Mark Gilbert's Blog

Science and technology, served light and fluffy.

9 Years – give or take a lesson

I’ve recently made the decision to leave my professional home of the past 9 years, BlueGranite, for the position of Technical Analyst at Biggs-Gilmore.  In that 9 years, I’ve learned a few things about life, the (technical) universe, and everything:

  1. A "normal" work week and a "humane" work week DON’T have to be mutually exclusive.  I had worked for BlueGranite for nearly 4 years when my daughter was born.  Before that, I would normally work 60+ hour work-weeks trying to get projects done, please clients, etc..  After my daughter was born, that simply was not possible.  The remarkable thing was that after I became a father, I was still able to get projects done, please clients, etc. but this time do it in a 45-hour work week.  The difference?  I wasn’t trying to do everything myself, or everything to six 9’s of perfection.
  2. Tie or no tie.  There is running joke with the sales team regarding the appropriate level of dress for a given situation called "tie or no tie", and this has rubbed off on me.  Generally speaking, you should dress one notch higher than the client you’re meeting with.  There are some specific exceptions, however: 1) if you are meeting them for the first time, suit coat and tie are required; 2) unless exception #1 applies, and if you’re meeting them at our home office, you can generally dress one notch lower than you would were you meeting them at their location.  Then of course there is the "after-hours/drinks" exception which generally means no tie, but sports coat.  Clear as mud, right?
  3. The project management triangle requires special geometry.  The triangle’s sides are generally understood to be Scope, Time, Cost/Resources.  You can’t control all three sides and have a successful project; at least one of the three needs to be flexible.  So where does the "special geometry" come in?  Clients generally ask for a triangle with:

    1. Scope of 10 ("give me all of these features…")
    2. Time of -1 ("…yesterday…")
    3. Cost/Resources of 0 ("…for free")
  4. Doing well as a consultant requires you to be multi-lingual.  I don’t mean knowing C# as well as VB.NET – I mean being able to talk to a technical client, a non-technical client, a sales rep, a project manager, another developer, etc..  In a small company like BlueGranite, being able to talk to all of the people with a vested interest in the success of the project was one of the most useful skills I had.  Gearing the conversation to the person listening was a requirement not just because of the technical level of the listener, but also (and possibly even more so) because each of these people have different goals, focuses, concerns, etc..  You build respect and credibility by being able to match the conversation to the person on the other side of the table/phone/IM client.

Of course, the items above are some of the so-called "soft" skills.  That always seemed such an odd title to me: these were the skills that were some of the hardest to pick up.

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November 13, 2007 - Posted by | General

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