I was thinking the other day about how it takes an equal blend of different skills in order to be a good, effective computer consultant. I drafted a simple Venn Diagram to really visualize for myself, and others, how those different skills work together to create the different facets of a computer consultant.
If you are weak in any of these three skills, then being a computer consultant might not be the right job for you. Lets take a deeper look at each of the facets mentioned in the picture.
If you don’t know your way around a computer, you have no business being a computer consultant. There are many ways to skin the proverbial tech cat, so this is wide open to many different skill sets. Web design, programming, hardware, software, or some kind of mixture of all of them can be enough to get you going. But tech skills are only the beginning.
To me, business savvy is knowing how to bring all the aspects of a business together into a cohesive whole. Legal, finance, inventory, branding, marketing, organization, and many other hats are worn by the savvy business person. But most importantly, he or she understands how these must work together to bring in a profit, because ultimately a business must make money.
Interpersonal skills are probably the most overlooked characteristic , yet the simplest to define. It basically boils down to interacting with people in a positive way. Many technicians shy away from social interactions, and that’s fine, but that’s not a good trait for a computer consultant. Meeting with people face-to-face and winning them over is a crucial aspect of the job, and lacking this will mean a quick end to your consulting business.
Someone with strong technical skills and keen business savvy will make a great tech entrepreneur. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckergberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are examples of great tech entrepreneurs. They know the technology behind the product and have the business mind to grow those ideas into big profits. These folks are often not interfacing directly with their customers, instead often staying in the background or only appearing to make speeches and rally the troops.
A good marketer knows how to convey the right message for the company. A good sales person knows how to deliver that message to people so they will buy. This requires a knowledge of how business works along with the people skills to make the sale. One thing that isn’t necessary to be a good marketer or salesperson is a thorough understanding of the technical side of things. You really only need to know as much as is necessary to get people to buy your product, after that the ball is in someone else’s court.
A teacher must have a deep grasp of the subject they’re teaching. Technical teachers must be able to lead by example. Yet, if you’re not able to capture the hearts and minds of your students with good people skills, a lot of what you teach will fall on deaf ears. Teachers don’t normally need to know how to start a business, instead concentrating on influencing and shaping the minds of future leaders.
A computer consultant is a unique mix of all of the above. You’re down in the trenches as much as you are in the office. You’re CEO, employee, and grunt at the same time. If you want to be a computer consultant, make sure you excel at all of these skills. If you are already a consultant, acknowledge all the different traits you have and work on growing the aspects that are weakest.
Do you think this diagram represents our profession well? What should I add or take away from the chart? Let me know in the comments.