June 30, 2000
** Listen to this
column on your computer, iPod or other audio player **
member of the Tech Podcast Network
The expanding nature of high-tech industries often means
that it is impossible for every worker to learn all the skills they might
need to complete a project. This is especially true if you are working
as an independent high-tech consultant. Whether you are in a large company
or working for yourself, partnering with other employees or consultants
can allow you to develop projects that would be impossible on your own.
Everyone in their place
As much as I might bemoan the fact, the days of the high-tech generalist
are waning. While I still believe that a wide body of knowledge can help
you in your career, the complexity of the high-tech world forces us to
concentrate our attention in those areas where we have the most interest
Over the years, I have moved more and more into the world of computer
training. I can still troubleshoot systems, install and manage networks
and PCs, but my knowledge in those areas becomes more obsolete every day.
I have also discovered over the years that there is some work that doesn't
interest me very much, even though I might have the necessary skills.
The combination of all these factors has steadily narrowed the focus of
What to do?
Despite the narrowing of my own work focus, I am often approached with
projects that go far beyond my own skills and interests. I have several
options when an opportunity such as this presents itself. I can turn down
the opportunity entirely, though this means a loss of revenue. I can direct
the client to another friend or associate who can develop the project,
but again I am basically giving away any involvement or control in the
project. Finally, I can take on the project and develop a project team
that contains the skills necessary to complete the project. This allows
me to use my unique skills, generate income and work on projects that
I would normally have to decline.
Developing your project team
Of course, putting together a project team can sometimes be more difficult
than handling a project on your own. There are issues regarding management
of the project, the members of the team and how they will be paid. That
said, if the project is managed well, everyone can benefit.
It is important that you don't wait until you are presented with a project
to start developing your team. You don't want the added stress of bringing
people together while facing a project deadline. More than likely you
already have people with which you would like to work. As you meet new
people you should try and maintain contact with those who have skills
you could use on future projects. You might want to think of this as developing
a virtual company. You may not work with these people everyday, but they
will be there when you need them for a specific project.
One odd experience of developing a project team is that you might not
always be the boss. Just as you will partner with others to develop projects
you run, they should be encouraged to hire you for projects that they
are developing. It can be difficult to be both manager and worker, depending
on the project, but such arrangements help to keep everyone working.
Reach out to as many people as possible so that you have multiple options
when a project presents itself. Since other members of the team will be
developing their own projects they might not always be available when
you need them. Finding 2 programmers or 2 web designers that you enjoy
working with will allow you to continue working on new projects instead
of waiting for a partner to become available.
Finally, take the time to learn about the people you bring in as partners.
Not everyone can function in such an open environment. Working styles
may clash. It is often best to partner for a small, short term project
first to test out the partnership. You don't want to start a 6 month project
only to find that your partner drives you crazy. Once you have established
your compatibility you can move to longer and longer projects. If you
go slowly at first you can often avoid major problems down the road
Being an independent high-tech consultant doesn't mean you
are forced to work on your own all the time. By developing business relationships
with friends and associates you can build a high-tech team that can develop
projects much larger than any one person could manage on their own.