Monday 11 April 2011

To be or not to be... a consultant

Those who follow me closely will know that last month Opportunity Links closed it's doors. Whilst it's been sad to see an end to the last five years of work, it's also given me a chance to reflect on which bits of the job I enjoyed and the opportunity to focus on those elements in whatever comes next.

So after reflecting in tranquil forests on the meaning of life, the universe and everything, I came to the clear conclusion that the thing I enjoy most is innovation. I've been at my happiest when bootstrapping some disruptive product into the market, and at my most despondent when dealing with day to day line management issues for a team of 50.

Maybe this shouldn't be much of a revelation, I mean who really enjoys line management? But nobody had told my career which was obliviously heading down an increasingly management route. So this leads me to three options going forward to haul myself back where I should be:

  1. Create my own startup, or join one in the early stages
  2. Join a mature company that hasn't lost the innovation culture (there are quite a few of these in Cambridge)
  3. Become a consultant
After some thought I'm seriously considering option 3 which seems to be the flavour of the month. It will allow me to work on a variety of different projects, applying my skills in software engineering, project management, product management and innovation, and give me the freedom to maybe explore the startup option on the side.

My reticence is two-fold: Firstly I'm getting older and more risk averse - can I pull it off risking a stable income which my kids depend on? Gone are the days when I could live on Ramen noodles while coding from a bedsit. But yes, I think there's work there and my reputation is strong enough to secure it. The second issue is the sticking point - along with most of the business community, I dislike consultants. The majority of them are a waste of space and an expensive one at that. In many cases people turn freelance not because they're at the top of their game, but because they can't get hired. I'm not sure I'm totally happy with the idea of taking on the consultant label.

So I need a description for myself. One that isn't so obscure that it needs an explanation before people understand what I do, but one that doesn't have the negative connotations that come along with having 'consultant' on your business cards. Comments are open for ideas...

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