Should you be a consultant?

By Mark Leon, InfoWorld |  Business

SPRING, THE season of renewal, was in the air, and Carl Lucas was bored with his
job as the senior network engineer for a financial company in San Francisco.

"I was frustrated with the corporate environment," says Lucas. "It was bogged down
in bureaucracy, and I wanted to move faster, to explore the frontiers of
technology."

So Lucas, like many of his peers in corporate IT, ventured into the brave new world
of technology services. Consulting, systems integration, and application services all
represent different flavors of the services industry.

Xuma, the San Francisco start-up that wooed Lucas outside the corporate mold, is a
new breed of company that combines consulting, systems integration, and application
hosting for the new Internet economy. "We do 'build to order' e-business," says Lucas,
who is now Xuma's senior architect.

Whether IT pros want to work for a new breed of player such as Xuma or one of the
established firms such as KPMG Consulting, now seems to be an opportune time to explore
the options. As varied as the service firms are, they all have one thing in common -- a
shortage of skilled professionals.

"It is absolutely a terrific time to be thinking about consulting as a career,"
says David Flaxman, managing director and co-founder of AnswerThink Consulting Group,
in Miami. "Services are the fastest-growing area of our economy. We are growing at 50
to 60 percent a year, so staffing is always one of our greatest concerns."

Working in a business IT department can be a great place to acquire the skills that
consulting organizations so badly need. And many have gone from being a loyal staffer
at one company to the high-octane environment of consulting where loyalty is fluid. It
is the kind of move that, for the right person, can mean greater career satisfaction,
more money, and simply more fun.

But it's not for everyone. Consulting, although it may require many of the same
skills that make up a successful corporate IT worker, is a different world. "If you
like stability and don't want a lot of change, consulting is not a job for you," says
Marianne Hedin, an analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC), in Framingham, Mass.

Don Thompson, a partner at Deloitte Consulting, in Toronto, agrees. "This is a fast-
changing environment," Thompson says. "It can be a big adjustment to move from working
for a single IT department to working with a consulting staff for a wide variety of
clients. So if you are just looking for a new career ... this is not an easy one."

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