At the age of 20, I started my first job in the I.T. field. I was a computer support technician for a small bank in New Jersey. Just like my title sounds like, I spent most of my day troubleshooting simple computer problems. As I grew into my role and eventually to the Senior Network Administrator of the bank, the challenges grew in size and complexity.
About three years into my time with the bank, I became my manager’s “right-hand-man”. I did much less Level 1 work and more with projects and planning. This is when I began to notice that a group of consultants would often come in to meet with my manager as well as senior level I.T. personnel. I didn’t truly understand what their role was. At that time in my youth, I felt like they were coming in and telling us what to do. I was ignorant of their responsibilities and honestly felt like they were pushing us around for no good reason and I didn’t like it. I thought “if they know what is best for us, why aren’t they just working here?” Clearly I was young and didn’t understand business just yet. Fast forward to 2017, I’m a Network Manager and a part-time consultant myself and I have four reasons why YOU need an I.T. consultant – even if you think you don’t.
- One of the FIRST things I will ask my consulting team is – what are other companies doing? And they are the perfect group of people to answer that. Many consultants work with an array of companies, some in my industry and some not. What better way learn about trends in technology, than from the consultants that are directly working with these companies to implement these technologies?
- Second (or third, or fourth) opinions
- When having to make a decision, I always make sure to discuss my thoughts with my team and my manager. But I will also discuss it with my consultants as well. It is always a great idea to get an outside perspective. Internally, we may shoot down a decision for many different reasons: complexity, lack of skills set, costs, etc. But an outside source maybe be able to talk to all these points and make a solid recommendation to influence a certain choice. For example, they may have the skill set to implement the technology for us as well as connections to negotiate a better cost – in turn – allowing me to include the technology in my thought process where before I would have quickly dropped it for the reasons I mentioned above.
- In my career, I’ve focused heavily in networking technologies. However, I’ve always called myself a ‘Jack of all Trades – Master of few”. Meaning: I don’t have the time to be an expert in everything I do, yet I have a core set of skills that I’ve focused on that I feel are my best assets. All of the extra holes or advanced skills I need, I fill in with consultants. Today, as a manager of a networking team, I ensure that my team has a reliable, skillful consultant for every technology in my environment. I also have regular meetings with most of my consultants, perhaps every quarter or more often depending on the need at the time. In the meetings we review current industry trends, new products and offerings, current and future projects and even just simple ‘white boarding’ the environment to search for any ‘holes’ or areas we need to improve.
- Finally, I feel that overall, external consultants are great to maintain contact with and I’m sure they feel the opposite is true – to maintain contact with their clientele even if they or the client leaves their role. Think of this: say one of your team members leaves for greener pastures (they hope). Who could you contact quickly to either temporarily or even permanently fill that hole in your team? Why not a consultant that is familiar with your environment and could jump in and hit the ground running.
About a year after I left the bank, I go word that the lead technical consultant that worked for us for many years – did in fact now work full time for the bank – in TWO different lead technical roles. He was doing quite well for himself to say the least.
In the end, an outside consultant can be a great asset, providing industry trends, advice and a different perspective to your decision-making process.