4 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner As a Consultant

This topic continues from an earlier blog written by Mike Walsh (http://www.straightpathsql.com/archives/2014/08/softskillsiwishihadasdba/) and followed up by Tim Mitchell (http://www.timmitchell.net/post/2014/08/28/four-things-i-wish-id-known-back-then/) who tagged me to continue it. I hope to add something insightful to the mix even though so much has already been said from other people within the community.

With that I will add an additional 4 items that have not directly been mentioned.

1) Get Involved in the Community

There are many ways to get involved in this community, and opportunities to get involved will vary from person to person. This was the last thing that I embraced from my list and I still want to say thanks to Steve/Andy/Tim/Jason and the many others that have helped me along with this.

Start off by heading to the local SQL Server users groups to meet some of your fellow colleagues. This is a great place to start to connect with others that you can reach out to when you have questions or are in need of more work. For the most part, the SQL Server community is friendly and welcoming, and you will be surprised at how it will help your career along. It is actually fun too.

Other ways to be involved include writing blogs, helping out in the forums, etc.

2) Pay Attention to what is required

This would seem straight forward but can sometimes get lost when a project is in full swing. Sometimes we lose track of the fact that someone is paying us to do work based on the idea that your work can create value, which in turn, makes money. Technology does not make money, again, technology does not make money. The application of technology towards a business problem will make money.

Take the time to listen to the business problem you need to solve and make sure your solution meets all the requirements and solves the problem, before trying to implement some new technical trick or the latest and greatest techniques. The business will come to professionals like us for help with a business issue and how it is accomplished might not even interest them, and that is OK. Blog about it (see item #1) because someone else in the community would really appreciate it.

I have a story for this one. I was once at a company working as a consultant and we had a large group exercise where we grouped up to build a bridge made of newspaper. The bridge had to fit some specific dimensions and as a bonus, needed to hold as much weight as possible. The bridge that held the most weight would win. Needless to say two teams of top notch consultants built a bridge that was super strong but did not fit the dimensions. I could not believe it. They missed the requirement for the dimension and went straight for the optional requirements. I wonder if those same teams would have worked on a software project the same way.

3) Admit it when you do not know something

This can be one of the biggest issues I see when working together with teammates, and especially when interviewing a potential candidate.

In an interview I always look for at least one question that you will not be able to answer. I’ll ask the GDP of Luxemburg in 1963 if I have to, but I want to see how you handle “I don’t know.” I look at this as an indication of what you realize about yourself and how you will be able to work with the team. In this industry, you will work with other team members all the time. If you are not confident or forthcoming in what you can or cannot do, or what you do and do not know, the odds that the project will fail will increase. We will all need help, (see Item #1) and understanding that is the first step in figuring out that it is OK to not always be the hero.

4) Be Nice

This industry is filled with smart people but I sometimes find that these very intelligent people have a difficult time working with others. If you are this person, think about how much value you can bring if you are a) that smart and b)… wait for it…. willing to work with other people as a team.

Think about it and BE NICE, because it makes the work and the community a better place.

About Reeves Smith

Reeves Smith is a consultant and trainer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Mathematics from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a Microsoft Certified Master with over 17 years of experience working with SQL Server. Reeves is an independent BI consultant and teammate with Linchpin People. He is an active member of the Denver, CO, PASS chapter and delivers technical presentations at local and regional conferences and user groups. He has had the opportunity to work on various development and data warehouse projects within industries like banking, DoD, energy, entertainment, gaming, healthcare, manufacturing, oil and gas, travel, and telecommunication. You can follow him on Twitter at SQLReeves.
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4 Responses to 4 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner As a Consultant

  1. Scott A says:

    Excellent post and very applicable even if you are not a consultant. Great read!

  2. Pingback: - Straight Path Solutions, a SQL Server Consultancy

  3. Pingback: Four Things We Wish We Knew - SQL Server - SQL Server - Toad World

  4. blesche says:

    Great post! I love these 4 points!!

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