The following is The Other Side column from the June 2013 issue of Staffing Industry Review magazine. It was written by Saurin Joshi, an IT consultant.
Four years ago, I arrived in the United States with an information technology degree from a top university in India and a dream of becoming a software architect. Since then, I have been pursuing this dream with the help of staffing firms through contract opportunities at leading technology and finance companies in the Silicon Valley.
Life as a consultant. From the beginning, consulting seemed like an obvious choice to me. Consulting enabled me to work on a variety of projects and with a wide range of technologies. It also allowed me a peek into the processes and methodologies employed at Silicon Valley giants in diﬀerent industries. As a consultant, I’ve been able to see ﬁrst-hand how leading companies manage their processes, enabling me to learn from what works and what doesn’t — it’s been a great educational opportunity, helping me become better at what I do. I love the thrill of learning new things and being thrown into diﬀerent environments and enjoy that technology’s ever-changing nature drives me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis.
Challenges. Of course, I also encountered challenges as a consultant. Many times I found myself facing tough client expectations. For example, clients usually expect a consultant to be productive from day one; unlike fulltime employees, who get a few weeks to settle into a team and project, consultants are expected to hit the ground running. Over the years, I learned to mitigate this challenge by ﬁnding out as much as I can about the company’s processes and culture before I start the job. This is an area where my staﬃng ﬁrm can help me. The staﬃng ﬁrm’s onboarding process should be designed to prepare the consultant to start performing from the ﬁrst day. Finding out as much as possible about previous projects that the staﬃng ﬁrm worked on with the client, people they know there, the hiring manager’s speciﬁc needs and expectations, and insights into the client’s company culture can enable the consultant to adjust to the new role much faster.
Fitting into a new team every six to 12 months can also be diﬃcult. Once I start a new job, I make a concerted eﬀort to learn the team’s dynamics in order to catch up. Learning new processes and technologies can also slow me down at ﬁrst but in the end, this knowledge becomes immensely beneﬁcial. Any information my staﬃng ﬁrm can provide to this end would go a long way to help.
Picking the right staffing firm. During my tenure as a consultant, I learned that picking the right staﬃng ﬁrm is a crucial part of becoming successful as an IT contractor. The best staﬃng ﬁrms consider their consultants valuable resources and treat them that way. Great staﬃng ﬁrms listen to the consultants’ long-term goals, and instead of using them to ﬁll a seat quickly, they consider how these positions will take them closer to their ultimate career goals.
Many consulting ﬁrms don’t realize that if treated well, their consultants become their most important goodwill ambassadors at the client site. A good staﬃng ﬁrm should be like a proud parent, sharing and promoting the successes of its consultants. A successful consultant also strengthens the reputation of the staﬃng ﬁrm and helps open the door for the ﬁrm’s other consultants.
When picking a staﬃng ﬁrm, I always research its reputation and list of clients to make sure it will be able to provide me with the right opportunities to help build my résumé. Transparency also is very important. A great staﬃng ﬁrm is a strong link between me and the client. If I can trust my ﬁrm, I will not have to worry about my ﬁrm not listening to my needs or being placed on a project that does not move me forward in my career.
Saurin Joshi is a computer systems analyst from India who has worked for such clients as Symantec, Wells Fargo and Intuit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To go to the complete June issue of Staffing Industry Review magazine, click here.