Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ode To The Contractors

"Himawan Nugroho spent his time between jobs last year as a contractor…and discovered it offered a level of control and empowerment that he’d never had before..."

The quote above is taken from an article in this site. It refers to my previous writing about Contractor Wannabe. Well, it's good to know that someone is actually reading that kind of stuff that I wrote :)

I was a contractor, even for only few months. It was during the time when I had resigned from my previous company and before I joined Cisco. Yes, indeed, the article describes exactly how I felt at that time. And I'm discussing again this topic because during the past few projects I've worked with many contractors, and some of them are really helpful.

In this part of the world it's not easy to hire a permanent employee. It takes time and lots of paper work at least for the visa process. And once the project is rewarded we have to start the work immediately, while the process to get someone on board won't be able to catch up. The solution? Hire contractors. They are skillful and available, almost, anytime. How about the working visa? They usually will be involved for short term so business visa should be fine. How about the skill? We can look at their previous experience and even call for quick interview. And once the work has started how if the guy has issue or we are not happy with him? Get the replacement. Easy and no headache. As long as we hire the guy with the right skill and we can allocate the proper work to him, the decision to use the contractors can be really rewarding.

Once I met a guy. He may be the right description of my answer if you'd ask: what do you want to be when you grow old? Single fighter, working for short term, keep moving from one place to another. Living from one hotel to another. His car is always from rental company. He carries his gadgets and magic luggage contains all the stuff he needs to live away from home for months. He got my respect because of the expertise. Got reputation and years of experience. Jason Bourne kind of guy. My kind of guy.

So will I go back to that kind of life style? Not now, at least. Currently I work in a place that I wanted to be. Working in the right team, surrounded by the most talented people. And I have something from my current work that I can't exchange even with a freestyler contractor life: deep level access to the product and technology.

Anyway, I was just trying to build a list of what it takes to become a successful contractor (in network engineering area or technical consulting). With my limited experience as contractor, here it is:

1. Build the reputation. The most important, I believe, are the integrity and responsibility
2. Result oriented. The work must be done successfully no matter what, within the agreed timeline
3. Adaptable, flexible, able to handle the pressure and sudden changes in the project
4. Possess extensive experience in different types of project with multiple roles
5. Able to work independently, but at the same time able to work as part of the team
6. Good communication skill and can easily blend with customers from any types, anywhere, in any circumstances
7. Specialize and focus in one technology area but know other stuff to certain level. For example, expert in Core IP/MPLS network but understand as well the access layer, security, physical layer, data center and so on
8. Able to work as multiple roles: engineer, consultant, architect, project manager etc
9. Always update the skills, fast and continuous learner. Willing to invest on skill update, lab, and any tools that can assist in delivering the work
10. Know how to market yourself: social networking, keep the contacts with previous customers, always update the CV, etc

When I look at the list above, I started to think that the list is a must not only to become a contractor, but as well as to stay competitive in the market even as permanent employee! It may be the one that keep our job during the financial crisis like today. I wouldn't know for sure, but it seems like I will bookmark this post to remind me that even a Triple CCIE can be replaced anytime. And the only ones that can save my job are those 10 points.

To all contractors, this post is for you.