Independent Consulting: An Alternative to Employment

I started working for myself due to a challenging boss. I had never experienced that level of upset in a working situation. I was convinced it was because I was powerless as an employee and vowed to achieve my sovereignty through this experience. It wasn’t personal, that’s how any employee would be treated in a bad system. Even though I had people above me that seemed to highly regard my work (automation specialist), they could not help me. When I started looking around I realized that there was a whole world of higher paying more rewarding work situations wrapped up in contracts. As an independent consultant, I was treated better, paid more, trained myself in what I liked and had autonomy. I never looked back. I started CPI back in 2000. I could be as honest as called for and didn’t represent a vendor or an agenda except what was right and strategic for the client. I was no different than a hardware or software budget line but I was being up-front about my services as a commodity. It seemed to be a more balanced arrangement in power and optionality for us both.

The ICCA and Ethics

So, I come from a very different time where many of my proud tribe would be in organization (i.e. ICCA Independent Computer Consultants Association ) and even swear an oath to a code of ethics. 

Now, In 2019, it seems an industry-wide hegemony that all tech-workers are salaried employees. In 2020 state laws (in NJ,MA and CA) have been structured to mandate employment to protect gig-workers (Uber,Lyft drivers) from the greed of ridesharing companies. This a significant development and a shift in both ideological framing of tech workers but also underneath, a shift in how we see our work and our very-relation to the products/services created: Our very relation to our work and ourselves. It’s an existential dilemma. I see a great movement of workers challenging the ethics of companies engaged in reforming ethics in large companies. At some point, it make sense to create an eco-system of highly skilled, but autonomous labor force that has a why outside these influencers. The last time I checked the engineers and technical folks were the talent in the room and had greater power than they were manifesting in these bigger companies.

Years later, the aforementioned boss contacted me via email, apologizing for the past. I had just locked down my best indie contract (remote) for a multinational and was pretty giddy about it. I was tempted to buy a gift for changing my life for the better, albeit inadvertently. They had asked for forgiveness (that was pretty nice) and I gave it gladly, knowing that empathy would be more powerful for me personally. Yet, I never forgot how I was treated, how it made me feel, and how he nature of employment can be a rough road; much rougher than I was willing to accept.

Some would rather have clients to delight and have to compete with others over skills, rather than being a happy/unhappy subject in a bad system. As independents, we can pay for certifications, training, retirement, insurance etc. It’s not a bad deal at all. Problem is that now the ecosystem is changing to a locked-down less independent model and that is a damn shame.





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