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FortKnox's Journal: The Joy of Consulting... and my new dilemma 31

Journal by FortKnox
I apologize for the writing style and such, but thist is just a brain dump...

Every job I've had since college has been consulting.
Its a nice deal. I usually work with the latest technologies (have two years of struts under my belt already, etc...), and enjoy the work. Because companies hire away contractors (the 'right to hire' clause in contracts are pretty standard, now), the consulting companies have to make for a fantastic environment so that they keep their employees.
It has its advantages that if you are on an assignment that is particularly bad, no fears because you can inform your consulting firm not to renew your contract (or backfill it with someone else), so you only have to work through the contract and you are out.
There are disadvantages of being removed from projects you enjoyed because your contract is up and they no longer need you. I make friends in every place, which seems like an advantage because I have contacts in all the major businesses around Cincinnati, but its not like coworker friends, as I never really get to know them because I'm usually out of a project after so many months.

Well, yesterday my current client asked me if I'd entertain an offer. He thought I'd immediately say no, because I do work for a fantastic company, but its really silly to not at least hear what they are willing to offer[1]!
Now comes my delimma... most clients I work for have pretty terrible IT departments (the worst I've been in happen to be banking and financial institutions... scary, isn't it?[2]). This client, though, is a grocery chain (a top 5, and its not Walmart). Their IT department is very well structured and very well managed. I can't say its been the best assignment, but my boss is really quite a fantastic boss, and I really get along with the people I know...
However, in my current (consulting) company, two of the main managers (they'd be directors if my company was large enough) have really taken notice of me and are fast tracking me into a pretty high and powerful position. A position that was vacated this past Monday. I am really young in the company, though, and the position is for a technology that's really important to the president and such, and I don't know if they are willing to put me into such a position...

So, Monday I hear the clients proposal. Of course, I was thinking that I could use this to my advantage and pit the companies against one another so I end up the winner......
But I was talking to my father about it (HR bigwig for a very large fortune 500). Pitting companies against one another does nothing but ruin your reputation for doing it. Basically, when I get an offer, he says the best thing is to ask my client for 48 hours to make a decision, and tell my (consulting) company that I've gotten an offer that I am considering and will make a decision in 48 hours and thats it. If my (consulting) company really thinks I'm valuable, they will sit me down and try and throw money and such at me to keep me. But, what really got me, was when my father said "If your company gives you more money cause you are valuable, why are they giving it to you now that you are threatening to leave?"

If you remember the whole Chicago trip and my "being important to my (consulting) company" JE's, you'd know I'm trying to get myself into a large position. This position is basically the technical leader of a new technology that will be VERY large and is very important to the company. The person in that position was trained in the tech by me (I learned it in the Chicago trip). The only people that know it (including him) have recently been hired away to other companies. That leaves me as the sole person that knows it... besides that I was the one that knew it the best... So many think I'm in position to get it.
My hopes are I get a good offer from my client, take it back to my consulting firm and they offer me similar salary and the new position... I'm just afraid that won't happen....
I guess I'm sick of being the 'young kid' in the company. I don't want it to bite me in the ass. I've been with the company for a long time compared to most of the others, but when they hire people in the company, its usually into a very senior position, so I never grow higher in position. That, along with the fact that most java developers just want to program, when I want to get into a management position, so they don't even really talk about moving into managment positions to java guys...

I think I may be looking a gift horse in the mouth. If I took the client position, I can make it clear that I want to move up, and I believe it wouldn't be difficult, because a lot of the guys that have moved up did it kicking and screaming because they just want to program. But if I get the position I want with my current company, I'd end up at a very high mangement position, quickly...


[1] I have actually said no to even hearing an offer from the very first client I had at my current consulting firm. The reason was I had a very bad experience and an absolutely terrible boss, and you couldn't pay me enough to continue working for her... but thats another JE...

[2] For as much rigid organization that is in most bankings financial departments, most bankings IT departments are complete and utter chaos. The only way I'd join in that madness is as a 'bigwig' in charge of changing it around...
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The Joy of Consulting... and my new dilemma

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  • ... even if the money is the same. You always have the options of
    1. continuing to help your current employer (the consultancy) as an outside consultant/advisor part time
    2. your father was right about the "why now" bit. this will always be held against you
  • Sometimes the best way to move up is to move on.

    Think about it. Its really quite a shame that I very much so enjoy my current employment; I'm sure I could work up a much higher salary by lateralling.

    However if we move in 2 years I won't hesitate to shop around.

    So nevermind forcing your current employers hand. Infact, you'll be making their job easier because instead of having 5 candidates in the running including you, they'll now only have 4!!! Is the offer from Kroger a good deal or not?

    Your compa
    • Is the offer from Kroger a good deal or not?

      What sleuthing did you enploy to come to the conclusion that my client is Krogers??
      • From my point of view, it had to be Kroger. Big grocery chain, not WalMart, Downtown. Pretty straight forward. I would like to know what bank you're talking about, if it's one of the local ones.
        • No way... I'm not publicly defaming a previous client. I'd be happy to tell you on the phone or in person, but not over the net (and not over email).
          • I didn't mean in public, jeez. I'm not THAT dumb :)

            Mostly i'm just wondering if i've ran into you, since i've contracted at a few of the local banks...
      • I have a co-worker who used to work for Kroger in Cincy WAAAYYY back when they were first installing check-out lane scanners. So when you said '
        'Cincinnati' and 'large grocery chain' it was prettty easy to put 2+2 together.

        I don't know about working for a grocery chain nowadays. Isn't the large W-headed beast causing trouble for the large grocery-only compnaies? I was under the impression that that business operates under pretty thing profit margins as it is.......

        • I don't know what the status of it is, but I do recall hearing rumblings a few years back through the Wal-Mart ranks when I was doing work for them that they were testing out a few pilot "Wal-Mart Neighborhood" stores in the midwest/south area, which would basically be a Wal-Mart grocery store, to compete with the Food Lions, Farm Freshes, and Krogers.
          • Was in one in Richardson Texas back in march, looks like a national/regional chain grocery store, nothing special, but the prices matched up against another grocery store in that part of town (Can't remember its name, its back behind the Wendy's on Preston Road)
      • None at all.

        Tom Wolfe's "A Man In Full" has a main character Charlie Croker, who is the president of a big grocery company or something. Somewhere I heard there was some correlation to Kroger (a company I had never heard of before).

        Heard you talk about grocery, first thing my brain spit up was Kroger. wanted to make sure they were actually a grocery company and not something else, so I did a google for "Kroger Grocery" and sonufagun, "Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio," from their website.
        • You may not of heard of them, but if you tell me what state you are in, I could pretty much tell you which grocery chain they own in your state (its the 2nd biggest chain next to Walmart).
          • Kewl. I'm in Maryland right now (in MD-VA-DC area) but I grew up in NY.
            Walbaums? Shopright? Stop n Shop? Super fresh? Giant? Safeway? Shop-rite? Food Emporium? Macgruders? (Off the top of my dome)

            However I'm sure they don't own Whole Foods.
          • QFC and Fred Meyer out here.

            I wonder if they will eventually decide they need to have a national brand and rebrand all of the chains they own as "Kroger". It seems businesses swing back and forth between wanting to keep a strong local brand and wanting a national well-known brand.
      • I knew it as soon as I read it, too. Come on, Kroger owns Cincy when it comes to grocery stores. ;)
      • How hard can this be?

        Cincinnati, and top 5 grocery chain doesn't leave too many options. Especially since I suspect that Safeway and Albertson's don't have any major IT operations in Ohio.
  • Pitting companies against one another does nothing but ruin your reputation for doing it. Basically, when I get an offer, he says the best thing is to ask my client for 48 hours to make a decision, and tell my (consulting) company that I've gotten an offer that I am considering and will make a decision in 48 hours and thats it. If my (consulting) company really thinks I'm valuable, they will sit me down and try and throw money and such at me to keep me. But, what really got me, was when my father said "I

  • Disclaimer: I tend to be _very_ risk averse on this stuff, so take with that grain of salt.

    1) I agree with your father, especially about trying to play hardball.

    2) Seems to me you're in a situation you like, where they like you and they're making a sincere effort to give you an upwards path. If that's accurate, I'd be leery about jumping ship for an unknown situation.

  • If you tell your current employer about the offer at all, that's the way to do it.

    I wouldn't fret too much about the "why am I worth more only when I'm threatening to leave" part, though. It's something to be cautious of, but given everything else you say is going on there at the moment, I think it's a background concern.

    Good luck!
  • ...I don't know if playing companies against each other always works for your benefit. A former coworker tried to do that at my last place of employer, and currently is looking for a job, but I also think he screwed something up in the sequencing of events.

    He entertained an offer from a competing firm, then turned in his resignation, and I guess assumed he would discuss a counter offer with the boss when he did that. Instead, the boss took the letter, and told him I am sorry to see you go, but good luck.
    • I asked about the tech position. Since its brand new and we don't have clients using it yet (though there are many contracts that are in the works), they aren't in a rush to pick someone new to handle it.
      However, in this discussion, I was asked about my interest in the position...
  • Wouldn't happen to be A-Hold, the European conglomerate that owns a variety of grocery chains in the US including Stop & Shop? I interviewed for them a bunch of times, and the "architect" position basically came down to "We already have a bunch of Cobol people and we don't want to hire Java people, so your job will be to teach Java to the Cobol people."

    I think I left skid marks running out of there.

    • No, but I have done that similar job before in a variety of places. Its not tough if you start with OOP before Java and take your time (I enjoy training people and teaching, though)...

    • "We already have a bunch of Cobol people and we don't want to hire Java people, so your job will be to teach Java to the Cobol people."

      Man, replace "Java" with "C#" and... and... *bursts into tears*

  • weight the pros and cons of one job against the other.

    Figure out which one you'd be more content at long term. Go with that one.

    My biggest question when looking for employement was "How high/far can I go?"
    • My biggest question when looking for employement was "How high/far can I go?"

      I should've done that when taking my current job.

      As for real advice, FK, I have nothing for you. I've never been in your position, and I don't think I'm likely to be for at least 10 years, at which time I won't be "the young kid", but "the old guy".

      Be happy you're having to make that choice. :)

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