[Pdx-pm] An interesting idea this way comes

T. William Schmidt will at williamschmidt.com
Fri Aug 6 15:16:01 CDT 2004

> >>>>> "Josh" == Josh Heumann <perl-pm at joshheumann.com> writes:
>Josh> The Seattle Perl Users Group has been batting about this idea 
>proposed by
>Josh> one of their members.  Here is the email.  What do people think 
>about this
>Josh> sort of think?  We have a lot of Perl People in Portland...
>This is exactly what Stonehenge is setting up to do (and has been
>doing, to a lesser extent).  And yes, I need a bit of profit to cover
>my overhead, but I wanna make a tiny profit on a lot of people, if a
>lot of people are interested.
>Randal L. Schwartz - Stonehenge Consulting Services, Inc. - +1 503 777 0095
><merlyn at stonehenge.com> <URL:http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/>
>Perl/Unix/security consulting, Technical writing, Comedy, etc. etc.
>See PerlTraining.Stonehenge.com for onsite and open-enrollment Perl training!

I have been a professional consultant for 20+ years in Utah, California and 
Oregon, working mostly for small to medium size consulting firms, such as 
my latest in PDX, Kipe & Associates.  In Q1-2003 I decided for the first 
time to hang out my own shingle and have yet to land a new client.  All of 
my work since becoming an independent has been from former clients.

I was Kipe employee #2 in 1991 when Bob Kipe left Cap Gemini and formed his 
own company.  In the 12 years I worked for Bob I had three clients, 2 in 
PDX and one in Spokane, and not one day, not one hour of bench time.  Bob 
died in 2001 and K&A has not been the same since.  I have never had a 
similar experience with any of the many consulting companies I worked for 
prior to K&A.  In fact, I have never had more than a single client 
engagement with any of those companies.  They were all one-time engagements 
and when the project ended, so did my relationship with the company.  I 
shop the Internet every day for new work and what I see is more of the 
same.  I am convinced that if and when I land a new assignment it will be 
another one-time engagement.  Once the project ends I will probably never 
hear from the company again.

Why do you suppose that is?  I believe the model for consultants is one in 
which the head hunters simply match up skill sets with job orders.  I 
believe the consultant is viewed as nothing more than a piece of living 
furniture, to be replaced with a newer version when a current engagement 
ends.  They might make a half hearted attempt to match the skills of 
someone coming off a project with existing open job orders but if there is 
not a good match, the consultant goes on the bench while the recruiter 
searches among strangers for a match.

What was different about Bob Kipe?  Well in the early days, when he was 
hungry, he was a very proactive marketer.  He sought out talent first and 
then found a way to place that talent in companies where he knew 
development work was being undertaken.  He was not overly concerned that 
the talent did not match 100% some set of skills in a job order.  His 
approach was to market very smart people who had done very difficult things 
and could learn the latest new new-thing.  Three times in 12 years he got 
himself and me into companies for a face to face interview with a technical 
decision maker and three times I convinced that hiring manager to take a 
chance on me.  Together we once beat out Oracle Consulting on one project 
and Microsoft Consulting on another.  I had uninterrupted work for a dozen 
years but it got harder as Bob became more successful and less 
hungry.  With big time, for PDX, financial success he became less willing 
to make cold calls on new clients.  Why should he continue to bust his 
hump, since a select set of clients was bringing in all the money he 
desired?  His model changed subtly over time to the more typical quick and 
dirty job match and consultant discard, although to his credit, he was 
still willing to call a prospect where the talent first developed an 
interest.  After he got sick and then weaker from chemo it became impossible.

He also had a very lean and mean financial model.  Since he was a 
one-man-band his overhead was very low.  He could undercut the competition 
and still offer the talent better rates than they could get from any other 
firm in town.  He thus obtained loyalty from both the top and the bottom - 
the clients who enjoyed most favorable billing rates and from the 
consultants who put more money in their pockets.

 From the consultants point of view, I think we are all looking for the Bob 
Kipe's of the IT world, but when they are in their hungry stage.  I want 
someone to market ME to prospects, not see me as a possible match to some 
arbitrary set of skills.  Do you ever wonder about the dilberts who write 
these skill sets?  For example, do you ever wonder what in the world they 
are trying to build when they require both Java and C/C++ proficiency in 
the same person?  Java was created for minds that could not warp themselves 
around C++, so if someone can hold his own professionally in C++, what 
possible interest in Java would such a person have?  Yet to get an audience 
one must be able to show current proficiency in both of these OO 
languages.  If I could get in the door for an interview I could discuss the 
roles of these two languages, and why Perl is actually superior for many 
uses but I never get the chance since the head hunter rejects any but 100% 
skill set matches.

So, it does make some sense for consultants to consider how they might 
organize their collective resources to hire a marketer with the right stuff 
to work for them.  That is not the usual model, the marketers work for the 
client companies who own the job orders.  It is quite another model to 
represent the talent and try to find suitable companies in which to place 
the talent.  The really big firms, such as IBM Global Services are better 
equipped to absorb the cost of some bench time and to pay for training, but 
even they churn the talent at a moments notice.

I once tried to hire someone to market just me but there just was not 
enough money in it for both of us.  The Seattle proposal is both 
interesting and very ambitious.  Ambitious because it focuses on Perl so in 
addition to the usual problem of marketing talent, it intends to evangelize 
Perl.  I wish them well and will stay tuned, and perhaps the marketing 
right-stuff includes in depth knowledge of why Perl is better.  In a 
perfect world it would either not be necessary or if it is, it would 
work.  I am still hoping to find another Bob Kipe.

Will Schmidt

WilliamSchmidt.com, LLC
11201 NW 77th Street
Terrebonne, OR  97760
541 504-0290
will at williamschmidt.com
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