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part II - dealing with felony

By fungusAmongus ·
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About I year ago I posted <a href="http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=6&threadID=19**57&messageID=2075032">this</a> thread about getting a job after getting a felony. First, I want to thank everyone here for your great comments...they worked so well that I *did* eventually get jobs (it turns out that contracting, as several of you pointed out, is working for me) and that many job applications have a "7-year" limit for disclosing past felonies, something that I think is totally sensible. People with non-violent crimes should not be punished for the rest of their lives.<br><br>

Anyway, since you guys were such a big help then, maybe you can help now. I started a contract with a PHP start-up in the Chicago area a few weeks ago, and another contractor and I represented the first ?non-core? programmers that this company has ever used. They are a young company (average age about 25, I am 40) and were recently acquired by [edited: xxxxxxxx]and are facing major growing pains as they ramp up their site to handle much bigger expected user counts.<br><br>

Here is the problem?they seem to have totally unrealistic expectations about timeframes. As other contractors know, the first 5-10 days of a new assignment are usually spent learning the system, getting your environment setup, matching conventions etc etc. The first bump came on work day 6 (the second Monday), where I was confronted by the lead developer as to why this huge, complex page had not been completed yet..I was just getting my bearings together and had begun work, but here he was sweating me to have it done!<br><br>

We had a meeting, and talked about it?I suggested that they, since they have never worked with 3rd parties before and I have been doing contracting for 15 years now, that they had unrealistic expectations about the complexity of coming into a large new project and getting really productive. The lead didn?t seem to like that answer, in fact it seems to me he just does not like me in general. Maybe it?s an age thing, maybe something personal, who knows?but I want to turn things around ASAP.<br><br>
So now I am trying to overcome this, IMHO, false perception that I am not productive enough, and I bring this up only to try to help another contractor who is faced with a 3 month deadline on a job that would easily take a corporate team 6 months, and he is at a loss to talk to these company, too.<br><br>

I really want this contract to work and to communicate to the team that I can get the job done, but also would like for them to realize that their view of the complexity of the project is skewed because they built it themselves and have no other experience working with other peoples code and the amount of time it takes to learn very complex web apps. Also, if anyone knows of some good software contracting BB?s that deal with contracting-specific issues, that would be great.<br><br>

Whew?this is pretty long?thanks for hanging on.

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Contracting is often difficult

by TechExec2 In reply to part II - dealing with fe ...

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I think you have the situation sized up pretty well. Here are some comments:


"...We had a meeting, and talked about it?I suggested that they, since they have never worked with 3rd parties before and I have been doing contracting for 15 years now, that they had unrealistic expectations about the complexity of coming into a large new project and getting really productive. The lead didn?t seem to like that answer..."

A younger less experienced lead often has friction like this with an older more experienced contractor. Hopefully this is not the primary explanation you gave to the lead. Explaining how his inexperience is failing him is not good form (I expect you know this). I might have mentioned this to the lead, but only after I had explained in detail about what is required to get the job done. Reminding him of his inexperience is generally a very bad idea.

Whether he likes you or not, you must convince him that YOU are the best person he knows to get him to the finish line, and that you are committed to getting him there in the best and fastest way possible. It doesn't have to be right or fair. It doesn't matter if he likes you or not. It doesn't matter if you like him or not. You still have to convince him. Contracting often sucks in that way. Even if the lead is an idiot or just 25 years old or ...


"...another contractor who is faced with a 3 month deadline on a job that would easily take a corporate team 6 months..."

Welcome to the wonderful world of contracting! :-) It is often like this. Contractors are often given impossible deadlines and impossible expectations and berated and abused by management and peer on-staff programmers and leads. This is part of the job. Consider it a GOOD part of the job (really!). This is where you earn the big bucks. This is where you earn the contract extension and renewal. This is the OPPORTUNITY to do a job that the on-staff people cannot do, or refuse to do, and earn more work and higher rates from the management, or a glowing recommendation from the management for your next gig. This is where...you can position yourself to command a rate that is two or three times what they pay the highest paid on-staff engineer. When you deliver the impossible, they will pay what the on-staff people consider an impossibly high rate. Never complain about such an outstanding opportunity. This is a primary function of being a contractor: To find such opportunities and exploit them.

Adopt this slogan: The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.

The challenge for you is to MASTER the art of handling all of this gracefully while still getting the job done. Here is a secret: Find a way to make them wonder how you get the job done as well and as quickly as you do. This is vitally important for a contractor. Do the job, let them learn from you, but don't tell them all of the secrets that help you do your work so well.


"...I really want this contract to work and to communicate to the team that I can get the job done, but also would like for them to realize that their view of the complexity of the project is skewed because they built it themselves and have no other experience working with other peoples code and the amount of time it takes to learn very complex web apps..."

You are already on top of this. Communication is key. Don't go "away" for 2 or 3 weeks working hard with your head down for greatest productivity. In this situation, you must frequently report progress so they can see that you are getting it done. The boss is a hungry bear and you must feed the bear or the bear will feed on you. Weekly written reports, even if they don't ask for them, even if they say they are not necessary, are absolutely essential. If they like simplicity and informality, make it a 1/2 page email. Just be sure to do it every week on the same day each week like clockwork. Even if you are a one-man show, operate with the formal professionalism as if you worked for a large company.

If your weekly reports are written properly, you will not have to explicitly explain that they don't have the correct view of the complexity of the project and the challenge to a new person. Don't explain explicitly. Let your work, and your progress, and your communication, allow them to draw this conclusion all by themselves. If you are moving correctly, as they observe your moves, they may not be completely satisfied, but they will know for sure that they cannot do any better with someone else.


In closing...

Based on the way you wrote your post, I can tell you will do just fine. Now, get back to work! Good luck!

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many thanks...

by fungusAmongus In reply to Contracting is often diff ...

First of all, thanks for you very insightful comment...
<b><i>...Reminding him of his inexperience is generally a very bad idea.Whether he likes you or not, you must convince him that YOU are the best person he knows to get him to the finish line, and that you are committed to getting him there in the best and fastest way possible. It doesn't have to be right or fair. It doesn't matter if he likes you or not. It doesn't matter if you like him or not. You still have to convince him. Contracting often sucks in that way. Even if the lead is an idiot or just 25 years old or ...</i></b><br><br>
Great point, and probably just what I needed to hear today...he certainly is *not* an idiot (and I've worked for a few of those over the years) and I have lots of respect for the sheer volume of stuff he has done over the past 6 years. I hope I avoided the "know-it-all" trap that you spoke of, and did not directly mention it, but thanks to you this is something that I will keep in the forefront of my mind as I communicate with them in the future...<br><br>

<b><i>...This is the OPPORTUNITY to do a job that the on-staff people cannot do, or refuse to do, and earn more work and higher rates from the management, or a glowing recommendation from the management for your next gig. This is where...you can position yourself to command a rate that is two or three times what they pay the highest paid on-staff engineer. When you deliver the impossible, they will pay what the on-staff people consider an impossibly high rate. Never complain about such an outstanding opportunity. This is a primary function of being a contractor: To find such opportunities and exploit them.<br><br>
Adopt this slogan: The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.</I></b><br><br>
Wow...what a great insight. I think I will print this out in big letters and read it every morning on my way out the door. I do see this as a big opportunity, which is why I am working hard to make it work.<br><br>
Your post has been very helpful and enlightening, and I plan to employ its? strategies starting this week?I thank you again for your time.

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You're very welcome...

by TechExec2 In reply to many thanks...

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You're very welcome. And, congratulations on your success in contracting in light of your original post! There were/are a lot of us here rooting for you!

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Hi Mark!

by Tig2 In reply to part II - dealing with fe ...

Welcome back to the hallowed halls of the Republic. I am glad to see that you are on your feet and on top of your game.

I have been a contractor for a number of years. The situation you describe is not uncommon. Time to level set expectations.

Grab the key folks you are delivering to and get them all in a room. Take a good sized calendar with you or a laptop and projector (assuming you are a fast typist.) If there is a PM involved, get that person as well.

Your agenda is to walk out of that room with two things- a clear understanding of the requirements and a clear understanding of the delivery timeline. Where you see the timeline as too aggressive, you will need to negotiate based on what you think you can deliver. This meeting is all about that negotiation.

Your key take away from that meeting will be the follow-up email that you send to all who attended, copying anyone else that may require the information. Make sure that email goes out, preferably by COB on the day of the meeting.

The other thing that you will do with the information is set key deliverables and to send a written status report using the Green, Yellow, Red approach. In the event that a key deliverable goes yellow, you need to be dragging these folks back into a meeting to discuss WHY you are yellow. The goal is to insure that you don't go red.

In many cases, it is this level of communication that helps the client to understand that you are on the job and actively seeking completion.

Beyond that, I can't improve on a thing that Tech Exec said.

I know that you are going to do well, Mark. Remember that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Best of luck to you!

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