because they are not big enough to need them and you did not cover that in school and do not like to cover it now (as evidence by that *ck in yur mouth called MSoft). You basically get away with recommending mash-ups of already-existing software that you did not create and you call this security. This is similar to your lame top-ten lists (of which your TR and ITPro sites mostly consists of) and mostly-filler, hot-air recommendations to third-party software as solutions to OMFG big problems like mass file renaming and, God Help Us All: Running and terminating a Category 5e cable in a pinch. Cat 5e? Who are your clients...major players in your neighborhood subdivision? Can you run drops and analyze PDU requirements for a whole DC or POP, you know, cooling, power panels, and then write some Perl for mapping that? Or do you just review the specs you're given from your CDN and say, "Oh yeah, I could have done that." Bet you can't RegEx in multilpe languages and compile your brainstorming across terms into a separate help document in-line for use in that session...so that your admin teams can refer to your live work if needed without a ticketing system. What you consider IT PRO is what I in real enterprise call bullshitter try-hard. I like to think of those with real motivation as diligent die-hard. You call your SP to make a ticket with your CDN to make a ticket with a peer to confirm or deny their anaysis of network latency or routing between edges and POPs, or perhaps you send some "consultant" employee on a job to call someone else, eventually reaching a SysAdmin on an internal team who does the actual microcontroller interface anaysis looking at communication between VMs, blades, chassis backplanes, and channel backplanes to determine how best to recommend his review of UDP or TCP load balancing to a Network Engineer for analysis for deep review so that idiots like you can finally tell your dumb-ass customers "Sorry you weren't having access to your stupid mini-100-user but-yet $20,000.00 email server." Idiots need other idiots to make sense of incomprehensible statements from the competent. So the idiots you service need you, because you're the idiot they trust to do dumb sh!t like RAM slams and spot-swaps and maybe, JUST maybe, know who to call for clarification on something as simple as peering route traversal with a traceroute if, suddenly, viewers cannot access their page or *gasp* IIS isn't handling connections right. I bet you have never Firewalked in your life. Can you normalize to Boyce-Codd Normal Form? Hey, mister end-all be-all of White Paper documentation: Nevermind. You're the consultant, I'm just the internal troll who watches you pretend to do things others run. You state in this article that you can find a software bug in an organization's software in 45 minutes? And then what? You recommend a fix in some similar amount of time? You expect us to believe that a company will trust a software bug recommendation from you given in 45 minutes? You, a holder of such awesome certs like the MCSE 2000 and the Network Plus, a certification my brother and I obtained out of high school with our A Plus? And in less than an hour. You must be analyzing non-SE'ed code...you're not even suggesting LIFECYCLE BUG times or Analysis Peer or Requester review! The Windows 2000 Bible and Windows 2003 Bible cover more than the MCSE does, each for their server's year in one book, with real-world scenarios and references to case studies. I did my MCSE. It's not friggin hard dude. It''s menu memorization, AD, a bit of PKI, and maybe some Federated Services. Ok sure, networks are discussed: they exist, this is what they look like. I study Networks, man. I study systems, killer. Would you guess that I DON'T concern myself with writing three separate articles about how much better conultants are because they know a lot? I concern myself with adding to my TECHNICAL and DEEP CONCEPTUAL knowledge, not this bullcr@p re-hashed bastardized version of a clone of others' work you call professionalism. I study and practice much, much more than you discuss above, and yet I'm only 3 years in the industry...and working internally for a great company. You never once mentioned Net Mon platforms as solutions you could actually architect on a given set of regionally-distributed hardware. Do you realize that this shows how very ignorant you are of how DCs, POPs, and Super-POPs look at you? You study study Lousivelleepizza delivery times. I engage an understanding of physcal electronics and electrical singalling. You engage my analysis as a a tool in your BSing. You are seriously bored to suggest that you're a Windows dude with just an MCSE and Network Plus and yet you are getting called on by real players to solve real problems. I hope you don't have only those two certs, working a small repair shop in a mid-size town where there isn't even a major POP or exhange, and expect real pros not to bear down on you here. Intellectuals do not NEED them, but you will. A real professional is not a consultant: he is an intellectual, in that he loves learning for its own sake, and uses that learning to develop and contribute new or enhanced tools for others to utilize and grow with. You are evidently NOT an intellectual, as described here. You are a lazy thinker. You couldn't make it in a writing career. and so you got an MCSE (considered pretty introductory these days) that you might could get a job with so you wouldn't go homeless someday...and make it look like that job is something cool. The most integrated concepts that the modern MCSA through MCSE cover are modern PKI as viewed by Microsoft. They not only fail to cover protocol break-down and applications making that all happen, but yours are from friggin 2000 dude! The SAM, man! THE 40-MB limited SAM!!! YOu say in a random Googled article: "http://www.erikeckel.com...hosted by reseller of Akamai CDN services.... http://www.louisvillegeek.com = your lame repair and basic networking site for small businesses. Security? If you offered real security services, you would offer total packages AND AC custom designed for each client, with the inclusion of at least ONE customer software build with added support and dev-to-test-to-production support (We real professionals in the industry call this Lifecycle Management). You offer none of this to your clients, because they are not big enough to need them and you did not cover that in school, do not like to cover it now (as evidence by that *ck in yur mouth called MSoft. You can get away with recommending mash-ups of already-existing software that you did not create and you call this security. This is similar to your lame top-ten lists (of which your TR and ITPro sites mostly consists of) and mostly-filler, hot-air recommendations to third-party software as solutions to big big, real big problems like mass file renaming. HA! Bet you can't RegEx in multilpe languages.and compile your brainstorming into a separate help document in-line for use that session. What you consider IT PRO is what I in real enterprise call bullshitter try-hard. I like to think of those with real motivation as diligent die-hard. You call your SP to make a ticket with your CDN to make a ticket with a peer to confirm or deny their anaysis of network latency or routing between edges and POPs, or perhaps you send some "consultant" employee on a job to call someone else, eventually reaching a SysAdmin on an internal team who does the acutal microcontroller interface anaysis looking at communication between VMs, blades, chassis backplanes, and channel backplanes to determine how best to recommend his reviewal of UDP or TCP load balancing to a Network Engineer for analysis for deep review so that idiots like you can finally tell your dumb-ass customers "ISorry you weren't having access." Idiots need other idiots to make sense of incomprehensible statements from the competent. So the idiots you service need you, because you're the idiot they trust to do dumb shit like RAM slams and spot-swaps and maybe, JUST maybe, know who to call for clarification on something as simple as peering route traversal with a traceroute if, suddenly, viewers cannot access their page or *gasp* IIS isn't handling connections right. Can you normalize to Boyce-Codd Normal Form? Hey, mister end-all be-all of White Paper documentation: Nevermind. You wouldn't get it; You state in this article that you can find a software bug in an organization's software in 45 minutes? And then what? You recommend a fix in some similar amount of time? You expect us to believe that a company will trust a software bug recommendation from you given in 45 minutes? You, a holder of such awesome certs like the MCSE 2000 and the Network Plus, a certification my brother and I oibtained out of high school with our A Plus? And in less than an hour. The Windows 2000 Bible and Windows 2003 Bible cover more than the MCSE does, each for their server's year in one book, with real-world scenarios and references to case studies. I've got through my MCSE. It's not friggin hard dude. It''s menu memorization, AD, a bit of PKI, and maybe some Federated Services. Ok sure, networks are discussed: they exist, this is what they look like. I study net'ing, d'/bing, msoft'ing, you stude Lousivellr pizza delivery times. fStick with yorR Window server crap until I come bafk.c You are seriously bored to suggest that you're a Windows dude with just an MCSE and Network Plus and yet you are getting called on by real players to solve real problems. I hope you don't have only those two certs, working a small repair shop in a mid-size town where there isn't even a major POP or exhange, and expect real pros not to bear down on you here. A real professional is not a consultant: he is an intellectual, in that he loves learning for its own sake, and uses that learning to develop and contribute new or enhanced tools for others to utilize and grow with. You are evidently NOT an intellectual, as described here. You are a lazy thinker. You couldn't make it in a writing career. and so you got an MCSE (considered pretty introductory these days) get a job with so you wouldn't go homeless someday...and make it look like that job is something cool. The most that the modern MCSA through MCSE cover are modern PKI as viewed by Microsoft. They not only fail to cover protocol break-down and applications making that all happen, but yours are from friggin 2000 dude! The SAM, man! THE 40-MB limited SAM!!! With MCSE, AD, and MSoft PKI, you simply need to pick up the appropriate year Bible, (if you are really proactive, also IBMs Redbook on LDAP so you can clarify ADs use of it), and know a little LANning to think you something about something. Oh...right! You did exactly that! You DID get your Network+, didn't you? Enough to take what you know and, maybe, work in a Tech Support Call Center or even a Help Desk somewhere. MCSE...give me a break. You DO realize, don't you, that this is a clear indication that you are not the guy called on to fix service provider problems...or datacenter issues across a clients peers....because you only know AD and, dude, actually...the SAM!! A deprecated crappy flat-file that was thankfully obsoleted with AD. You stopped your try-hard peer-review at 2000? No new certs or degrees to prove modern competency? No articles linked from peer-reviewed sites or even a security firms recommendation to read? Can you VMware a customer Gentoo install over RAID without having to resort to only 1 or 0 on the first pass? How about this, Mister Big-Time Problem Solver: Where is your first connection with Equinix? With XO? Can you tell us REAL pros who WE call when you call us to complain that your site is not accessible and w3ecannot see hwy????? How many languages do you solve real problems in? Do the major NOCs know your name? No? The major NOCs never heard of you outside of a reseller of Akamai CDN services presented to you as DNS and Hosting services? Dude, can you even run the right commands between Brocade, Juniper, Cisco, and XRP routers and switches to suggest to your own provider a port to redirect traffic to if your site is teken out in a regional disaster? Can you write a script that handles NFS and NAS monitoring and failover? Do your customers need compliance auditing reviews (not just SOX, dude, I mean SAS70 Type 4, CISCO, COBIT, etc etc)? No? Maybe? Do ANY of your services, hand-to-hand, affect major A and B network traffic? No? Can you tell anyone reading this why they might if you were a REAL professional? Let me ask you this one simple question: Do you know how a bit is represented ACROSS wires for separate signals? You rely on OTHERS to get the big, major-player shit done. We real profs you call minor players laugh as you play on OUR networks. You did not create this thing we call computing, nor do you manage these networks like Level 3, SIPPERNETl, Equinix, Global Crossing (clarifications) YOu simply RESIDE on them and ask Remote Hands to come press a reboot on a server for a customer you MIGHT have in NY (thought I doubt you are that visible) since you can't research when to and when not to use IPTables, black lists, white listst, Firewalk traveersal and negotiation or even how to set up an approved Telnet session " With MCSE, AD, and MSoft PKI, you simply need to pick up the appropriate year Bible, (if you are really proactive, also IBMs Redbook on LDAP so you can clarify ADs use of it), and know a little LANning to think you something about something. Oh...right! You did exactly that! You DID get your Network+, didn't you? Enough to take what you know and, maybe, work in a Tech Support Call Center or even a Help Desk somewhere. MCSE...give me a break. You DO realize, don't you, that this is a clear indication that you are not the guy called on to fix service provider problems...or datacenter issues across a clients peers....because you only know AD and, dude, actually...the SAM!! A deprecated crappy flat-file that was thankfully obsoleted with AD. You stopped your try-hard peer-review at 2000? No new certs or degrees to prove modern competency? No articles linked from peer-reviewed sites or even a security firms recommendation to read? Can you VMware a customer RH install over RAID without having to resort to only 1 or 0 on the first pass? How about this, Mister Big-Time Problem Solver: Where is your first connection with Equinix? With XO? Is it this hop, that hop, or can you see it if you troute it? Can you tell us REAL pros who WE call when you call us to complain that your site is not accessible and we cannot see your crappy Web 1.0 designed non-db driven site? How many languages do you solve real problems in? Do the major NOCs know your name? No? The major NOCs never heard of you outside of a reseller of Akamai CDN services presented to you as DNS and Hosting services? Dude, can you even run the right commands between Brocade, Juniper, Cisco, and XRP routers and switches to suggest to your own provider a port after a circuit flap to redirect traffic to if your site is taken out in a regional disaster? Can you write a script that handles NFS and NAS monitoring and failover? Do your customers need compliance auditing reviews (not just SOX, dude, I mean SAS70 Type 4, CISCO, COBIT, etc etc)? No? Maybe? Do ANY of your services, hand-to-hand, affect major A and B network traffic? No? Can you tell anyone reading this why they might if you were a REAL professional? Let me ask you this one simple question: Do you know how a bit is represented ACROSS wires for separate signals? ...

rcameron1
rcameron1

It is not what you said, it is how you said it... I think I see what you were trying to get at but boy did you do a poor job of actually saying it. I see this all the time when people disperse inflammatory emails and then just can't figure out why people were offended.

bobbycornetto
bobbycornetto

What is the constructive, productive reason for this article? I'm fed up with inane words passing for helpful information written by people who can't even keep their story straight from one sentence to the next. Eric Eckel says in one moment that "minor leaguers probably possess more talent, experience, and know-how than 97% of most people." How many people comprise "97% of most people" Eric? Hilarious! Moments later he chastises the "minor leaguers" for not being capable of performing "basic" tasks that every "big leaguer" should know. Which is it, Eric? Are the "little leaguers" in corporate IT good at what they do and not great, or are they complete posers? It's hard to tell from your inconsistent thought process. I'm tired of my Inbox filling with TechRepublic crap like this. Unsubscribe.

Dknopp
Dknopp

I was an Engineer in the military for ten years, an on site contractor/consultant for the intelligence community, a vendor software technical sales support and professional services consultant, an independent consultant and now I am a corporate IT person. The main difference in all of that is the lifestyle. As a traveling consultant I have been in every State in the Union and Canada, ( did IT work for the Government of Columbia via the internet ). At first I was all impressed with myself with having the ability to start a new project with three days advance, ( did my own project managment even as a vendor person ), do phone meetings to set expectations, fly out ( after doing my own travel arraignments, unless I wanted to hop all over the place ) assess the environment, deliver the project and do it all over again with another client in two to three weeks, sometimes a month or two -- and then I burned out. I realized being a road warrior and being the bread and butter for the company is a pretty chumpy place to be. You are basically working 24 hrs a day, staying in hotel rooms, doing project/paperwork over the weekend, cleaning your travel clothes ( actually my wife did that for my, sngle guys, not so lucky ) grabbing your second set of suitcase clothing and flying out again. Meanwhile your billing rate is being highly skimmed by either the consulting company or marketing types that do "gatekeeping" services for corporations. Maybe the reason you cannot find the people to do the consulting work is because the good ones know better.

fhrivers
fhrivers

I think this article has great points, but I think it wasn't well thought out. I think a better title would have been, "Corporate IT Not a Good Fit for Consultancies". Even then, that would be a stretch. Here's why. Corporate IT folks tend to be specialized. While they may not have the breadth of knowledge that a consultant does, they have a whole lot of depth in a particular area. This fits the corporate environment since they often have large, complex infrastructures. Small business IT professionals like myself tend to have more breadth than depth. Not to say that we don't have specializations, but we need to be specialists where necessary and generalists where sufficient. SMBs don't have the IT budget to hire a network engineer, system engineer, pc tech and sys admin. Often times there are one or two people filling all those roles (and some doing IT Management on top of all that)! It's a stretch, but if it works, stick with it. This is why SMB IT pros may be a better fit, because they are accustomed to wearing multiple hats. However, this doesn't mean that corporate IT specialists aren't valuable to consulting firms. I'm sure a consultant that needs a network engineer wouldn't turn down a CCIE to lead up the group. I'm also sure that the consulting firm wouldn't realistically expect him to know the ins and outs of VMWare or Citrix as well like a Systems Engineer.

TBone2k
TBone2k

As a consultant, I spent most of my time either fixing broken software or hardware. At the rates my customers paid, they just wanted me in and fix it and get out. So no time to do it "right" like you would in an IT department. When I did have the time to plan new rollouts with our clients it was mostly me pretending to be an expert while scrambling to learn the latest version of some software our sales department had sold them without checking to see if anyone in the technical department nobody knew anything about it.

stevenbarnard
stevenbarnard

Consultants are like special teams, they are important and can be games changers(good or bad). Coporate IT is your general offense and defensive groups who manage the majority of the game. But Payton Manning isn't going to kick the PAT or return kick offs...you need specialists for that.

damfman
damfman

Either you are a complete idiot, or you are just trying to stir up controversy to promote your new line of work. By the way, if you are so good at consulting, why are having to resort to writing these articles - it's been said here on techrepublic that that task is for those who are washed up or otherwise can't find a real job.

polarverse
polarverse

I agree with the analogy, it all comes down to exposure. The IT staffer is limited to a single environment as far as practical experiences goes while the consultant sees/works within hundreds of different environments giving him/her many more solutions options when faced with a problem to solve.

frankspruill
frankspruill

All you have done is explain why consultants do not know enough to do a good job for a client who has decent (not exceptional) and dedicated staff anyway. I have been both, and consultancy works better when the client knows enough that all the consultant can offer is additional manpower and sufficient knowledge to accept direction from a knowledgable client.

ddelapaz1
ddelapaz1

As a Network Manager for a company with over 800 employees scattered over 55 offices with some over 100 miles from each other, this sounds like a typical day for me. I manage 80 servers and our entire team is made up of 6 employees. We have a staff member that was an IT consultant and owned his own business for many years. On the other side of the coin, we have had a degree of difficulty in teaching him to see the "big picture". He has great skills in many areas but we've had to work extensively with him to see the "big picture". He isn't used to working in a large enterprise environment and we have to remind him to keep things "centralized". There are many tools and complex applications he isn't familiar with and they cant be learned overnight. In trying to keep this brief, I would like to see a similiar article written on the "Other Side of the Coin" since I feel this article was insulting.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Military fighter pilots are God's gift to aviation and the repository of all flying skill and ability. If you don't think so, ask one. However, there is something to be said for the folks who fly the heavies, too. Things like going places where "they" can shoot at your relatively slow-moving flying machine but from which you CANNOT shoot back; having to actually land there, not just drop bombs there. The two kinds of flying are different and require different temperaments, skill sets and attitudes, but neither is more "professional" than the other. Clearly, Erik Eckel considers himself to be a "fighter pilot" with all the arrogance and lack of respect for anyone not of his clan that goes with the title, but which a true professional does have.

AV .
AV .

I'm not a corporate IT pro now, but I was at one time. I worked for a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. In-house staff deployed and maintained a very elaborate infrastructure from top to bottom. Consultants were hired to be on site and supplement the in-house staff because they couldn't increase the head count. There was no major and minor leagues. We were peers. I now work with one other IT person and we support 140 people. We use consultants on a limited basis to install new technology that we may not have the expertise in, but migrations of the 140 people to the new environment is done by in-house IT. We take care of the entire infrastructure. The network, desktops, Voip phone system, connectivity, smart phones, hardware and software, copiers, printers and faxing. There is nothing minor league about it. You have to hit the ground running and be a quick study. Smaller IT shops won't spend the money to call in consultants, except for a major project and even then, they are only there long enough to do whats absolutely necessary. The consultants we have are very good at what they do and they should be. My consultants are specialists that work with certain software and they're limited to that for the most part. I'd like to see them make the transition to a job like mine where you are expected to support everything, have good people skills and business knowledge too. Every day is a challenge in the trenches. Consultants can come in, do whats expected and leave. IT staff have to live with it. This could describe my job, too "You have to hit the cutter, the slider, the two-seam fastball, the sinker, the slurve, the four-seam fastball, the knuckleball, the splitter, sometimes a spitter, etc. each and every day without skipping a beat . . .". The only difference between a consultant and me is that I only work at one company. I'm a jack of all trades and a master of some. We don't have the luxury of calling in consultants, except for major projects. There's no $$$. When we migrated people to Citrix at my company, IT staff did the actual migration, consultants set up the server. If you work at a smaller company in IT, they expect that they aren't going to need consultants, except for key projects. They want their IT staff to do that AND their regular job. Times are tough. I still don't think you get it, Erik. Consultants and in-house IT are peers. One isn't better than the other, as in major or minor league. The job responsibilities are the same, but the environment is different. We're all in IT together and it takes all of us working together to make a project successful. I think you're trying to be a divider and not a uniter and your goal is to get a big reaction. Thats what you wanted and you got it, but maybe it isn't exactly what you envisioned. AV Edited: formatting

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If it's his job, he designs the topology, orders the equipment, unboxes and configures all 26 routers and builds the VPN in his lab so he can document the installation procedure and make sure it works. Then he installs one router himself and boxes 25 others back up, throwing in a copy of the install procedure, and sends them off to their respective sites, where on-site IT support installs them. May require a contract service tech or two, but no consultants.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you had put out an article that showed the business justification for consultants, it would seem you understand that. Mind you, so do the rest of us, so it wouldn't have generated as much traffic. If you had put out an article that went into the differences in approach and mindset between being a consultant and a staffer (especially in large shops), you might have got it right, or at least learnt something. What you started with was Consultants are pros, and implied staffers are not. If you didn't anticipate some negative traffic from this, you need to go on at least a communications course immediately. Possibly a logic one as well, I can hardly imagine a clearer case of If A THEN B... Worse still the fundamental flaw in your approach completely detracted from the valuable if less contentious points you now claim you were trying to make. So apparently even consultants make mistakes, try not to be one of the ones who refuses to admit this and therefore can never learn from them.

apotheon
apotheon

Unless and until you just accept that you made a mistake, you're going to keep digging that hole deeper. Do you realize that what you just said makes it sound, in the context of your article, like you're saying that regular IT employees don't need to be as good as consultants, and the people who are must be slumming -- playing below their level? The truth of the matter, in my experience, is that at the high end everybody's "major league" professional, and the regular employees are the guys who are on the field every single day, doing the whole job, while the consultants are the guys sitting on the bench waiting to see if they'll be needed as pinch hitters. Smaller shops are slow pitch softball, where the needed skills tend to be much different, constrained by rules that seem very odd to the big-time "enterprise" level guys, and no less demanding than major league baseball -- regardless of whether you're the on-site IT guy (everything from catcher, through shortstop, to left field) or the consultant they call once a week (the pitcher) because they can't afford to have everyone in the world on their payroll. Of course, that kinda denigrates the consultants in the eyes of some people, and others will regard the softball metaphor as denigrating as well. This is because the metaphor you've chosen to use is fundamentally broken, prone to insult, and the kind of thing that it's hard to imagine anyone using without intending offense. Sure, maybe you don't mean offense, but if so you should probably just "bite the bullet", as it were, and eat some humble pie (to mix a metaphor). (Of course, there are IT departments that are distinctly "minor league" in the enterprise, and small businesses that are distinctly "minor league" as well -- but there are consultants who are still playing tee ball, too.)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Demanding that we read you as you intended to be read. But we don't work for you. We read what you wrote, with the nuances you put there. If you could even admit that your choices of words were poor (seeing as how we don't read in them what you say you intended to write), that would mean a lot. But you can't, instead you suggest that we don't know how to debate. How is that fighting for your point? Hint: It is not, it's only fighting for your own ego, and that's a losing cause.

cbader
cbader

Twist it how you want, your still a douche.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

to address one off or low frequency needs of businesses. Ones where it doesn't make financial sense to pay a full time employee. Worse still from the list iof tech tasks you expect one consultant to be able to accomplish, you quite obviously don't provide specialist services. What sort of numpty who had was say employing a full on Oracle DBA, would ask them to set up a cheap mail server or make a Cat 5 cable ??? On top of that, a corporate staffer is either going to be an accomplished multi-skilled pro, or a specialist one as far as hard skills, the discomfort, is as likely to be the change in environment and soft skills. If your purpose is as you say you pretty much failed fro line one becuse you started with a dumb generalisation, which you are now justifying with trivial statistical sample. Try again.

Justin James
Justin James

"I wrote this piece to do two things: (1) warn consultants that most corporate IT pros are ill prepared to immediately begin work as consultants and (2) warn corporate IT pros that they're in for a rude surprise if they make the leap into consulting." Yes, the corporate IT world is different from the consulting world. We get it. We ALL get it. No one needed you to tell us that. A few days ago a firm felt me out for a consulting gig that was quite attractive, but I declined to discuss it because it would have involved travel for example. Does that make me "minor league"? No, it makes me someone with a wife and kid, for whom maybe making a few more dollars would not have justified the time away from home. If my situation was different, I would have seen it as an opportunity to travel around a lot, see some different parts of the country (or even the world!) and make some good money while living on an expense account. Doesn't make me "minor league", makes me someone with different priorities. So yes, maybe the people you interviewed are not interested in the consultant lifestyle or the workflow that consultants use. Doesn't make them "minor league" compared to your staffers. "Further, my consultancy is routinely approached by large companies with their own IT departments to help solve problems their in-house staff doesn't possess the expertise to accomplish or simply hasn't been able to fix." Yes, this is the *primary* reason for hiring a consultant. Doesn't mean the in-house folks aren't as good as your people. It means that they don't have the time/resources to learn the needed technology, usually. Or that it would take them so much time to learn the tech, that it's cheaper to pay consultant rates than it is to obtain the knowledge in house. Doesn't mean that they are inferior to your team, and I am completely baffled as to why you would take it as proof of that point. Everyone here is saying the exact same thing, which this "response" fails to address: 1) Your original article carried a smug tone which we all found highly offensive. 2) Your original article make a differentiation ("minor league" vs "pros") which was completely irrelevant and different from either your evidence or the point which you were really trying to make (that people used to corporate IT don't make good consultants... which I don't think anyone is arguing against). You might want to re-read the actual nature of the criticism leveled against this article and be a little open-minded to it. Even the few posts here which support your original article are much more even tempered than your article, and certainly don't feel the need to insult people, and then pretend it's not an insult. J.Ja

cbader
cbader

I call that a PICNIC (Problem in chair, not in computer) lol

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

"Fighter pilots are the tip of the spear." My response? "Without a shaft up its butt, that spear tip might as well be a sharp rock." He didn't much like that...

tbmay
tbmay

Any field has some of that attitude. I.T. has a lot of young males who are determined to prove to the world they are all that and a bowl of chips. I used to be that way myself. I know the pattern. People like to feel good about themselves, and what they do. Unfortunately, they usually think they have to dump on somebody else to convince others of their worth. Here's something you won't hear that much. There are lots of people smarter, faster, and better looking, than me. You're probably one of them. I'll sleep fine knowing that.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I've met him. He's a pretty nice guy. Misinformed, maybe. Totally wrong in this case, if you ask me. But that's still no reason for name-calling.

apotheon
apotheon

> 1) Your original article carried a smug tone which we all found highly offensive. . . . even some of the consultants.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I wish I'd had that line when I was flying. Mind if I borrow it?

apotheon
apotheon

I was infantry in the Army. In many respects, the infantry is the whole reason the Army exists. Helicopters, tanks, artillery -- there are jobs they simply cannot do; all these pieces of the Army do, really, is magnify the same general type of military power employed by the infantry. The infantry, however, can go places those other combat arms jobs cannot go; it can do things on a scale the others cannot do. There is a reason special operations soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines do not tend to ride around in tanks all day. The vast majority of the US military is not combat arms personnel at all, though. The vast majority of people in the military are supply chain, command and control, maintenance, and so on. Amongst combat arms in the Army, many are not infantry; there are tankers, Apache pilots, et cetera. All of those people are utterly critical to the success of the infantry. Sure, with enough infantry you do not really need other combat arms personnel -- but the tremendous waste of time, money, and (most importantly) lives required to get the job done without support from tankers and helicopter pilots would be obscene. Without supply, transportation, and communications, the infantry would be hindered by organizational chaos, a lack of mobility that could prevent them from ever getting where they need to go, and mass death due to starvation, disease, and the problem of having no tools with which to do the job. It sounds like that fighter pilot is a stereotypical arrogant jackass trained to feel entitled and self-important. The rest of the military -- hell, the entire national economy that pays for that military -- is critical infrastructure entirely necessary for him to do his job. If he didn't desperately need every one of those people, from the payroll clerk that allows him to pay his mortgage to the flight deck airman who fuels up his jet and checks to make sure the weapon hardpoints aren't falling off the wings, those people wouldn't be in the Air Force (or was he Navy or Marine?) at all. I was friends with truck drivers, supply room guys, mechanics, cooks, and even an MP (yes, infantry can be friendly with military police) -- and I never denigrated their jobs, because I knew those jobs were every bit as important as mine. Sure, falling out of airplanes into enemy territory, then running around under cover of darkness with a rifle sure does sound more exciting, and supporting people like me who did that job was basically the reason those other guys had their jobs to fill, but that didn't make them any less important. Hell, if they failed to do their jobs, a bunch of us "volunteer elite fighting force" people would die due to lack of their support. There is no call to insult people for having a supporting role. Anyway, the fighter pilots aren't really the tip of the spear. That honor belongs to scout and special operations units -- guys who move through enemy territory with their Leather Personnel Carriers with only the weapons they can lug around under their own strength, and not the guys who zip around at the speed of sound miles above the earth, shedding chaff to distract SAMs and gleefully flinging mass destruction ordinance. Let's see that guy try to do my job from my Army days, or that of a trucker trying to get some C-4 to me to help me do my job without having the benefit of a couple miles of altitude to protect him from the enemy. Don't get me wrong: I love the job the fighter pilots did. They just shouldn't get too big for their cockpits thinking that, somehow, everybody's just "the help" for them. Ultimately, they're part of the help themselves. . . . and in the end, the infantry's job is to support the people at home, and the ideals that make the country a good place to live. Veteran's Day is nice and all, but it never really made much of an impression for me. National defense isn't about the people in the military; it's about the people at home, and the rights and liberties they enjoy. Without that, the only job of the military would be murder.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Smarter - perhaps, perhaps not Better looking - that's in the eye of the beholder Faster - not me!

apotheon
apotheon

It struck me as name-calling where the name implies some things about the target's skills. By analogy, calling someone a mother f'er implies something insulting about that person's relationship with his mother. Calling someone "minor league" implies something about that person's skills. Both are name-calling. That's my take, anyway.

apotheon
apotheon

If you don't think telling someone he's "minor league" is name-calling, then no -- I guess the title didn't contain some name-calling. I think that, at least when contrasted with calling the contrasting case a "pro", the intention appears pretty clearly to be name-calling.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Insulting, yes, but not name-calling.

apotheon
apotheon

> no reason for name-calling. Have you told Erik that? I'm just curious.

Justin James
Justin James

... between running my own consulting business (with three part time workers now!), and having my actual day job... In fact, I know a *lot* of people who do this. Corporate IT by day, consultant by night (or weekend). It's very, very common in this industry. I wonder if Erik considers them "minor league" or "pros"? J.Ja

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Give him credit. When I explained exactly what I meant, he said he understood and thanked me for reminding him.

JamesRL
JamesRL

In WWI, in the first uses of tanks, they blasted through the front lines and penetrated deep into enemy territory. But they found that unless the infantry was right on their heels, they couldn't keep the ground they won. The big issue with tanks is limited visibility. When Hitler invaded Russia, desparate fighters made up Molotov cocktails, handheld firebombs, and were able to attack tanks that were unescorted. Its especially dangerous in urban areas. No one in the tank can see above unless the commander is half way out the hatch. If its buttoned up, only the commander in the turret can see behind, and only then if they think to revolve the turret. In open country tanks often travel in formation, with the lead tank looking forward, the second looking off to the left by XX degrees(45), the third looking off to the right by the same angle etc. Even when something is straight in front of them, its hard to see. Nowadays you can use thermal sights to see people hiding in the bushes, but back in WWII it was difficult to see out of the little slits you had.

Jaqui
Jaqui

a tank can't do it's job without infantry. after all, the enemy infantry can hide in a foxhole and pop up to close for the tank's defenses to deal with, armed with an anti tank rocket. The infantry might depend on tanks for some heavy obstacles, but the tanks depend on the infantry to defend them against infantry.

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