The problem with working for a "High End" high tech consulting company.

Medium to large sized high tech consulting companies have no heart or soul.  They treat their employees the same as their clients, maximize profit and minimize expenses (including training).

I once heard a great quote, "Any consultant that is on salary is a fool".  This is such a great quote in so many ways.  A straight salary is a leveling device, it kills excellance.  This may be ok for corporations with many employees and many HR rules, but it is the death for a small/medium consulting company.  I have to admit that I was a fool under this definition...

  I know that at the consulting company that I worked for the average billing rate was $146 per hour.  The average salary for an engineer/consultant was $80,000 per year (arround $39/hour).
(note: I use the words engineer and consultant interchangeabily because in 2002 all engineers where renamed consultants for marketing purposes) Yet, this company claimed to be losing money!  How is this possible?  Could it be because of the top heavy management structure?  In my direct line of reporting, there was a Account Manager for DC (District of Columbia), Consulting Director for DC, HR representative for DC, Regional Director of Mid Atlantic, VP of Mid Atlantic, and SVP of Mid Atlantic.  (BTW, the DC office had 9 engineers when I left.  The Mid Atlantic probably had around 30 engineers).  Then there is the expensive office on Broadway in New York city with the CEO, the guy doing the CEO's job (I don't understand this), CTO, CFO, Treasurer, VP of HR, VP of Accounting, VP of operations, VP of media relations, Director of HR, Director of operations, Director of media relations, around 8 accounting people, and around 8 operations people who maintained the crappy internal systems which crashed every other weekend.  All of this for a company with a grand total of 400 employees of which only 250 where consultants (revenue producers). 

   Sadly, the "high end" (their words) consulting company that I worked for has followed the race to the bottom.   They are reducing salaries and in increasing billing rates.  Their new modus operandi seems to be to hire long time unemployeed, inexperienced, and desparate engineers at a really low salary and hope that their "expensive" and experienced engineers quit.  Interestingly, they no long give out stock options (not that they were worth anything since they are not a public company).  I have to really wonder who is hiring these companies and why.  (I guess part of the problem is the US tax code, consultants are a capital expense and can be written off in the current year whereas employees are a tax liability).

  What is happening today is that the client is paying for the training of the consulting company's inexperienced employees.  Training budgets went the way of the Internet bubble, they are gone.  The consulting companies advertise their consultants as "bleeding edge" technologist, but this is not true.  The last time any consultant had any training was probably with the last (non-consulting) company that they worked for.  This is so bizarrie, but this is what is happening.

Fun tidbits from my days as a consultant:

I joined the company in 2000 when networking was hot.  The company does great setting up networks all over the place.  The company hires a bunch of fibre engineers.  Then the Networking/Fibre bubble burst.  The company fires a bunch of fibre engineers.

I'm assigned to a top 5 US government contractor to fix their internal UNIX systems because all of their UNIX people quit.  Why does the US government hire incompetent contractors that can't even run their own systems?

I get a new boss (called a PSD, Program Services Director)

I attend serveral all hands meetings, we are told that the company has great EBITDA (for those that don't know, a fake accounting number used to make everything sound great.  It basically means revenue before any expenses.)

I get a new PSD.

I have my review.  I'm excellent, but there is no raise because the company is lossing money.

The company decides that it needs "critical mass" and opens offices all over the US and europe.  Then the european networking bubble burst and the company closes a bunch of european offices, getting sued along the way for violating european labor laws (which they didn't investigate before hiring a bunch of european engineers).

My government contractor contract wraps up after 5 extensions (1.75 years) (because the goverment contractor couldn't hire anyone to take my place (could pay be a problem??)

The company randomly lays off 10% of the engineers in the DC office.

I'm assigned to a telco that is going down the tubes, I'm told to find something to do.  Why the telco hired us I do not know.  I end up writting a really cool CDM management system in PHP.  The telco goes belly up and my neat little project never sees the light of day. (.5 years)

My old PSD is assigned to me.

I attend all of the all hands meetings, EBITDA is still great.

I have my review.  I'm excellent, but there is no raise because the company is lossing money.

The company lays off 10% of the senior engineers in the DC office.

The company decides to be a security company, it hires a bunch of security guys.  Then the company's servers get hacked and data is published on the Internet.  The company fires a bunch of security guys.

The company buys a failing consulting company and fires just about everyone.  No one really knows what resources the company bought, but they did get rid of one competitor.

I'm assigned to a US goverment agency with one of the guys left from the failing consulting company.  He's supposed to be a stress testing expert, he's not.  He quits a couple of months latter leaving me holding the bag on a very complex stress test and networking project.  I manage to finish the project by myself (1 year).

My PSD quits, I get a new PSD.

Strangely, my timecards start getting signed by the Regional Director.  I guess that my new PSD has quit.

The company lays off 35% of the senior engineers in the DC office.

The company decides that "engineers" are out and "consultants" are in.  They rename all engineers to consultants.  However, they never send out new business cards so while the sales guys are selling consulting services, my card still says engineer.
Also, under the new consulting title, no one knows what their title is any more.  I think that I'm a "optimization and performance consultant", but I'm not sure.

I get a new PSD, now called a Consulting Director (CD)

I'm assigned to a Telco to fix some Oracle problems and work on their UNIX systems.  Very cool assignment.  My contract is extended 5 times (1.25 years).

I attend all of the all hands meetings, EBITDA is still great.

I have my review.  I'm excellent, there is no raise, and, my salary is being cut because the company is lossing money.

I quit the company.

Copyright © 1993-Present by Robert Barnes

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