Tour of being an independent test consultant - Tester Tested !

Hiya! Hope you are doing very well. I am Pradeep Soundararajan, your tour guide for the next few minutes. I am glad you chose to take this tour of being an independent test consultant.

Here are some questions you might have: How does it feel to be an independent test consultant? What is it like to be one such in India? Will I be able to survive? Will I make enough money to run my family? Will I make as much money as the organization I am employed is paying me? Will I get enough paid work? What if I don't get paid work for a long time? Will people want my kind of skills? How do I know someone needs a consultant? How do I get clients? How will my family take this? What do I explain to my spouse? What kind of a pressure does society add when I am not in any paid work for a while? How does it feel to work from home not just for a day but for an entire month, or maybe a year or more? Will I have enough money to pay my home loan EMI?

These are some common questions that have popped up from those who have wanted to take the tour. So, if you have these questions or maybe even more, you won't be disappointed with this tour.

Some people ask me, "Hey, can you give me a few clients of yours and help a fellow Indian to also be an independent consultant?" I want to help people be independent consultants in India. By that, of course, I mean, I'd like to see them do stuff that helps them get credibility, reputation, paid work and clients for themselves.

I'd like to take you through the journey of having been an independent consultant. A journey that is not so often written or spoken about

Tour Point 1: Knowing enough about enough

If you want to be an independent test consultant, there are some prerequisites that you need to fulfill. You need to be bold enough, skilled enough, curious enough, pleasing enough and willing to talk to people or do some work good enough to get good enough people to talk to you.

That's a magical formula right? No one knows what "enough" means and hence it is a problem and an opportunity in disguise. If you knew what "enough" meant, you are kinda through to anything you want to achieve. I think, not knowing how much is "enough" makes you to work hard and get close enough. Oops, close enough?

I have been able to survive so far. I have no clue if my current skills are enough for me to survive for the next year and I am on a constant upgrade of skills and knowledge. I invest money on learning and my investment for July 2010 is on a few books, Ethical Hacking Guide to Corporate Security by Ankit Fadia & Job Interviews - Walter Vierera. Time is a much more important investment than money for me. So, just by spending money on those books wouldn't mean much unless I make a further investment of time on it.

Tour point 2: Love for failures

Many projects today suffer because people working on it aren't willing to try new ideas. They are special people on earth who know things would fail even before trying them out. However, as a consultant, if you try to be like them, you'd be expensive for your clients. You would do what their employees are doing for a price much higher than the employee cost.

Its important to not fail at a client's location but should that stop me and you from loving failures? I have a lab where I can experiment ideas whose results I don't know yet and that lab is the world of my colleagues, community and my gurus.

It's OK to fail, once in a while, at a client's location because even if you do great stuff, there could be things beyond your control that might make it look very bad. However, if you can get that client to call you back for more paid work in future, it boosts your confidence a great deal.

It happened to me. I was black listed in an organization and now they not just white listed me but want to work with me closer. Their CEO is in direct touch with me. If I feared failing, I would have done more mediocre stuff than what they thought I actually did.

Tour point 3: Excellence instead of money

India is a great place for some inspiring movies. I strongly recommend that you watch the movie "3 idiots". No, don't Google and read the story, just watch it. There are several good messages in it and one of them is, "Excellence instead of money". This movie is a super duper hit in India. I just wish people not just like such movies but also bring in necessary changes to their lives.

I want to be rich but I want to be rich while I am excellent. I wouldn't mind money coming on my way but money wouldn't necessarily make me feel rich. I want to be rich in testing skills and knowledge. I want to be rich in knowing many testers and how they work. In the process, if money follows, I am super happy.

Tour point 4: Don't expect people around you to understand what you are trying to do

When an article about me appeared on a few national news papers, my article was published on a few magazines, I was interviewed by CNBC TV18, I was on news for a local TV channel, my parents were so proud of me that I can bet they were flying high. However, whenever they see me sitting in home for more than a week without any paid work, they start to ask me, "Why don't you join some company like Infosys?"

If you expect your parents or spouse to completely understand what independent test consulting means then you'd be inviting disappointment. I was expecting them to understand what I was trying to do but experience teaches that I shouldn't. This has nothing to do with the respect we have for them but a learning of what we can't help them understand.

While at home, I am glued to the computer, trying to learn something, practice testing or support my clients post my onsite engagement or reply to emails. Some people around me take it for granted that I am jobless. Someone calls me and say, "Hey, you are at home only na, so why don't you come pick our luggage and keep it there?" It irritates a lot. I am at home but not jobless. I am trying to generate a paid work, which is a part of my work. People don't understand that. So, be ready for all that.

Tour point 5: No promotions and no designation change

If you were used to being an employee for long and then chose to be a consultant, you must know that there is no one who is going to give you a promotion. It is what you call yourself that matters. I am calling myself a Consulting Tester or just an Independent Test Consultant. If I am bored of it in 2012, I may call myself a Senior Consulting Tester. I give myself fancy title sometimes. I was calling myself a Test Magician and then I am now calling myself a Brainual Tester.

Tour point 6: Being an independent consultant doesn't mean you are the expert

Without saying much, I am not an expert and I am an independent consultant. James Bach, Michael Bolton, Elizabeth Hendrickson, Jerry Weinberg, Scott Barber, Matt Heusser, Jonathan Kohl, Karen Johnson are experts who are independent consultants. People like Ben Simo, Jon Bach, Cem Kaner, Vipul Kocher, Ashok are experts who are employees. There are some good thinkers and future experts like Meeta Prakash, Parimala, Lanette Creamer, Ajay, Santhosh Tuppad, Sajjadul Hakim, Ramit Manohar, Sharath Byregowda, Shmuel Gershon, Issi Hassan, Markus Gartner, who are employees, too.

So, independent consultants don't necessarily mean an expert. Employee don't necessarily mean a non expert. If I had to be an independent consultant only after becoming an expert, I wouldn't have been one till now. If I don't be an independent consultant, I don't know if I would ever get close enough to an expert while being an employee.

So, if you are waiting to be an expert and then be an independent consultant because you thought there was a strong relationship between them, you could be wrong.

Tour point 7: Tackling loneliness

Even in 2nd most populous country in the world, there are a lot of people I have seen who feel lonely. So, loneliness is not about people not being around you but about people whom you want to be around you not being around you. For me, my first wife is my laptop, just like many others I guess. So, despite having two wives (laptop and the one to whom I am married), I get lots of situations where I feel lonely. Loneliness is not always a problem; its a blessing in disguise. Ask our fellow bloggers, they'd tell you that they churned out a cool post during such situations.

However, being an independent consultant and working from home means, I have no colleagues that I meet on a daily basis. I meet a lot of new people every year but meet the same people very few times. Having no colleagues to meet on a daily basis means frustration at times.

When I go through Facebook or Orkut and see some people posting photos of their team member's birthday party celebrations, team outing to a hill station, team lunch, going to movie as a team... it hurts me a lot. I just take it as though I am in a penance of becoming a good tester and I have to bear with all of it. Recently, I was pissed off when I found no one to join me for a movie that I wanted to go. Even if I did find, their timing and my timing was off. Hey, employees are pissed off too. So, I am still fine.

To enjoy the tour continue to read on from here:

 Source: Tester Tested - Pradeep Soundararajan's Software Testing Zen


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