To Be or Not To Be... A Consultant?
By: Eric Banville
Over 30 years ago, I fell into the world of consulting not by choice, but rather by chance. Like most young people my age at the time, I was fresh out of college and I was looking for a job ... Anything would do. I had not done extensive research on the business areas I was interested in, nor on the types of jobs that might suit me. To be honest, I probably did not have the maturity and the seriousness required to enter the job market. I was there, I was young, and life was an open road. I believed in destiny, in my intuition and in my abilities. I made my first steps in consulting thanks to a good friend who asked for my help with a project for a ministry in Quebec City. A day earlier, I was looking for any job in any field, then suddenly, my first "mandate" began I had become a real consultant!
I had no idea what I was getting into. I chose to act as I have always done: I jumped head-first in this new universe! What was waiting for me? Would I be up to it? Would I have the required skills? Would I be able to help "my" clients? To meet their needs? To answer their questions? So many questions and challenges. With a little perspective and experience, I realize today that I was entering a fascinating world; the world of "consulting". I learned very quickly that, whatever the nature of the mandate, the client is our priority. During my first week, my manager / mentor / client questioned me about my definition of a consultant. Wow ... how do you answer that when you just started in the field? I had no idea. After a few exchanges, he revealed to me a piece of information I’ve remembered my whole career: "Eric," he said in a half-joking, half-serious manner, "a consultant is someone who asks you for your watch to tell you what time it is ... and then leaves with it."
That was one of the many lessons this valuable client has taught me about consulting. In fact, it was the second thing I learned in less than a week. First, "the customer is always right", because despite all that I can think or claim, the client pays my salary. In other words, he has a right of life or death over my mandate ... If he loves my work; I'm staying. If he does not like it; I have to find another mandate. Secondly, this analogy with the watch (knowledge, expertise, experience) and the fact that there are great opportunities to learn a lot through clients was a revelation that has guided me throughout my career.
You are probably wondering why I’m sharing my beginnings as a consultant and where I’m going with my watch story. I just wanted to convey to you, young and not so young consultants, how fortunate and privileged we are to do what we do. I am well aware that this kind of work is not suitable for everyone and that is perfectly alright. As my mother says, "If everyone does their job, the cows will be well cared for." But for a person who is naturally curious (either in a purely technical sense or in a specific field of business), who likes to learn continuously, to find solutions, is not afraid of change and who likes to work directly with customers to provide a service; this is the definition of a consultant. For all those reasons, I love my profession.
Lastly, I would like to share with you a list (not exhaustive) of the personal general skills sought after by a computer consultant according to Ma Carrière Techno.com:
- Skills in interpersonal relationships
- Sense of organization and ability to distinguish between priorities
- Ability to set timelines for various projects and monitor progress against targets
- Team spirit
- Oral and written communication skills
- Adaptability in an evolving sector
- Sense of responsibility
- Customer approach
- Ability to solve problems
- Ability to manage contingencies throughout projects
Do you recognize yourself?
The same article claims that a consultant should be defined by "My passion: to find solutions according to the needs of my client".
A definition that comes close to the business mission of Alithya, is it not? This mission, I remind you, is: "To advise, guide and support our clients in pursuing innovation and excellence, achieving their business objectives and optimizing the use of digital technologies ".
So, a word to the wise!