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That’s Why They Hired You

Frustration!I think that we’ve all been to the place of being frustrated at work. There are lots of sources of frustration, but today I want to talk about a specific kind of situation.

If you’ve ever been a consultant – either for yourself or others – you may have gotten the chance to work on a large project rather than a staff augmentation role. There are basically two reasons that a company would hire a consulting company to tackle a project for them. Either their plate is too full to perform the strategic work or they do not have the proficiencies in their staff to tackle the project. Honestly, most interesting projects fall into that latter category. And *that* is what I want to talk about today.

To win the project, you probably responded to an RFP and you had to demonstrate your experience and proficiencies with the technologies at hand. You may have had to be interviewed and show prior work, proving that you didn’t just Google the thing on the way over. Basically, you are the closest thing to an expert in this area that the company has contact with. Since you are the chosen one, you should be able to just come in there and do your thing, right? Surely, they won’t have any opinions on technologies that they are entirely unfamiliar with?

Of course not and of course they do.

I’ve been on a few projects where the consulting company was brining entirely new expertise into an organization. That never stopped that organization from asking questions… and they should ask questions. Where the frustration arises is when you make a thoughtful and careful decision, write a recommendation showing why you went that way and you still have to defend it. Not against solid questions that you forgot or didn’t think to address in your recommendation, but questions that come about because someone with a lofty title Googled “{insert technology} sucks” and just read you objections to the technology.

Those discussions can be fun, but not when the antagonist can never take the discussion beyond the surface because that’s all of the research that they put into the topic. Here is an absurd (made up) example of what I mean:

Sample Conversation:

Them: “Why don’t you use MongoDB, I heard it was Web Scale?”
Me: “The requirements call for this application to be used by your accounting department, which consists of 8 people.”
Them: “But, what if we want to put this in the Cloud to make it Web Scale?”
Me: “None of your systems that this needs to talk to are Internet-facing and you have a corporate restriction against having point-to-point VPN connections with machines that you don’t control or machines that aren’t in CISP certified data centers.”
Them: “Fine, why can’t we run MongoDB locally.”
Me: “You could, but your entire organization runs on Oracle. Why wouldn’t we just put the 3 tables we need into your existing database, saving costs, implementation time, etc etc?”
Them: “I don’t understand why kind of consultant you are if you are if you are afraid of modern technology.”

And… scene.

Fortunately, I haven’t had exactly that conversation, but I’ve had some conversations that make about that much sense and have been accused of worse. It is very easy to get frustrated at that point. But, I’ve found that it is best to take a step back when this happens. Why are you expecting them to ask you questions like they are an expert when they brought you in to be an expert? They are asking questions about an unknown thing because they are curious, or because their butt is on the line if you mess up, or just because they want to do “due diligence”.

Remember, if they already knew all of the answers, they wouldn’t have needed you. They would have set their own direction and if they were understaffed, they would have just gotten some warm bodies to meet demand. Instead, they hired you for your expertise, so try to remember that during your discussions and explanations.

Bonus tip: For the love of all things, don’t be condescending in your discussions. You might say, “Of course”, but I can promise you that it happens and many times it was not your intention. Guard your words and your attitudes and you’ll be appreciated.

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