Are you considering a career in computer consulting?  Here’s some semi-serious personal tips I’ve developed from years in the trenches…consulting

  1. Expect Chaos, Deliver Zen: Consultants are brought in because the client lacks resources or expertise for an important project they’re willing to pay good money for.  Things will be disorganized, confusing, and probably behind schedule yet you should project a calm, confident demeanor no matter what the craziness.  Some calm words and projecting zen-ness will be greatly appreciated, and necessary to save your sanity.
    .
  2. Skim the Docs, Step the Code: Clients will dump documents galore on you, the fact is most are out of date and incomprehensible because you aren’t intimately familiar with this specific project-speak.  Spend minimal time skimming these documents, but spend lots of time actually stepping through sample project code in a debugger.  The code doesn’t lie, and gives priceless insight into how the application works, technical architecture, and standards.  Get a quick demo of any relevant apps, then insist on code access and test accounts to start stepping through the code line by line, module by module.
    .
  3. Under Estimate, Over Deliver: Before even memorizing your network login you’ll be asked to give project estimates.  Be honest but realistic, then add some buffer.  If your original estimates are accepted, everyone will be ecstatic that things come in ahead of schedule.  If you’re ahead of schedule, squeeze in some extra documentation and deliver more than expected.  You’ll feel like a hero, and your client will feel even better.  Everyone wins.
    .
  4. Less Is More:  When asking for decisions, give about three proposals but no more.  This gives some valid, thoughtful choices, but doesn’t paralyze with too many details.  Don’t over complicate designs or decisions with too many choices…it’ll all change in a few weeks anyway and require new decisions.
    .

  5. Three Days to the Future: The mood and experience of the first three days will predict the future, things will not change.  Wonderful, fabulous people with interesting projects will stay that way.  Conversely- boring, aggravating, disorganized projects won’t miraculously get better.  If a project you’re on rubs you the wrong way immediately it might be time to find something else.  It’ll save lots of pain and suffering in the future.
    .

There’s tons more tips, but I think these 5 can really result in increased performance and realistic expectations.  Keep them in mind for a successful consulting job or just improving your current job.