Are Strategic Partnerships the Secret to a Successful Tech Consulting Career?
How Millenilink can Support New and Experienced Tech Consultants
With looming economic uncertainty, and many Baby Boomers heading into retirement, there’s a lot of curiosity about the potential of a consulting career. It can be scary to leave the perceived stability of a full-time job, hard to make the transition to retirement when you still have so much value to offer, and generally just overwhelming to know where to begin, but a relationship with Millenilink is a great starting point for support.
We recently spoke with experienced tech consultant, Dan Friedman, who talks about life as a consultant, his innovative solution to one of consulting’s biggest hurdles, and how Millenilink has been a trusted partner. Whether you’re a seasoned consultant or just considering testing the water, this conversation with Dan is not to be missed.
Dan, what’s your tech background and current area of expertise?
I’ve got over 20 years’ experience with deployment and automation – going back to the very early days of the internet. My current area of focus is SaaS consulting, Enterprise DevOps, and Cloud Automation, working to help teams migrate to the Cloud or to automate daily processes.
The journey to working with that skillset is often unusual, how did you arrive here?
In the late 90s I was working with a start-up on school administration software, and I had to figure out how to deploy an application from our office in Ottawa to an office in Wisconsin. Solving that problem was my first taste of trying to affect a system at a distance – learning how to make something happen far away, and not just on a server in the same building. I had to write something that would perform remotely, develop a system, and create instructions for the people executing at the other end. Once I had the experience of making that work, I was hooked. I’ve moved through various industries such as online retail, gaming, financial services, and now government and NGO. The problem always boils down to, ‘how do we get people what they need through some kind of limitation, whether that’s distance, a firewall, etc.
At Millenilink we stress the importance of transferrable skills to both employers and personnel in order to address ongoing shortages in specific tech skillsets. What non-tech skills have contributed to your success?
Well, I got my degree in music, and I feel that actually prepared me well for a career in IT. The early days of the internet was an entrepreneurial environment, and working with small groups of people online was similar to my experience working with groups of musicians. The organizational management skills I gained, along with the ability to really talk and connect with people transferred over very beneficially.
You’ve worked in full-time roles and as a consultant, what was your reasoning for making a switch?
I’ve had different priorities and levels of responsibility at various times in my life. Full-time work suited when I had small kids and needed stability for my family, but as my kids grew, and my experience developed, I’ve been able to take on more risk. At this point in my career, I find organizations make the best use of my experience in a consulting capacity. They’re aware they are lacking the specific expertise I bring, and they want to benefit from that. There’s an excellent synergy where I can provide my best work, and the organization can get the input they need to solve specific problems.
You’re highly sought after, how do you manage your career as a consultant and keep yourself marketable on a consistent basis?
You need to have the latest subject matter expertise to be marketable in tech, especially as a consultant. I’m always aware of what the market is looking for and making sure the domains I’m working in align with that. It’s been easy for me to stay relevant because I tend to be interested in the bleeding edge technology that makes people’s lives easier.
Part of my role as a consultant is to be able to distinguish business problems and technology problems and make recommendations that will provide value. With my level of experience, I’m generally granted the freedom to bring in the tools that I think are best, which snowballs into me having the most experience with tools that are the most interesting, which also happen to be the most advanced tools in the automation and deployment space. There’s a natural intersection of my personal interests, the market needs, and the latest technology.
It’s common for contractors to find themselves in a ‘feast or famine’ cycle of not enough work or too much work. How do you handle job stability as a contractor?
While that’s definitely the reality of life as a contractor, I’ve mitigated the risk by developing partners and an extended network of people I trust so that I’m able to reach out ahead of time before an engagement is wrapping up and put it out there that I’ll soon have availability. Everything I mentioned about marketability, relevant experience, and continuous learning means that in general, as soon as I poke my head up, its’s easy to find an organization interested in my skills. My trusted network includes external partners like Millenilink, and also my business partners at Consensus.
Can you tell us more about Consensus? What does it mean to have business partners as an individual contractor?
My business partners (all independent contractors with 10-15 years freelance experience) and I formed Consensus Enterprises a little over four years ago. Consensus is not a traditional consulting agency; it functions as a collective where we can support each other and even out that feast-or-famine cycle. It’s impossible to focus on executing an engagement while also hustling for more business at the same time. Our solution has been to come together and create this community where whichever member isn’t currently occupied with a contract can be focused on sales and looking ahead.
We have a shared revenue model, so we’re all earning money even when not doing billable hours, and this approach to personal and corporate financial management provides a comfortable runway. As senior consultants, we want to be in a position where we can hold out for contracts that match our level of expertise. Working together gives us the power to say no to less advanced opportunities and maintain our elite stature.
Consensus operates from an open-source ethos. We’re currently working towards sharing the way we’ve structured our organization, and we’re planning to post templates on how to build a company like Consensus on GitHub. Sharing and working together as a collective gives contractors a fairer shake, and we want everyone to be able to create this kind of stability.
That’s an innovative and collaborative approach! How has Millenilink supported you and Consensus as an external partner?
I’m very eager to answer this question, because Millenilink has been fantastic! It’s not unusual to encounter recruiters who don’t really understand what we’re doing, why it matters, and the quality of service we bring to the table. Quite often they mismatch us with potential opportunities, which we must then decline. From the get-go, Millenilink has recognized our value and matched us with opportunities where we can bat it out of the park, which obviously benefits the client, us as contractors, and Millenilink as a strategic partner on both sides.
We’re so glad to hear that, we work hard to be intentional and thoughtful with our placements. Many recruiters focus on doing keyword matches these days, has this been your experience?
I’ve found this to be the case with most recruiters I’ve encountered and it’s frustrating and usually ends up being a waste of time for everyone. It’s quickly clear they don’t understand my specific skills and value, and the offers are usually not aligned with my experience and personal career goals. Millenilink has always been able to find opportunities that exactly match skills with needs, so I’m in the right place to provide the most benefit.
Millenilink truly listens to understand and prioritizes continuous learning and successful outcomes at a level I haven’t seen elsewhere. Millenilink has also been proactive in finding placements, reaching out with reassurance for the next opportunities before my current contract ends. I truly trust that you have my best interests at heart and are looking to make a match that will benefit everyone involved.
If you’d like to learn more about how Millenilink can support your new or established career as a contractor, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always looking forward and there’s never any pressure, so we’d love to hear from you even if you’re not quite ready for your next opportunity.