Things I Forgot About Consulting

Photo by DeaPeaJay

I recently went back into the consulting arena. I did it for 13 years, so it’s not like it is totally outside the realm of my experience. And I’ve only been away for 3 years (although the last 3 years of the consulting gig was at the same client).

Being a consultant is like starting a new job — frequently. You get dropped into a new place, with its methods, architecture, practices and tools. I expected that.

But somehow I forgot about a whole bunch of things with consulting.

Things Start Out Slow

I have only walked into a client site once and had them ready for me. By ready I mean:

  • Having a computer designated
  • Having the computer set up
  • Having the required software installed
  • Having on-boarding documents ready
  • Having a specific assignment ready to go

This new assignment had me install software for 1.5 days, read some very generic documentation for 1 day, and try to find bits and pieces of code, servers and databases for the rest of the first week.

I had forgotten about how slow things start out.

Overwhelm Is Common

One of the things about starting at a new job – consulting or not – is the sense of overwhelm that comes with being immersed in a new environment. The people who have worked there for a while don’t even thing about the little things a new person needs to know. In my case, this would be questions like: where is the software? Where are the databases? Where is the source code? Where are the requirements of the project I will be working on?

Add this to a nagging suspicion that I hadn’t kept my skills up (I haven’t), and then to get thrown into an assignment that is completely different than my skills, and I was overwhelmed.

Everyone Has Their Own Methods

Everyone has their own way of dealing with things. They might not be the best way (according to industry practices), but it comes with the territory. Getting up to speed on these things is difficult.

I am lucky that so many of my former co-workers are at my client site. I can ask questions that to people not familiar with my last company would think were silly, but since they understand the frame of reference, they can answer without laughing. Things like “do we enforce referential integrity in the database?” (yes) or “do we automatically upgrade projects to the latest version?” (no)


I am slowly getting my feet underneath me at the new assignment. With some support from my company and my client, I will soon be operating at full speed.


Photo by DeaPeaJay

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