By Dan Roncadin – Senior Technical Consultant
For the past five years, I’ve been a consultant at Taos. People have asked me, “why are you a consultant, don’t you want a full-time job?” The answer is that consulting is my full-time job, though in the past I’ve had full-time roles, been an independent freelancer, and run my own company. Let me explain some of the reasons why consulting is a great career option compared to staying in full-time roles for the whole of your career.
Variety Accelerates Experience
In order to advance your career, it’s important to have experience. What is experience? It’s having lived through different situations, in different companies, with different technologies, and different people. The main problem is that experience takes time, so anything that can accelerate it is valuable. There are diminishing returns in terms of experience from spending an extended period of time in the same role, which leads to frequent job switching for variety. In Bay Area technology, it’s not uncommon to have 3 or more positions in five years. In my five years at Taos, I have worked for over 20 clients. One of the major benefits of such wide variety is that it offers the opportunity to see the insides of different places, how they work, what is successful and what isn’t (organizationally, technically, culturally). It also gives exposure to a broader array of technologies than working at a single company, since companies all make different decisions, especially across industries. Simply put, greater variety yields greater overall experience in a shorter amount of time. It’s nearly impossible for an FTE role to replicate the variety of experience consulting can offer over the same time horizon.
Less Reliance on External Factors for Success
One of the greatest frustrations in the corporate world is how many other factors outside individual performance affect career trajectory and compensation. Politics matter, often as much or more than your skill and performance. Company performance impacts your income — bonus pools are set based on overall company performance. Succeed wildly at a company that has a bad year, and you may be very disappointed at bonus time. Who you work for really matters too — the success of your superiors can often make or break your own success. How many times have we all seen great people replaced, or poor ones promoted when a management change happens? The common thread with all of these is that a huge portion of success and rewards in FTE roles are determined by external factors. Psychologically, this dissonance can be quite difficult and cause a lot of anguish, detracting from job satisfaction. Consulting offers a much more direct relationship between individual skills, performance, and success.
Consulting offers competitive pay on a total compensation basis, but some great advantages to how that pay is delivered. Taos pays weekly for hours worked. That means that there is no waiting for annual bonus cycles, or long complicated stock vesting schedules and strike prices. There’s also no working 60–70 hour weeks without a commensurate increase in your paycheck. How many senior FTE roles offer to pay for every hour worked? Nearly none in the tech industry and most have an unwritten expectation of long hours.
Consulting Lacks the Drawbacks of Freelancing
One misconception about consulting with Taos is some people see it as equivalent to freelancing, but there are fundamental differences. Taos offers a full benefits package, paid vacation time and holidays. There’s also an experienced management team, great sales force, and fantastic client list which have a proven track record of keeping consultants busily placed on client engagements. Freelancing inevitably requires a lot of effort to be spent on sales, accounting, contract negotiations, and receivables, all of which take away from productive billing time. Taos also has a great community of other consultants to work with, learn from, or just socialize with.
Consulting isn’t right for everyone, but it is an avenue that should be strongly considered by highly skilled and motivated people. It’s been a very rewarding time in my career and led me to turn down many FTE roles. There’s always the chance that I’ll get an offer too good to refuse at some point and there will be a logo on my golf shirt again, but the bar has been set high.