CIPS Executive … and a little more

I’m sitting at Coffee Culture (another local coffee shop) after attending a meeting of the executive for the CIPS chapter of London. It was a well ran meeting and we came to a lot of resolutions. I participated as an invited guest, and provided ideas that were considered valuable by the rest of the executive team. I appreciated the feedback. CIPS is the Canadian Information Processing Society.

We were discussing event ideas and upcoming events including the annual general assembly of CIPS members. I’ve been offered a position on the executive and I am considering it. I can see it as a way to further develop and market my skills. Finance/ budgets/ accounting, leadership, event organizing, planning, and networking would be a few advantages. Beyond this there are many speaking and presentation opportunities that are available at their events.

I believe that communicating with, networking with, and learning from people is one of the greatest tools we can use and it generally only costs us our time. I had a valuable talk with a professional from a large organization in London who also sits on the executive committee. He’s gone from developer, to consultant, to quoting on and receiving multi-million dollar consulting projects from the federal government. These are the type of people that I really learn from: People who have a passion for what they do, have followed a path that I am following, and who are willing to share their good and bad experiences and provide career advice. I appreciate both positive feedback and constructive criticism.

I want to share the key points I picked up during the conversation.   I will also share my own thoughts on these points (in grey italics font).

  • Lean or bad economic times typically lead to consultants being the first to be axed 
    • This is not a big factor for me at the current time.  IT has a  much lower unemployment rate than the national average (according to MS) – The opportunities are there, you just need to ask yourself “How do I get them, and continue to get them?”
    • I feel it is your responsibility to ensure that you continue to be marketable and have the skill set to pick up another position if the need ever arises due to cut backs or a bad economic situation within your current industry.  Don’t be dependent on the fact that your current position is your source for income.  Always continue to be marketable to ensure long term career success.  If you have the marketable skills, there are always opportunities available if you have are motivated enough to find them.
  • Consultants travel and must be willing to travel for opportunities
    • I love to travel, and currently I am in a position where I am able to travel.  In the past, I’ve traveled with my current employer to do work in Mexico and Alabama.  Most large cities also have plenty of consulting positions available all of the time – so I don’t see travel as a 100% necessity.  If you look at Toronto or the GTA as a whole there is a plethora of opportunity for people who don’t want to travel outside of the GTA.
  • The places to recruit with are staffing companies such as Ajilon and Brainhunter (these were just two examples that happened to be mentioned as there are many recruiters out there with a lot to offer – it wasn’t meant to be a testament about the quality of these recruiters versus other recruiters).
    • I definitely agree, although I cannot speak for any of those companies as I have not been affiliated with them.  I also have found that many recruiters attend IT and business networking events and that is a great way to meet and talk to recruiters and other people in your industry in general.
    • There is also opportunity to do it on your own without the middle man (recruiter): You could start your own business and look for opportunities and maybe, eventually, hire a sales person to do this.  Respond to and complete RFPs (Request for Proposal) advertised by companies looking to implement IT projects.  The more connected you are to the business community, along with a proven track record and good communication skills, the higher chance you will have at success.
      • Get the contracts and get people to work for you – this also means that your money is working for you
  • It is smart to limit the number of head hunters that you affiliate yourself with especially as many of these head hunters will be submitting resumes for the same positions
    • An advantage would be that you could develop a closer working relationship to these recruiters if you deal exclusively with one or two recruiters
  • Be wary of living at a means of spending based on your current income as consultant opportunities can change or contracts can be ended early
    • Stories of people relocating to a new city and getting a year contract at $x/hr that ends early can leave you with accommodation expenses on a year lease with potentially no income
    • I think this statement is true in general and unrelated to consultants specifically.  Understanding your own cash flow and balance sheet will help you understand your own financial situation better and help you determine how long you can get by living at the same means if the money from the consulting contract stopped coming in.  You could also have a termination clause in the contract to ease such an event.  I don’t like to think about these types of negative situations, but I do because they are still important to consider.
  • Software Architects usually demand a higher per dollar hour than developers
    • Software Architecture is a riskier consulting position – there may be less of these consulting opportunities available and generally are available in larger organizations
      •  If you are confident in your ability, the only additional risk is that there may be less opportunity as a software architect versus a software developer.   Architect opportunities do exist in smaller organizations as well as larger ones.
    • There is a lot to learn about different software architecture methodologies and expectations are generally very high
      • As with any career that requires high technical skills and people skills you need to understand that expectations are high and that you are not indispensable.   You need to do everything you can to meet and exceed those expectations.   

This CIPS executive member has a wealth of knowledge. I am looking forward to some future discussions with him.

In addition to keeping up with current technology, I am also spending a lot of time learning about business, finance, and general consulting. These are great skills to have.  All of this contributes to me having to find time to 1) Have fun; 2) Live the life I want to live; 3) Friends/Family; 4) Research and Education; 5) Regular exercise and working out; 6) Travel; 7) Business Opportunities; 8 ) Investing; 9) A lot of other things; I could probably categorize those items into smaller amalgamated categories, as I am going on a bit of a tangent about them.

I enjoy the atmosphere at Coffee Culture over Williams and their coffee is pretty good too. The crowd seems younger and more sociable versus the mixed crowd found at Williams Coffee Pub. Williams has better food from my experience however, and I even found a Williams Coffee Pub in London that serves beer J.

Until next time!

Dan

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About dandouglas
Dan Douglas is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a professional independent Software Consultant and an experienced and proven subject matter expert, decision maker, and leader in the area of Software Development and Architecture. His professional experience represents over 15 years of architecting and developing highly successful large scale solutions. Dan also believes that properly empowering teams with trust and responsibility yields the greatest results. | For inquiries about Dan's software consulting practice, please see the contact page.  Dan has also built up a network of highly successful and professional Software Developers and Architects who are highly respected and can be called upon and used in conjunction with his own consulting practice to handle the largest of consulting projects.

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