Under Your Boot-Soles

How (I Intend) To Be A Consulting New Hire

I’ve recently stepped into the world of software/IT consulting after working with many consultants as the client and the experience has been mostly positive. But not all of them. This post is mostly to help me organize and concentrate my efforts at not being one of “those” consultants. I’ll be updating as I get further into the job and transition from new hire, to being on assignment and back on the bench, to a seasoned consultant with a broad base of experiences at many companies.

Steve Jobs likened consulting experience to having a large collection of 2D images on the wall but lacking the depth from “deeper” media like a video or–not to stretch his metaphor too far–perhaps a diorama. While I can see this as true in many cases, I hope that it is possible to get past this and develop long relationships and understand my clients more deeply.

I intend to make a point of enumerating and understanding the “scar tissue” from previous mistakes that clients may have and developing plans to avoid those in future endeavors. I also see my role as a consultant as a salve on those wounds. Many times, previous decisions have a way of limiting the array of future options. I don’t quite have a strategy for that beyond just asking but I’ll work on it. I joined a consultancy that works very hard at developing a collaborative community of consultants and I will bring that community with me on assignments to strength and extend the capabilities available to my client. Some consulting companies are more like staffing agencies where the goal of a new hire is often to get them placed permanently at a client as an employee. I intentionally chose not to work in that matter both to avoid the perceived job insecurity and as a boon to my growth as an engineer.

While Jobs points out that you can have a thin veneer of experience over many clients, scale has a property of its own. Experience in a wide variety of tools and contexts is something that might be hard to find in a population of company engineers. It may be harder still to develop internally. I view consultants as having a keener eye on what other companies are doing and where they’re headed. This is a perspective that I hope to develop quickly and offer to my clients.

Enough philosophizing. Let’s get down to the “modes” of employment that I see myself moving through.


Currently, I’m on the bench awaiting an assignment. As a new hire, I have a handful of onboarding tasks that every new employee does (forms, system setup, etc) and I knock those out as soon as they come in. I joined in the middle of an acquisition, so I’m also making sure to keep an eye out for those tasks so I don’t get “left on shore” at the old company. What I’m more focused on (and less clear about on day 4) is understanding the company mechanisms and culture. The mechanisms are usually fairly simple to get. They’re either self-evident, documented somewhere, or a quick Slack question away.

Understanding the company’s culture is a longer process and not necessarily something reserved only for bench time. I have the benefit of previous friendships and work relations with many of the company’s senior employees, which helps a lot. But I plan to devote some time on the bench to engaging with my coworkers on a variety of topics, work-related or otherwise, to see and participate in the broader experience:

  • What clients do we have?
  • What do we do for our clients?
  • Discussing news topics or interesting technology pieces
  • Meeting everyone’s #pets (virtually)
  • Introducing and meeting families (again, mostly virtually)
  • Participating in the peanut gallery in all hands meetings
  • Offering to help with non-client work or other internal tasks

My last employer made a purely financial decision to phase out Slack usage, so I’m a bit rusty with using it in a work context. However, Slack can be a very powerful tool for understanding the connections within the company and their personality. I also like to add a bit of my own flavor to the discussion too. One of the things I like to do is add fun emojis to the workspace to extend Slack’s expressiveness even further. Slack has some rather useful search functionality and it behooves you to master them. When I have a question, I try to resist the urge to DM someone or ask in a public channel and instead run a few searches to see if it’s already asked and answered. Pinned messages and bookmarks are a good place to look too.

On Assignment

Here’s where (I envision) most of my time to be spent. I’m not officially assigned anywhere yet so my insights are thin. That said, I hope to push past the stereotype presented by Mr. Jobs above.

Many of the best relationships I’ve had as a client are with consultants that take the time to understand my personal life and background. While I’m not in this to make friends at 100 different companies, I believe that it is helpful to understand where someone is at emotionally and how that might affect their decisions and their work. This may not be entirely related to an employee’s personal life, either. I have fresh experience with how workplace culture and management decisions influence an employee’s performance. In particular, motivation to do one’s best work can be greatly affected by the perceived value of their work.

Once on assignment, I intend to leverage the training and experience that I plan to develop while on the bench and at previous assignments. I’m currently working on a professional level AWS certification which not only adds concrete knowledge and skills to my toolbox but also signals the confidence a client can have in my recommendations. As a consultant, Jobs is right. I will probably not stay long enough to see the long term effects of my recommendations. So particular energy must be expended to anticipate future pitfalls and headaches. I don’t have too much to say about that other than: “I’m gonna try very hard at that.”


As I’m writing this on day 4 as a consultant, I’ll be updating this post with my thoughts as times goes on. I expect to have some deeper and more concrete perspectives to offer to others venturing into the consultant role for the first time. As usual, feel free to connect with me in whatever manner is comfortable. Or, use the new Giscus comment system I setup recently (more on that later)!