By Judy Mottl
Executive tech leaders considering a career move into consulting need to avoid one big mistake: don't undersell yourself and your capabilities.
To be a successful CIO consultant you must reach out to top-level leaders within the client organization, illustrate how your skills and knowledge can boost their business and never doubt yourself.
"In the beginning, I spent a lot of cycles trying to work with (as I later realized) gatekeepers and consistently undersold myself," recalls Ilya Bogorad, principal, Bizvortex Consulting based in Canada.
Bogorad walked away from a comfortable and promising corporate role three years ago to open his own IT consulting shop. His goal was to help companies align tech groups with corporate business models.
The biggest challenge, he says, was convincing himself that his work was valuable. He recalls the moment of enlightenment with clarity.
"One day, after reading books by famous consultants Peter Block and Alan Weiss, I suddenly came to the conclusion that I had not been fully appreciating my own value. It was a beautiful, liberating moment," says Bogorad.
But making the decision to move into consulting takes some confidence, especially in light of the current financial climate and job security concerns.
That's the main reason IT executive recruiter Shawn Banerji, at Russell Reynolds Associates, isn't encouraging sitting CIOs to change up executive roles for consulting unless there is something absolutely untenable with their role.
"CIOs have had a long tradition of 'putting out their own shingles' in starting consulting businesses, and it can be as simple as doing independent contract work to leveraging a national platform," explains Banerji.
That's because consulting, says the recruiter, can be a great way for CIOs in transition to stay active, keep skills sharp, generate income and have a better pulse of the marketplace and trends than sitting surfing job boards.
"Some CIOs wrongly believe consulting might preclude them from investing in a full-time job search or create a conflict in exploring opportunities. We have not seen the latter and encourage CIOs to at least consider the former," says Banerji.
Another challenge in moving into consulting, he adds, is the fact that CIOs will find themselves taking direction from lower management levels that they likely had not interacted with as a sitting tech leader.
"Ego and status aside, most CIOs site a 'lack of ownership' when serving in consulting or advisory roles," explains Banerji. "This dynamic is something that many don't consider when considering consulting roles and one that many find frustrating."
While his firm doesn't follow consulting opportunities as part of its practice, Banerji said there are CIO consulting opportunities in the market at this point. Companies wants consultants as an economical approach to putting a tech leader in place, or seek an interim or project-based consultant for specific efforts, he said.
Once you do take the leap, success is tied to marketing, says Borogard, as is personal motivation.
"As an independent, you do everything around your little company from strategic decisions to making coffee," he says. "The corporate life provides a structure which enables you to deliver. On your own, you need a tremendous sense of motivation to perform at your best."
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