Last time we met, I finished up by talking about all of the crazy work involved in pairing the right consultant/contractor with the right client project.
In my line of work, I get to see a whole lot of SQL Server projects – both good and bad – and work with the teams involved in building them. More often than not, I see contracting companies who have taken some disturbing shortcuts with horrifying results.
See, bad contracting companies have a huge sales force that goes out and asks customers, “Hey, what problems are you having? Sure, we can solve those. Just sign here.” They make impossible promises about their – well, YOUR – capabilities and timelines.
If you fail at the technical task, the salespeople will blame you.
And they’ll put another contractor in in your place in an effort to continue harvesting commission.
The larger the company, the more barriers come between the technical delivery people and the salespeople. You just get thrown into crappy situations with no chance of success. Classic conversation:
- Salesperson: “Go to Acme Anvils on Monday and implement PowerBI in two weeks.”
- Geek: “But I’ve never used PowerBI.”
- Salesperson: “You sure as hell better not tell them that, because I sold you as a PowerBI expert.”
So the geek reads blogs and watches videos all weekend, then shows up on Monday to find a client in an absolute mess. The real problem isn’t BI – the real problem is that they’ve got a mainframe, a SQL Server database, and a bunch of sales data stored in Access and Excel files. She phones home for help:
- Geek: “Wait – this client isn’t anywhere near ready to do PowerBI.”
- Salesperson: “OK, tell them what they need to do to make it work.”
- Geek: “I don’t know how this could possibly work. Is there someone I can talk to about this?”
- Salesperson: “We don’t have anybody else available. I can’t take you off this project – we don’t have any other work for you. You don’t want to end up on the bench again, do you?”
- Geek: “…”
- Salesperson: “So get started. Do whatever needs to be done to cross the finish line with their first BI Power thingy. I’ve got a bunch of other prospects who will want you to do this after the first one succeeds, and there’s a $10k bonus in it for you.”
So the geek works late every day, building a duct-taped ETL process to shuffle data around between different systems. Nobody at the client has any idea what’s going on, and the geek knows this whole thing will collapse as soon as she leaves.
But they manage to put together enough smoke and mirrors that it looks good long enough for the management stakeholders to sign off.
The geek leaves for a month, and then gets a call from the salesperson.
- Salesperson: “Great news! Acme Anvils loved you, and they’re putting you on a long term contract.”
- Geek: “Wait, that place was a hole, a total mess, and – “
- Salesperson: “I know! They said the whole implementation collapsed after you left, and they need you back to make it a success. They want you to repair it, then expand it to also bring in six more data sources.”
- Geek: “I’d rather stick a fork in my – “
- Salesperson: “It gets even better. They’ll let you telecommute for one day a week!”
- Geek: “Well…I guess…”
And that’s how geeks go from happiness to misery as contractors.
But hey, the money’s good.