What It Takes To Be A Software Consultant
Four Things Our Developers Wished They Knew On Their First Day
by QLer Ben Lewis
As part of our onboarding process at Quick Left, we meet with recent hires after 30 days and ask them several questions about their experience so far. One of the questions that gets some of the most interesting reponses is: “What advice would you give yourself on your first day?”
After six years in business, we’ve asked this question quite a few times. We recently took some time to read back and analyze the responses we’ve gotten. When we looked closely, some trends started to emerge. Interested in finding out what it takes to be a software consultant? Read on to find out the top four pieces of advice our devs wished they had gotten on their first day.
1. Forget Imposter Syndrome
Becoming a tech consultant can be intimidating. It’s natural to feel like you don’t know enough to effectively counsel clients in making the best decisions. Our advice? Forget imposter syndrome.
As one developer put it, “you come in here more prepared than you think”. Everyone has life experience that they can bring to the job. In the words of another QLer: “even junior developers have a lot to offer with their other experience”.
We’ve hired people from all kinds of backgrounds, from the restaurant industry, to project management, to education, and every one of them has found that they have skills they can leverage in serving clients. “Just relax and know everything will be fine. You’ll learn things”.
If you just can’t shake the feeling of inadequacy, you can always fall back to this advice: “shut up about your lack of confidence, keep it to yourself”. Maybe that’s just another way of saying “fake it til you make it”.
2. Be A Self-Starter
Quick Left has always been known as a democratic place to work. We made the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces in 2012 and 2013. As we’ve grown, we’ve always managed to keep that spirit alive despite the pressures of scaling. One of the things that’s made that possible has been that we’ve focused on hiring people who know how to take the initiative.
Here’s some of the advice we’ve heard employees give about being a self-starter: “start working, don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do”. Another person said, “just try things and if something breaks, its not the end of the world”. Because we’re smart and know when to ask for help, we know that sometimes the best strategy is just to dive in and try to solve things.
If all else fails, you can always consult the manual. It never hurts to read the docs. Then there’s always “source code spelunking” (a favorite pasttime around here). One QLer reflected: “sometimes I was asking questions and the answer was right there in front of me and I just needed to read more”.
3. Get To Know Everyone
If two heads are better than one it follows that a whole team of heads is a whole lot better! We pride ourselves on a strong culture of education and mentorship at Quick Left. We know that we can rely on each other to help when the going gets tough. None of that would be possible if we didn’t have great relationships within the team.
Although we host plenty of events that bring our developers together, like our hackfests and monthly happy hours, some of our developers found it valuable to get themselves out there and “engage with the team outside of work”.
Others reflected that they wished they’d leveraged the team as a resource earlier. This goes for both the social and the code realm: “reach out and talk to my co-workers more. Both small talk and technical stuff”.What’s the best way to get integrated? “Go out to coffee with everyone in the company”, one person suggested.
As nerds, it can be difficult for some of us to connect socially. But the benefits more than make up for the little bit of discomfort you suffer front. Tight teams stay together.
4. Don’t Sweat It
Finally, there’s one piece of advice that we saw again and again as we looked back through the archives: “don’t sweat the small stuff”. The first days on a new job are always a little bit nerve-wracking. But trust us, everything is going to be fine.
Your team wants you to succeed. We’re all in this together. So don’t get caught up in little problems, because we’re all here to support each other in the big picture. One developer admitted: “it was stressful for me to get into a new focus. I would have told myself to calm down.”
Displaying a little bit of confidence can go a long way. It puts clients, managers, and team mates at ease. This makes everything run a little bit more smoothly. Take another QLer’s advice: “just relax and know everything will be fine”.
There are a lot of things that go into being an effective developer. You have to know your tools, stay up to date on the latest technology, and make sure that you’ve thought through all of the edge cases. At the same time, being a consultant is no walk in the park either. You have to be able to balance budget, time constraints, client relationships, and getting work done. Putting the demands of the two roles together, becoming a software consultant can seem daunting.
Even developers coming from a product background are sometimes daunted when they first become consultants. There’s a whole other side to consulting that can make you feel like a fish out of water. But after a few months, most of the people we hire tend to get the hang of it regardless of what they were doing before.
After providing great consulting services for several years, it’s interesting to look back and see that developers consistently gave the same answers for how to deal with filling this role. Time after time, the answer to the question “what advice would you give yourself on your first day” came out matching one of the four themes we’ve looked at in this article. They may seem simple at first glance, but scores of Quick Left devs agree: there’s a lot to them!
If you’re entering the world of software consulting, take these ideas to heart. Believe in yourself, trust your gut, say hello, and just relax. Best of luck. See you on the interwebs!
Originally published at Quick Left.