Consulting Chronicles: From Strangers to Allies

Consulting Chronicles: From Strangers to Allies
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So, I've just landed on a new project, first one in my consulting career and, even though I'm a Senior Engineer and already have decent experience, it feels like the first day of school. I was joining a team of consultants with mixed backgrounds, my manager an I were the only technical ones on a full systems rewrite project. Most of them were working with the client for a while, but I was the shiny new addition, tasked with kickstarting the DevOps revolution. No pressure, right?. I knew no one in the project, only my manager and I was also new to the company, and I had to start getting familiar with the organization, the project and all the people.

Wooing the Client: Charm offensive!

This was the first and one of the most important things I had to do as soon as I landed in Riyadh and entered the client's site. My task: start the inexistent DevOps stream and, oh boy, when I say start, I really mean it, there was no standard DevOps practice in the entire organization. The challenge: I was a stranger, no one knew me and, as consultants, we are seen as outsiders and it's not as easy as just ask and get answers.

To be fair, I didn't have it that difficult. I relied on the other consultants to introduce me to the relevant stakeholders. The first step, for me, was to get the client to like me. I made it part of my daily routine just pass by everyone's desk and just greet them, do a bit of small talk and carry on, this way when I needed to actually ask for some information it wouldn't feel transactional. Here my sense of humor came very handy, cranking jokes and make people laugh is a great way to break the ice.

The secret sauce here is listen more than you talk, people likes to talk about themselves, asking questions about what they're saying shows genuine interest. I learned this by shadowing my manager like a ninja on his conversations and soaking everything like a sponge.

Once I got my key stakeholders to like me as a person, I had to gain their trust as an engineer, my experience speaking at conferences came handy here, I had to prepare presentations about what DevOps is and how it would benefit the organization, best practices in DevOps, a plan to implement it in the bank, discussions with their tech leads about ideas and their current processes and give my recommendation and the north star vision of how it should be done and the steps to reach there based on their current state. This is when I found out my speaking is good, but my slides were terrible, still working on this and trying to improve.

It's very important to have a systematic approach to build relationships faster while also keeping yourself honest and authentic, clients value personality, or at least this was my experience in this project, in the end, we're all humans after all.

Squad Goals: Bonding with Your Team

Alright, so you’ve won over the client, but let’s not forget about your partners in crime – your project team! These are the folks who will have your back in the good and bad times, so it's very important to get close to them.

No need for formalities with your team, in the end you're all on the same boat – just be yourself. Stay humble, keep it real, and please, for the love of all things sacred, don’t be that obnoxious know-it-all.

With your team, as well as the client, it is extremely important to make time to help if they need you. No matter how busy I was, if anyone, specially someone from my project team, needed my help or technical insight about any topic, I made the time to be there and support.

Remember, relationships are the secret sauce in consulting. Try to make true connections with people and be transparent and helpful and remember to stay kind to everyone and true to yourself.