After spending a busy day at the EMC Federal Forum, you might expect me to give some great write-up on what I saw. Well, that is coming. What I saw was only half of the picture. The most important part of this, or any event, is the networking. One topic that popped-up several times was the hiring of quality talent.
I’ve talked in the past about Building Documentum Talent. The problem is that sometimes, you don’t have the time to build people. It is a great problem to have, but it is still a problem. To solve the problem, the search goes out to find and hire quality people. Recently, I’ve been fighting a growing problem…people that only want contract work.
The Lure of the Almighty Dollar
Let’s face it. Almost everybody works to make money. If I didn’t need money to support my family and provide a future for my kids, I’d be teaching history somewhere. I still may do that one day once my retirement is “secure”. In the meantime, I work.
As I have mentioned before, I was tempted by the dollar in the late 90s to do Y2K work. I didn’t do it and I ended up in the ECM world. Since then I have had many offers to do freelance work at some really nice rates. Even after paying my own healthcare and benefits I would have done very well. The only sacrifice would be my future.
In this economy, it is always tempting to get the money now. If you earn a lot, you can save. Moving from one project to another is a little hectic, but can be financially rewarding. Ten years later, what do you have as a legacy? Nothing.
Leaving a Mark
Right now, I have a career. I have helped to take a few projects, lock them down as long-term successes, and leverage that into additional work for our ECM team. I can look at our projects and not only are they live, but they are growing and evolving. I look at the people that helped me deliver these solutions and I see people that like what they are doing and look forward to the next challenge.
I can point to those things and say that I had a hand in building them. I am not solely responsible for all of it as the foundations were there when I started in my position. I’ve built on those foundations and helped teach others that I work with how to build upon that foundation as well.
What do I have? I have a position that I could never get through contracting. I have job satisfaction. I see the potential for even more rewarding work ahead of me. Some of that work may lead to more money than I could get contracting. I am investing my time and energy into getting there. I am bringing people along for the ride so that their investment of time and energy pays off for them.
Where Are You Going?
When I talk to candidates, many say they are only looking for contract work. Some are young and want to travel. That is a time of life where that free-wheeling can be very rewarding. Some are married and have kids. This saddens me. They aren’t thinking big picture.
If you do contracting work, ask yourself these questions. What are you going to be doing in five years? Ten years? Where will you be?
A job is about paying the bills and buying a lifestyle. A career is about building a future.
I’m building my future these days.
What are you doing?
7 thoughts on “Documentum and ECM…A Career or a Job?”
What am I doing?
I’ve been a Documentum consultant for the past 5 years now. How can I progress as a consultant that do the same things over and over. I still have much to learn but I’m confidant that I have the capacity and desire of getting where I want. But like you said, bills need to be paid and we all want to live today not tommorow.
Lately I started to question myself of what could I expect in the future if I stay a consultant. Where do I want to be in 5 years, what to I want to do, what am I doing today that I still want to do then…
Do you think that being a consultant is a career or just a job?
A discussion!!! Seriously, it depends. Being an independent consultant can build a solid foundation and makes sense for some. After a while, you have to ask yourself, “Am I growing?” Only you can truly answer that question.
A career offers some fulfillment in addition to the paycheck. The focus is not on the paycheck, but looking at the legacy, and the future, that you are building.
I know some independents that used those experiences to build a solid career. Some have grown their self-owned, independent consultant, companies to actually have others work for them. Being a consultant can be a useful stage of your career. It is all in what your plans are.
I’m in consulting. I’m in a career. Since I’ve been a consultant, I’ve looked for organizations to work for that allowed me to grow and gain necessary experience. I came to my current company because they offered me a great opportunity to grow. If that growth potential hadn’t been there, I would have stayed where I was.
The drive behind my post wasn’t that I think independent consulting is bad. It is more that I think that too many people are doing it, some of whom are no longer gaining anything more from it than a paycheck.
Maybe a better distinction would be contractor vs. consultant. Consultant implies an expertise built over time, that is used to educate the customer so they can one day do it themselves. A contractor is just temporary bandwidth, hopefully that has the expertise. All too often it is little more than on the job training for someone else’s employee.
When it comes down to it, a career is not a company. A career is not a project. A career is a progressive succession of experiences that lead to building a body of knowledge and expertise that (hopefully) becomes more valuable over time.
My career (and yours) is in ECM. Contractor, consultant or customer are roles to play. I do believe that contractors who have never been customers or people that have never supported what they built for an extended period are responsible for more than their fair share of the bad reputation and high failure rate in CMS deployments.
The question I have been asking myself lately…within ECM is Documentum still a good choice to focus on for the next 3, 5 or even 10 years? We’re not getting any younger. 😉
It shouldn’t sadden you that someone with a spouse and children wants to do contract work. For someone who has technical expertise and an entrepreneurial spirit, contracting is the way to go. By working different jobs at different clients, you gain a breadth of knowledge that you would not get working in one place for a long time. It’s good to be exposed to a variety of environments. I began my technical career working in the consulting services division of Digital Equipment Corp, then Compaq Computers. When I started, they paid me $48K out of college plus a company car. They also sent us to nice vacation spots once per quarter for “company meetings”. This was great, but they billed me out at $200 an hour. The end clients were Financial (Boston, MA) and State/Local Government. After couple years, and a boat load of experience, I went out on my own and started my own consulting services company. Been doing it ever since. I may be the exception to the rule as my largest Federal client has been my client for almost 10 years. I love the work and the freedom of being a contractor.
As for Lee’s question about focusing on Documentum, that is a really good question. My handle is eRoom expert. Have to change that soon, as eRoom will be fading away. Magellan/ CenterStage will be taking its’ place. We will continue to focus on eRoom and soon… CenterStage/Magellan. But, we will also watch trends and work in other areas as well.
In the meantime, have fun.
I am big fan of Robert Kiyasaki (“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” fame) as he was a key inspiration for me to take the risk of stepping out of the security provided by a paycheck (I never had to worry about this much but for many people today’s economy doesn’t offer much security there either). If you read Tom Peters, he recommends starting with a small-e entrepreneurship (1-person shop) if you are not ready to set up a big business on your own.
Having spent about 13 years with learning on a higher priority than earning (3.5 years in graduate studies and remaining working as an employee where growth was more important than the wages), I am happy to have put the knowledge to work for better financial rewards. There are always learning opportunities, the key determinant is what you do with them. From my perspective, it hasn’t mattered whether I was an employee, consultant while an employee, or consultant while a contractor. Here, I agree with what Lee says above regarding the distinction in terms of roles you play.
Then I have learned a significant amount about running a small business, which I couldn’t have (to the same degree) while I was an employee. I have learned the significance reading and understanding everything that I sign – I had to use a lawyer’s services for the first time. I have learned about accounting and taxes to an extent that I would have never cared for.
With regard to leaving a mark, I have great relationships with people whom I have worked with and I continue to build more. An an independent, I have been able to create IP that an employer would have snagged without a second thought. I have been able to establish an online Documentum community (dm_cram). I have been able to make and implement business decisions that my employer didn’t consider worthy, though they loved me for my technical acumen.
I am not trying to generalize my experience for others – it’s unique for every individual. You also make some good points but I would not agree with them in the blanket “contractor bad, employee good” form.
The bottom line is that the strategic need and financial situation of the employer combined with the quality of the candidate determine whether the employer wants to hire the candidate as an employee. My experience says that if it is a great candidate (only a small percentage qualify), hire him/her in the capacity that he/she is happy with. If you are a great employer, his/her mind may change. If not, you still get great services.
Full time positions worth having are few and far between. I just left one that started with four weeks vacation, good benefits, and good job security. But, it was with a very large firm that is highly regulated. I could hardly blow my nose without putting in multiple different badly designed web based requests. I eventually had my fill and snagged a contract position with a company for which I had been an employee in the past. That previous position died on the altar of outsourcing. I was attracted to the possibility of more technical freedom and less bureaucracy and so far, it has been a good move. Contacting vs. full time employee is a question that, like so many others, depends.
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