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How to Become an IT Expert Companies Seek Out and Pay Well (Video)

Roblimo posted about a year and a half ago | from the every-day-in-every-way-you-are-getting-better-and-better dept.

Businesses 207

This video is an interview with Matt Heusser, who makes a good living as an independent IT consultant. He says many other people who are currently pounding out code or performing other routine computer-oriented tasks can become independent, too. He's not selling a course or anything here, just passing on some advice to fellow Slashdot readers. He's written up some of this advice in a series of four articles: Getting People to Throw Money At You; How to become IT Talent; That Last Step to Become ‘Talent’ In IT; and The Schwan’s Solution. He also gave a speech last November titled Building your reputation through creative disobedience. (The link is to a 50 minute video of that speech.) Anyway, we figure quite a few Slashdot readers are at least as smart as Matt and may want to take some career steps similar to the ones he has taken. In today's video, he gives you some ideas about how to stop being an IT worker and how to become IT talent instead.

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Step 1 (5, Funny)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | about a year and a half ago | (#42511905)

Get Slashdot to do your advertising for you.

Re:Step 1 (3, Insightful)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512289)

This. Why is this even an article? It is just a blatant advertisement.

Re:Step 1 (2)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512697)

Step 2: Tell companies that you know how to get them to throw money at you. Step 3: Profit???

Re:Step 1 (1)

Roblimo (357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514167)

Do you really think so? Don't you think Slashdot readers in general are more likely to compete with Matt than to hire him? I do.

Re:Step 1 (3, Interesting)

Unnngh! (731758) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514237)

Nobody is likely to become a competitor based on a slashdot post. Any number of people are likely to purchase something from his site based on a slashdot post (he is, in fact, selling things, despite your claim to the contrary). Nothing wrong with people buying his stuff or him advertising, but it feels pretty sleazy in this context.

Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benefits (2)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42511989)

While there might be a rare chance for someone to do well as a consultant, such a life does not do well for the greater part. Temporary work is done at the expense of the worker.

Permanency does have its benefits that outweigh any increases in pay(which are undone by costs related to being a single person vs a respectably sized company).

at least obamacare give them Health insurance (0, Troll)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512085)

at least obamacare give them Health insurance

Re:at least obamacare give them Health insurance (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512285)

No. It forces them to BUY insurance. It doesn't give anyone anything.

Re:at least obamacare give them Health insurance (3, Informative)

SpaceCadetTrav (641261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512315)

It doesn't give anyone anything.

If you happen to be selling insurance, it gives you quite a bit!

Re:at least obamacare give them Health insurance (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513339)

For awhile, anyway. Once Obama has everybody properly collared and leashed, and they roll out single-payer, the Insurance Companies are out of business.

Not entirely a bad thing, because Insurance companies are leeches, but that's the deal coming up.

Re:at least obamacare give them Health insurance (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512551)

It gives benefits to the old/sick people at the expense of the young/healthy people. That's the whole point of forcing everyone to buy the insurance, whether they want/need it or not.

PPACA makes things worse. (0)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512327)

That law makes people less willing to work given the erosion of benefits.

That, and the more temporary work becomes, the less someone wants to work - see Europe for an example.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (5, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512277)

Repeat until you understand: 'There is no such thing as permanent employment.'

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512393)

Capitalism depends on the unrestricted flow of capital, equipment, and expertise. I'm always amused that employers are all for being able to hire and fire people at will, but piss all over themselves in fear when people demand to see what other employees make.

Sounds like you never knew a regular job. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512559)

Perhaps you have never understood what it is to have secure employment and to have the ability to plan long-term with more certainty than any consultancy would allow.

Re:Sounds like you never knew a regular job. (3, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512733)

Perhaps you have never understood what it is to have secure employment

What are you talking about - tenure? Otherwise, pretty much nobody has secure employment. If you pretend otherwise, you're a fool.

Re:Sounds like you never knew a regular job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42514169)

No, but to have regular (read: not for a fixed term or through a third party) employment is about as close as one can reasonably get.

Re:Sounds like you never knew a regular job. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512939)

Perhaps you have never understood what it is to have secure employment and to have the ability to plan long-term with more certainty than any consultancy would allow.

"Job Security" means your employer is underpaying you so much he can afford you keep you around no matter what happens. There is no free lunch. Nobody is being nice to you. It just means you earn so little, it's cheaper to keep paying you than to hire and train someone else.

My wife's current job hunt has produced two offers: $73K working for the state, or $240K at a private company. Same job, same applicant pool, same requirements. The non-salary benefits are comparable. The only difference is the state job is practically guaranteed for life, but the private sector job could be 6 months or 15 years.

In financial terms, "job security" is just an insurance policy. The premiums get deducted from your paycheck and you never even see them. How much is it costing you? If you don't know the amount off the top of your head, it's likely to be costing you far more than you would ever imagine.

Consultants keep forgetting about scale. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513735)

That job security also brings in benefits of scale which do not come with consultancy. That's where your high pay ends up going - along with a more pronounced instability that makes Fukushima or Chernobyl look solid as a rock.

If you want to think of it as an underpayment, you're forgetting about the security and scale of a regular, non-fixed-term job.

Re:Consultants keep forgetting about scale. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42514143)

Been a consultant for 13 years. You don't know shit about consulting...

Re:Sounds like you never knew a regular job. (2)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513509)

I understand what it USED to be like to have secure employment.
That day is done.

Your manager can replaced any day and turn your work environment to crap.
Your company can be bought and you can be laid off with almost no warning.

My company just laid off hundreds of employees after 20 or more years on the job.

After working them over 60 hours a week for 2 years.

And replaced them with infosys employees.

If you have infosys in your workplace, you should seriously leave. Infosys has done this often enough now that it's more of a 'playbook'. 4 years after they walk in the door the first time, you will be on the street.

Re:Sounds like you never knew a regular job. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513817)

Then the problems are:

Allowing the erosion in the first place.
Not re-establishing the idea of secure, direct-hire employment for all and ensuring that it cannot be evaded.
Making it living hell for offshore outsourcing, much less inshore as well.
Fixed-term/outsourced workers making it worse by their presence

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

erice (13380) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512623)

Repeat until you understand: 'There is no such thing as permanent employment.'

True, but there is a world of difference in what you can plan if the interval is 20 years vs 2 years vs 2 months.

At two months, you are always selling, which is a whole job unto itself (often a hated one) on top of the "real" job.
At two years, you never forget about the selling but you don't have to deal with it all the time. Makes it hard to make long term commitments though.
At 20 years, long term commitments are pretty easy and you can actually forget about selling. This can be a problem when it actually ends.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513253)

True, but there is a world of difference in what you can plan if the interval is 20 years vs 2 years vs 2 months.

At two months, you are always selling, which is a whole job unto itself (often a hated one) on top of the "real" job.
At two years, you never forget about the selling but you don't have to deal with it all the time. Makes it hard to make long term commitments though.
At 20 years, long term commitments are pretty easy and you can actually forget about selling. This can be a problem when it actually ends.

But there is no such thing as an interval of 20 years, or even 2 years for that matter. At any point in time, even the very next day an employer can say to you "Sorry, your redundant". So to actually believe you have even 2 years of job security is a pure fantasy.

I have been a contractor for 15 years and have planned for 15 years because I know from practical experience that I have more job security doing what I do than any person who has what they call permanent employment. When I move to another contract I bring with me a wealth and bredth of experience, plus a guaranteed track record that practically ensures me a job, plus recent and repeated interview practice.... those with permanent employment are out of touch with interviewing, and only have a stagnant and unchanging level of experience where they have sat there doing the same thing day in and day out for years.

The simple fact is, nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, its the tools and experience you build TODAY which will give you more security than some misguided belief that your permanency equates to anything.

Even take redundancy.... people may argue that if they are made redundant they are given a payout which gives them time to find a new job... sorry to burst your bubble, but I earn 3 times what permanents earn, I have already built up that buffer several times over, so I have already put a contingency in place in the event I am without work (something that has only happened a total of about 8 weeks in 15 years), while those who foolishly believe they are "safe" don't have any contingency in place at all, nor have the funds available to put one in to cover them in the worst case.

I am staggered that people cannot see this? thought meta-thinking about it, I guess for those who ARE permanent, they have to believe that being permanent is the best option, otherwise they would be admitting to themselves they are not achieving their own potential and are purposely undercutting themselves. So it is easier to generate justifications for them staying where they are, than actually admitting they lack the confidence and belief in their own skills that they would be able to maintain a contracting lifestyle.

Don't get me wrong... there is nothing wrong with working a straight 9-to-5 if thats what suits you... but please don't try to convince yourself there is any more safety in it than there is in contract work.... and certanily don't try to convince yourself that you even have an interval of 2 years in which you can plan.... Do you know how many people will be fired tomorrow who thought they had 2 years? EVERYBODY thinks they have time right up until they are put off, and yuo have absolutely no control over how/when/where this will happen. So if you think its better to just cilng to the belief you are safe rather than actually developing your career around overcoming any possible outcome IN ADVANCE.... my hat off to you!

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513777)

While that is true, the benefit packages are for people that have "permanent" position and not for "temp" workers.

Permanent can be as volatile as the existence of the company, but allowing the HR to get away without paying someone a "benefit package" while doing the same amount of work is not okay.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514243)

You can buy "benefit packages." How long do you have to get extra payment to pay for it? Generally about $300 a month will cover most benefits at reasonable companies. Less for the crap some places are trying to pass off as insurance.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513779)

There's also a huge difference between contract work and being a consultant, to those of you who don't understand anything more than the corporate IT job. Been on both sides of the fence in my 20+ years and understand the thought processes each distinct way. Being a contract worker is temporary by definition (extension of contracts indefinitely is still temporary because it has an end date, no matter how nebulous), being a consultant is doing repeated temporary work in many places and even many times. Sure I can help you set your new office, and another client's new office....and you pay me to do that project and so does the next client. The skill of consulting is having many, many of those projects strung together to make it continuous work. But that's okay - corporate workers are needed too. Someone who is there every day, knows the intricacies....accepts less pay, steady hours, lunch....there are distinctions. I make no claim one is better than the other...I prefer consulting and more exposure and being the 'hero' when a client needs it.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514217)

Totally accurate and insightful, and only moderated 1... I too have had both "permanent" jobs, and consulting, and right now I am doing consulting. And I am busy as hell. Oh, and I am 45, so no one is supposed to be giving me a job... The fact is that anyone can come up with reasons NOT to do something. I am doing something that not only suits me, but pays me well.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

Cammi (1956130) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513035)

Why would I want to repeat that myth?

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514251)

Why would I want to repeat that myth?

I thought I was "Living the dream" but I guess I was living the myth. I have had several permanent jobs. Read that again, and you will figure it out.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42514013)

Some are more permanent than others, though.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514257)

Some are more permanent than others, though.

So you work in government?

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512287)

Wow, you sound bitter. Got outmoded by some consultants, eh?

That's probably why they're consultants and you're posting sour grapes on /.

Just pointing out the inconvenient truth, no more. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512609)

No, I'm just pointing out that it only works well for a few people and that it doesn't compare well to more permanent employment.

I do see a few smug consultants thinking that everyone should be a second-class citizen(read: consultant/temp/contingent worker) just like themselves.

Re:Just pointing out the inconvenient truth, no mo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513803)

No, no...we consultants want you right where you are. :-) You are easy to replace when discussing your inability to work with the rest of your team with that attitude. We're good with that - keep it up.

Re:Just pointing out the inconvenient truth, no mo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42514161)

Seriously. Posts like that make me smile. Stuck in their ways curmudgeons in IT pay my bills more than anything else.

Re:Just pointing out the inconvenient truth, no mo (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514295)

No, no...we consultants want you right where you are. :-) You are easy to replace when discussing your inability to work with the rest of your team with that attitude. We're good with that - keep it up.

What? Are you nuts? I don't want to replace him. I just want to fix the problems around him and move on. If I wanted that kind of job, I would have one.

Re:Just pointing out the inconvenient truth, no mo (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514285)

No, I'm just pointing out that it only works well for a few people and that it doesn't compare well to more permanent employment.

You got that right! Although, not the way you intended. There is a reason people who leave the traditional job market for consultancy rarely go back. (I did twice because I hate sales, but I couldn't stay. I hated "regular job" more.)

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512415)

People who can't do their jobs in the work place won't be able to do their jobs as consultants and thus fail to build a network... this is fact. It's not for the retarded so to say. But... what benefits? The benefit of waking up to the grind each morning, the benefit of having some dumbshits who call themselves bosses tell you what to do and how to act 8-5 mon-fri, so you can come home and... I'll refrain from quoting fight club here :)

There's both sides to the coin, if you can't see the other one, stick to the one you know. Otherwise, I'd say it's an excellent first step to starting an IT based services / solutions business.

Oh, and you need more skills than just tech, marketing, presentation skills, a bit of accounting, an understanding of the legalities and pitfalls all go a long way towards making that chance a calculated success rather than luck based ("rare").

The perm side of the coin from what I've seen involves people being scared shitless for their jobs thinking that worrying is going to bring them job security and some also work a lot of free overtime as non-exempt full-timers (the majority of IT's workforce).

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512767)

The perm side of the coin from what I've seen involves people being scared shitless for their jobs thinking that worrying is going to bring them job security and some also work a lot of free overtime as non-exempt full-timers (the majority of IT's workforce).

While contractors have to by large worry even more since they have none of the benefits from being a regular employee but have all the costs and instabilities placed onto them.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513371)

While contractors have to by large worry even more since they have none of the benefits from being a regular employee but have all the costs and instabilities placed onto them.

Really?

And why do contractors have to worry at all? I know what I am capable of and I have a proven track record across many different jobs, employers, industries and tasks that back that up. I know from historical reference that downtime has been at a minimum and I have planned in advance to cope with any downtime (using the significantly higher compensation to do so). I dont have anything I need to worry about and haven't been worried for 15 years.

And this has been through 2 major cycles, including major crisis such as Y2K and the GFC and it hasn't changed.

I compare this to my permanent friends who don't have any possibility of overcoming hurdles because they have clung to that permanency like it was their life raft, watched them suffer when the companies they were stuck with made them redundant, watched them dance when they got their 4 weeks PAID holidays (I take 8 weeks a year and still get paid more), and seen how miserable and scared they are of losing their jobs.

So I am not sure where you get this idea that contractors are worried. They know the lay of the land, they know the situation, they have prepared in advance, they have contingencies and they are enjoying their lifestyle because they PLAN for their jobs to turn over, unlike permanents who are terrified of it happening and don't (or can't) plan for that outcome

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513837)

Contractors like the kind he/she would be. If you have skills (non-technical, too - even moreso) you don't worry so much about it. You work hard and you network and you do the work that those who hate consultants do - better. Then you replace those people because they cannot embrace change, cannot grow unless it is at someone else's expense.

I don't want your job, corporate-person who thinks consultants are the bane of the industry...but I will take it from your ineptitude and give it to one of my staff who can do it better and make more money than you doing it in less time.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514235)

But the fact that you want to destroy any sort of job security is the same as wanting to take a job.

That and you assume that someone that wants a corporate job isn't competent. Not everyone is meant for consultancy while not everyone wants to be attached to a corporation.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513929)

Permanency and economies of scale make for mighty convincing arguments. That, and contract workers are generally worse off than regular employees - with exceptions such as yourself - since they are used to dodge some law instead of provide the flexibility claimed to a worker.

For each one of you, there are more people that end up on the wrong end of contract employment. Now if Right to Work applied to contractors (read: you weren't forced to be a contractor but could choose to be a directly hired FT worker) you might have a point

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (2)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513535)

On fast development projects, a large body of the contractors get to do work, collect the bonus, and then move on leaving a pile of crap for the employees to maintain and actually work to make functional.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513867)

Sounds like SAP.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512483)

Speaking as a Canadian who has worked as a government contractor:

* Twice the pay of an employee.
* Basic health paid for by government.
* Get to write off all kinds of hardware and software.
* Work from home and on my schedule (mostly).

Here's the kicker: as an employee, they could have laid me off with 2 weeks notice; as a contractor, their standard contract gave 4 weeks notice.

Gov't contractors are different. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512737)

While they may be temporary, they're the rare breed that has the ability to function as a regular employer.

If a government contract job ends, one has a higher chance of picking up another vs the benefit-dodging part of the private sector.

Re:Consultant ~= prostitute with none of the benef (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513671)

Clearly you are a corporate worker who likes to punch in at 8am, take lunch for 60 minutes at noon and punch out at 5pm. That's why you don't understand consulting and call it temporary work. That's good though...gives businesses plenty of reason to replace you with consutants who cost more, but take less time and get it done right, knowing they won't be back if they don't...as opposed to clock puncher like you who figures whatever isn't done will be there tomorrow or the next day, No need to rush, it's job security, right? Ha ha ha ha...consultants are laughing all the way to the bank. And as someone who has seen the last two recessions and the bubble burst as a consultant - successfully - I can easily attest that you get out what you put in. Stick to your guns...I will be replacing you with one of my team pretty soon. kiss-kiss

You're part of the problem. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42514073)

You resent that job security ever existed and wish to see it gone because you didn't have it. Pity that you never got to see a benefit.

Yet the laugh that permanent workers have is when the come out ahead for everything despite having a lower initial paycheck. That, and permanent workers are the last to go while consultants, temps and other second-class citizens are considered cannon fodder.

do things others are unwilling to do in IT = (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42511993)

do things others are unwilling to do in IT = Impossible dead lines , hack jobs that just lead to big issues down the road, going behind the back of the higher up, working under the table, braking the law and so on.

Re:do things others are unwilling to do in IT = (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513439)

do things others are unwilling to do in IT = Impossible dead lines , hack jobs that just lead to big issues down the road, going behind the back of the higher up, working under the table, braking the law and so on.

Actually thats not the case.

Its more about bringing the wealth of experience that you get contracting to bear on problems and tasks that permanents tend to shy away from. The number of times I have heard a permanent staff member go "thats not my job" or "I'm not paid to do that" is amazing. When you contract, you are exposed to so many different areas, different solutions, different methods, as well as the experience you gain from being able to solve problems that others have already failed to do. You reach this point where someone has a job that other (ie permanents) are unwilling to do because it is stepping too far out of their comfort zone and you can just step in, do the job, get it done RIGHT and get out.

One of the main things I have learned as a contractor is actually "developing for developers". Its a unique paradigm where what you develop is actually designed to be used and improved on by other people, so rather than just solving a problem for "today", you solve a problem dynamically and with flexibility such that it can be modified and improved on tomorrow. You think ahead, you plan ahead.

Strangely enough, when you move to the next contract, there is often the same kinds of problems because the new company has the same types of people unwilling to do the same things, so you bring to bear your previous experience and improve on it (ever evolving). You get to repeat this over and over again, honing it to the point where you can solve this problems almost with your eyes closed.

Sure there are cowboy contactors, but the fact is they dont last long, because their track records catches up with them and they are soon unable to get work.

So it has nothing to do with impossible deadlines, only moronic bosses witht he misguided belief that work can somehow get done quicker than possible (mythical man months anyone?), but you soon learn how to avoid those kinds of idiots.

PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can be a (5, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512013)

PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can be a trun off to HR as you come off as needing a very high pay.

IT needs more hand on learning not years in the class room and more tech schools.

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (5, Insightful)

GC (19160) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512139)

It's not a job, it's not employment, it's business. I sincerely doubt HR even know he's done work there.

I'm a contractor, I go in to solve their problems, US $90 an hour, when I'm done, I'm done. The Invoice is in the post.

I never have to interface with HR, I'm not looking for Health Insurance, Gym membership or any of that stuff, leave that too the employees.

If I had a PhD then it would probably go quite a way for me, might not get a potential employee too far, but then that's not what PhDs are for!

Enjoy being the second-class citizen. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512355)

While you might have that "independence", its costs more than outweigh the benefits for most people.

Re:Enjoy being the second-class citizen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512471)

Yeah... those grapes were probably sour anyway...

Not sure what you mean by 'second-class citizen'... I take a lot of pride of the fact that I'm going it alone, and when I look around at the employees sitting around who've been in the same job for five or six years, hoping that management will eventually take notice and move them up to 'team leader' or something similar (Many eventually end up volunteering as a fire-marshall so that they can give a few orders once every six months when there is a firedrill.)

Re:Enjoy being the second-class citizen. (2)

sethstorm (512897) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512891)

Since you don't want to attribute it to anyone, that's just the opinion of an anonymous coward.

As for second class citizen, they're the first to be removed and generally are brought on to dodge some benefit or legal requirement. While there may be some benefits, the flexibility gained is generally lost for most people.

Re:Enjoy being the second-class citizen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513889)

You speak quite clearly from the second-class citizen perspective. Its people like you that my consulting company replaces regularly, doing your job better, faster and make more money doing it. Success breeds success, and you only breed negativity and poison. I am glad you are corporate worker that your boss keeps in a dark room with some Twinkies and Mt. Dew. You don't need to see the light of day - you couldn't understand business if you had to. Clearly.

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512475)

I'm a contractor, I go in to solve their problems, US $90 an hour, when I'm done, I'm done. The Invoice is in the post.

Just wondering, how many billable hours do you have per week on average... How often do you sit around with no work?

I'm not saying that contracting isn't a viable way of life, and I'm sure some people can make a lot of money that way.

But when taking stability into considerations and the stress of having to find new customers. Working at 50$ per hour + insurance and stuff is just as good as 90$.
Although, 90$ sounds better :)

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (1)

GC (19160) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512539)

I've had one month off since July 2010, plus two weeks this Festive season just past.

For the first year I averaged 50 hours a week, since September 2011 I've done a straight 37.5 hours per week and no more.

I have however worked in IT in one way or another for over 20 years, any many of those was as a corporate slave.

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512279)

PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can be a trun off to HR as you come off as needing a very high pay.M

This isn't about becoming an employee - this is about going independent. And that PhD impresses the hell out of people looking to hire a consultant - it ain't HR making that decision, it is a nervous nelly exec. They like that stuff because it gives them CYA - if you screw up they can say, "don't blame me, he had great credentials."

I don't have a PhD, but before I retired I was raking in the bucks (lawyer level hourly rates) to serve as little more than a security blanket for middle level management. I was *the* expert and if I couldn't fix it, then it couldn't be fixed. Or at least that was the way it got sold to upper management. Their problems were never that hard to begin with and I never exaggerated them either, but that wasn't the point - it was the feeling of security that was worth the big bucks to the hiring managers - budget was a known manageable quantity, the threat (to their jobs) of failure was not.

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512411)

Semi-successful people hack hardware and software, but very successful people hack other people.

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512317)

What IT needs is to make it so you know your shit stepping out into the real world, most 1st year workers get hit with cold water stepping out from the safety of the school lab into production data used by hundreds at once (if it's thousands+ please don't let 1st year workers get at it). Don't know anybody with a PHD in computers... but doctors require a PHD and computers aren't people, so I'd have to agree a PHD is overkill, but it amazes me how many people work in IT without a degree, I think that self-learning is perfectly legit... but why not go get that degree anyways? At the very least, it'll probably increase your pay and open more doors on your way to your next job. A masters tends to land people the bread and butter in the industry, high pay, high knowledge jobs, with others doing the groundwork underneath your expertise. Most project managers are :( though, oh well.

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512421)

I do not agree. Most people below PhD-Level are unable to do reasonable design and architecture. And those are the things that kill expensive projects if done wrong. The "hands on" trained people I have seen turn out chaotic systems that become unmaintainable some times even before they are finished. Of course, it depends on the quality of the PhD. A good PhD teaches you humility, and that a systematic and clean approach is everything. A bad one is just a waste of time.

Re:PHD is over kill for most IT jobs and one can b (3, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513055)

A PhD means you've been trained to do academic research, and mapping that skill set to non-academic environments can be problematical at best (especially in CS). While you might assume that someone who has earned a PhD is more able to do things like "reasonable design and architecture", many employers will assume the opposite: that you live in a world of abstract algorithmics, and the mundane skills involved in producing real software are beneath you. Both assumptions are equally bogus.

independent some times have a hard time payed (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512039)

independent some times have a hard time getting payed and you may at time play a lot of phone tag and some time even need to sue to get paid.

Re:independent some times have a hard time payed (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512295)

Same for regular employees. It's better but still not guaranteed. Sometimes paychecks bounce. It sucks bad.

Re:independent some times have a hard time payed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512467)

In most countries empoloyees have priority in payout over lenders or contractors and the court process is much faster too.

"You need to have the Adobe Flash Player to view.. (0)

dstyle5 (702493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512061)

this content."

My loss.

Re:"You need to have the Adobe Flash Player to vie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512371)

Try clicking "Show/hide transcript" before you pretend your lack of flash capabilities means you are left without options.

Everything I ever needed in life... (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512121)

I learned from Wally.

Re:Everything I ever needed in life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512671)

A feeling of having made the same mistake before: Deja Foobar

Offtopic, but shouldn't that be "Deja FUBAR" [wikipedia.org] (Fouled/F***** up beyond all recognition)? "Foobar" [wikipedia.org] is a metasyntactic variable(s) that might be derived from the former acronym, but doesn't have the same meaning.

Re:Everything I ever needed in life... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513965)

A feeling of having made the same mistake before: Deja Foobar

Offtopic, but shouldn't that be "Deja FUBAR" [wikipedia.org] (Fouled/F***** up beyond all recognition)? "Foobar" [wikipedia.org] is a metasyntactic variable(s) that might be derived from the former acronym, but doesn't have the same meaning.

See my journal entry on it from several years ago.

Off to take a porcelain cruise, don't wait.

let me be the first to say .... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512137)

.... A lot of "I'm so awesome because I've figured out this obvious thing all on my own" and not much "here's how you can be awesome too"...

I did short term 'gigs' as an IT guy back in the early 90's... I was getting $150/hr back then resurrecting SunOS filesystems, setting up backup regimens, installing new disks, NIS, plotters, firewalls, blah blah blah... The problem with it is, while the money is great, it's rarely for a full 40 hour week because someone wants you to come over tuesday at 9:30 to upgrade a disk in some computer... You haven't started bright and early and it should take you a couple hours unless something goes wrong, so you can't book something else until maybe late afternoon the same day... Suddenly you find you've made $300 that day, or maybe $600 if you're lucky... Lots of 1-2hr billable days... Sometimes you score and get a couple of 15 hour weeks... You're still making chump change and you're generating a lot of small invoices... Sure, it's 20 years later so your billable rate has gone up but your cost of living has as well... You're good so you get a lot of word-of-mouth new clients and if you don't piss off any of the existing ones, you should be able to be fairly busy; but there's still a limit to what you can reasonably do in a single day...

Cut forward, and I picked up some 1-3 month 'gigs'... Good money. But suddenly you've lost your big handful of faithful clients because you're stuck servicing one client for 3 months so your other clients have lined up other people to do their small work... Now you've got to line up your next gig after you've finished the present one... It's rare to go from gig to gig so you end up sitting around for a month, maybe picking up a few short day things at $200/hr... You're still not breaking 6 figures... (again, this is now the late 90s early 2000's)...

Now I've got a 5 year contract gig at an embedded linux shop doing board bringups, bsp's, drivers, et'al... This has been super lucrative, super easy, relatively interesting, and I get to go home at the end of the day not thinking about work....

(AC because I don't feel like going through password retrieval)

Re:let me be the first to say .... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512599)

Can't talk now, carrying a piece of paper, which means I'm on an urgent business of some sort.

Re:let me be the first to say .... (1)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512769)

Shhh, don't give away all of our secrets.

Oops, I just been paged. it's on vibrate, which is why you didn't hear. I have to Go off-site. See you tomorrow unless I'm up late working on this emergency, in which case I may be working from home.

or better yet (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512725)

start up some dopey service called CodeMyDesigns [codemydesigns.com] specializing in Drupal (or whatever the latest trend is), write a book [slashdot.org] on the subject, and then charge a flat rate 15-30k to develop a site that takes 40-80 hours to build (make sure to stretch those hours over a month or two and make sure to cover your ass for scope creep in the SOW at $162/hr).

It's easy to break 6 figures, you just need a niche market, a decent website, and personalized service better than your competitors.

Re:or better yet (1)

Shados (741919) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513095)

It's easy to break 6 figures

Why go through all that trouble though? Sure, its easy, but its a heck of a lot easier to just get a normal job and do the same with all the benefits of being salaried (paid time off, insurance, blah blah).

Wake me up when its "easy to break a million" that way.

Re:let me be the first to say .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512763)

This is entirely your own fault. You do a few 1-2 hour gigs just to prove competency and reputation, but then you move to 4hr minimum blocks or even 8hr blocks. Or you push for a monthly minimum retainer.

Independent Consultants generally fail because they have horrible business sense.

Re:let me be the first to say .... (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512873)

Of course I read this entire diatribe in Matt Damon's voice from Good Will Hunting...

Re:let me be the first to say .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513717)

Do you like apples?

Don't be lazy (1)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512213)

That's how you get ahead in IT (and every other career). Always be learning and keeping busy. If you spend a lot of time at work on Facebook, some young 20 something is going to replace you. Soon.

Forget it (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512369)

To be successful, you either have to really get technology (most IT "experts" are at best semi-competent) or really understand the business side of things (same problem). No fast training course can get that for you. You either have it or not. This is your tun-of-the-mill get-rich-quick rip-off.

Re:Forget it (1)

turp182 (1020263) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513627)

I second the business side. Learning that and coming up with a novel idea or two can quickly get you in with the VP level. Be polite to your boss, but business knowledge gets you ahead. Learn the processes, especially those that bring money into your company. Sales concepts get noticed, even if they aren't IT related.

Be creative.

For what it's worth I went to school for and was an actuary for a couple of years. Then I transitioned into IT, which I had a background in. And I work in insurance, my background puts me ahead but I know the business as well. And I learn the parts of the business that I do not know.

Learn the business. Be creative.

Getting People to Throw Money At You (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512569)

Become a Stripper / Exotic Dancer?

[ Narrator: Realizing that this is /. Fahrbot-bot prepared himself for many nights of unsettling dream imagery... ]

Consulting is not for everyone (4, Informative)

miltonw (892065) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512625)

I was an IT consultant for many, many years and was quite successful. That being said, there are very few people who should, or even could, do it.

First, for most consulting gigs, you are constantly one day away from being unemployed. That's stress. Assuming you are very good at what you do, gigs can last for years. But some don't last long at all and some end quite abruptly for reasons outside of your control.

You have to have a great network for your next consulting gig. If you have to start looking from scratch after your current assignment ends, you will have long stretches between assignments.

You don't get paid for sick days, vacations, holidays. You don't have benefits. Your taxes are usually higher and there is no withholding so you must plan ahead. It takes a lot of work and a lot of discipline to be a successful consultant. The idea that "anyone can be a successful consultant" is complete bullshit.

I don't do that any more. The many years I spent as an independent consultant were fine -- but enough.

Re:Consulting is not for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513581)

Everybody is CONSTANTLY one day away from being unemployed!

The difference is that I PLAN on the end of the contract, I have things in place to actually cope with that eventuality, so rather than crossing my fingers and praying it wont happen, I know that I have things in place that will overcome any possible outcome. So there is no stress.

Plus, any contractor who actually waits until their current assignment ends before looking for a new one is a moron. All contracts have a notice period, and even in the rare event that this period is called, you still have time to prepare. Do it long enough and you also have a network at your disposal, which instantly moves into gear... in fact, that network is always churning. I am constantly getting contacted about other positions even during the one I am on, so I am never far away from further employment.

Sick days? Vacations? Holidays? You DO realise you pay for that already? Yep, when they determine how much to pay you they take the value of your "worth" and subtract holidays, sick days and everything else from it and then offer you what is left. Which means you are PAYING for sick days you don't even use. I would much rather get paid TWICE as much and not get those days, it allows ME to choose what days I have off, when I take them and how I get paid. I can take 8 weeks of holiday a year and still end up with more in pocket than people who only get 4... So how exactly are those benefits lost?

And taxes are NOT higher, in fact most expenses are deducted before tax, reducing my overall taxable income, while paying for my mobile phone, car, petrol, computer accessories, insurances and everything else. And why is "planning ahead" said as a bad thing? I would much rather plan ahead and be ready for an unexpected outcome than be completely ignorant to the future and end up in a bad situation because I was too dumb to think about all possible outcomes.

But you are right... not anyone can be a successful consultant, and not anyone should even try. It takes a very specific mindset and a very realistic and accurate understanding of your own abilities and attributes, as well as a level of flexibility and adaptation that allows you to deal with situations that just flabbergast the "average joe"... but that is WHY such people become contractors, because they are offering something that your average worker doesn't, and they are paid for it. While others sit back and say "that isn't my job", contractors step up and go "I dont care if I dont know it, I've done this kind of thing a hundred times before and have successed, so I know with surity that no matter what task you give me, if its possible to do, I will do it and do it well". That isn't arrogance (because that will quickly get you in trouble), its a pragmatic understanding of who you are and what you are capable of.

My best advice to anyone wanting to be a consultant... if you feel in any way "stressed" about it, THEN DON'T. A lot can be said for "it shouldn't be that hard", and the fact is, that if you find it requires discipline and a lot of work, then your not the person for the job. It should come easy to those who are "built that way", and they command a higher rate because of it and to be honest, they DESERVE IT. Sure there are cowboys, but unfortunately decent contractors are often unfairly judged by the previous knob jocky who thought he would make a quick few bucks at the expense of someone who truely needed the help of a career contractor.

My 2 cents (5, Insightful)

thammoud (193905) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512631)

I spent 25 years in IT consultancy before starting my own business. The following are my tips:

  • 1) Be diplomatic and respectful. Employees are almost always suspicious of consultants and rightly so. You need to deliver, work hard and earn their respect. Listen to them. You will learn a lot.
  • 2) Develop a reputation. See above.
  • 3) Learn a business domain. This is a must. Financial, Insurance, whatever. You must acquire that domain knowledge not to be expendable. They pay for the combination. You will go through multiple business domains in the initial phases of your career. Pick one that you like and will make you the most money and stick with it. It might take years but this key.
  • 4) Work for large enterprises. They have the money. Startups can make you ultra-rich but the odds are against you.
  • 5) Learn real languages. Yes Plural. JavaScript, Python and other scripting languages are useful but not sufficient. Java, C, C++ are a must.
  • 6) Learn your transactions, Messaging, distributed computing (State-full, Stateless service API).
  • 7) Always look for the problem solver. Do NOT write your own middleware. You are not that good. Spend your time leveraging other people's work.
  • 8) Read. If you think you read enough, keep on reading.

Re:My 2 cents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513643)

I agreed with pretty much everything you said accept "Learn a business domain".

The value of a contractor is not in his ability to specialize in ONE area, but in his ability to adapt to ANY area. I have gone in blind on several occasions, and it wasn't my knowledge of an area that won the day, but the fact that in a short period of time I could bring myself up to speed on any topic or area that was given to me. I think it is this adaptability that is a contractor's greatest tool. If you cannot adapt, get out of contracting.

If you pick one domain, then you effectively deny yourself access to all other areas and specialize too much in that one area to be effective in anywhere BUT that area.

I have worked in defense, government, small business, large business, small teams, large teams, single developers, team leads, insurance, law, finance, superannuation, logistics, statistic gathering, education, etc, etc, etc... and in all cases, I ended up being the "go to" person when they needed to understand something. Not because I always had the domain knowledge, but because I knew how to get it, break it apart, understand it and put it all back together again if needed.

Its not WHAT you know... its HOW you go about gaining that knowledge which is key for a contractor.

Re:My 2 cents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42514191)

Learn the business domain is important if you want high paying gigs. I am making 150/hr in a 15 month contract since I have spent 12 years in the domain.

Re:My 2 cents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42514055)

This is probably the best post here. And #7 holds for everyone, not just consultants. People bring in consultants often because their own employees/management don't understand the #7.

Why would anybody want a permanent job? (1)

udachny (2454394) | about a year and a half ago | (#42512687)

Actually listening to this guy talk I had this question brewing in my mind, do most people want permanent jobs? Do you want a permanent job and why?

I know when I was contracting (since 2000 until mid 2009, now I build my own software) I couldn't imagine myself ever wanting to get a 'permanent job' ever again. It would have been a huge step backwards for me, but of-course I was in a circle of other contractors but at work it always looked to me that permanent employees were sort of jealous of the contractors and wanted to switch to contracting positions.

So from that experience, it's sort of surprising to hear at this point that most people would still want 'permanent jobs' in software development or IT in general. What do you say?

Re:Why would anybody want a permanent job? (1)

fascismforthepeople (2805977) | about a year and a half ago | (#42513963)

I know when I was contracting (since 2000 until mid 2009, now I build my own software) I couldn't imagine myself ever wanting to get a 'permanent job' ever again. It would have been a huge step backwards for me, but of-course I was in a circle of other contractors but at work it always looked to me that permanent employees were sort of jealous of the contractors and wanted to switch to contracting positions.

And why does it work so well to be a contract employee in Canada? Because the government takes care of workers of all stripes, permanent or not. In the states, contract workers who are fired on the drop of a hat are left to scramble to get health insurance and other basic necessities that other countries consider to be critical functions and civil rights.

In other words, the runaway capitalism in the US has made it impossible for most people to get by as contract employees. It also has given more power to the employers because they hold the trajectory of the employees' lives in their hands. Workers who go without health insurance for a single day in the US can see huge increases in premiums and decreases in coverage as a penalty for it - that translates directly to power for the employer.

And now you want to strip the employees of what few rights they have left. You want to make it easier for employers to can employees without fear of anything resembling recourse. You are preaching that this somehow brings freedom when it really leads to serfdom. You are aiming to concentrate more power in the hands of fewer, while claiming the opposite in spite of reality.

In other words, you are aiming to bring fascism to the people.

A very old methodology. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512839)

My generation was classified ads:

"For a free pamphlet on how to get rich quick, send $3 S&H to Bobalou." A few day later, customer receives envelope. Note reads "Place a classified add".

You may want to adjust for inflation.

the line with the most meaning... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42512987)

...for me was way at the end...

"IT'S NICE TO HAVE THAT STICK IN YOUR ARSE" nal... ...outside of that, go get everything in this video from the random "here is amazing insight" satellite content pages on Dice.com or equivalent

Fir5t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513281)

visions go18g

mo3 up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42513681)

Step 1... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42514097)

Step 1 of how to be a successful consultant... learn how to spell check your articles before you post them and seek being Slashdotted.

Honestly I lost track of the number of spelling errors after 15 and and could read no further. I'm not one to pick on people's typing skills normally, and in fact mine is terrible. But if I were attempting to sound like an authority and seeking this kind of attention, I'd make sure my sentences could be read without the reader assuming I was an idiot.

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