Consultant vs. Contractor

I recently read a LinkedIn post of an article by QA writer Johanna Rothman, “Differences Between Hiring a Contractor or Consultant.”

People commented that they didn’t get the distinction, or didn’t agree with it. Commenters either said there is no such distinction, or they objected to it as an unfair “class distinction.” This was weird to me, because nothing could be more “standard procedure” than companies using this common parlance. So now I’m writing about it too.

My impression was that Rothman did a good job objectively describing how companies apply the terminology. Company infrastructure depends on the org chart, pay scales, rank, judgments of qualifications, and other classification distinctions. Consulting versus Contracting is just another typical classification used every day at most companies. Perhaps terminology can be off-putting, but “consultant” and “contractor” are central factors in nonperm hiring.

Both the consultant and the contractor are hired on a temporary contract basis. For example, a company might hire a “contractor” to complete 100 tasks in a timebox, and no extra advice is welcome—because a “consultant” already developed a plan that describes which 100 tasks need doing, and helped hire the contractor to do the tasks. The company does not expect the consultant to do any of the tasks.

Other companies prefer a hybrid contractor/consultant to complete 100 tasks, to advise on the best way to do it and if the 100 tasks make sense. They value advice and are open to change. The plan is a work in progress when they hire for a hybrid role. But they still don’t hire what they would term, “a consultant.” They may not need a consultant because they have in-house brilliant strategic thinkers to lead the process.

In either case, companies view the consultant as more strategic, and the contractor as more tactical. Companies decide how much to pay based on whether they perceive the role as consultant, contractor, or hybrid. Strategic consultants get a higher pay scale than a tactical hybrid or a task-based contractor. That’s true regardless of the contractor’s abilities and knowledge.

If you contract for twenty or thirty years, build up massive knowledge, and your advice causes a large company to increase profits by 10 percent in a year, you’ll gradually be perceived as more of a consultant than a contractor, given the received terminology of the day. All you need is a handful of high-level success stories, a few executive recommendations and endorsements, and the vision to backup that label on your business card.

Contact Form

Remote Teams

I have led remote teams, been a member of remote teams, and accomplished several types of projects with remote teams. I will not bore you with another “Top 5 Tips for Remote-Team Success” or “Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid.” You can Google those and get plenty of advice that will be meaningless until you’ve worked a couple of remote team projects. In this post, I just want to talk briefly about how fun it can be. Continue reading

Happy Minded

One thing I’ve noticed about people over many years, is that the ones who seem happiest, seem happiest no matter what happens to them, good or bad. I’ve seen severe injury and devastating failure happen to them, and terrible tragedy of many kinds. They persistently focus on the good, and on others instead of themselves. Continue reading

The Honored Guest

With the 4th of July rolling around, here is my tribute to one of our lesser-known Founding Fathers: Thomas Paine. Like a good father, he suggested names for the new baby he was creating. In Common Sense, he used phrases like “United Colonies,” “American states,” and “Free and Independent States of America.” Finally, of course, everyone agreed on “The United States of America.” Continue reading

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers

Book Review
Title: The Secret Lives of Codebreakers
Author: Sinclair McKay
Published: Penguin Group 2010

Recently I saw the 2014 film The Imitation Game about British Intelligence’s codebreaking of German communications during World War II. The movie was interesting enough that I went straight to Barnes & Noble and bought a book to learn more. I just finished reading The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, which was published a few years before the film came out. Continue reading

The Education of Henry Adams

Book Review
Title: The Education of Henry Adams
Author: Henry Adams
Published: Modern Library 1931. Originally published 1918. Privately circulated 1907

Last December I wrote about Adams’ earlier work, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, which I recommended for its rich blend of philosophy, legend, architecture, personal observations, and mediæval history. The Education of Henry Adams is also rich in personal observations and history. Continue reading

The Ides of March

March 15 is remembered as the Ides of March because of the assassination of Roman ruler Julius Caesar.

In B.C. 49 a power struggle divided the Roman Senate. Two influential leaders controlled military forces: Julius Caesar and a man by the name of Pompey. A civil war seemed inevitable. Continue reading

Resolutions and Exclusions

As part of the New Year tradition, I am posting my Resolution. I am also posting my Exclusions—some popular resolutions that I am not pursuing.

Resolution: My New Year’s Resolution is basically the same every year, and has two parts:

  1. Do more: “Do More” is my ongoing mode of travel through life because challenges are exciting and the more I accomplish the better I like it. Continue reading

Mont Saint Michel and Chartres

Book Review
Title: Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
Author: Henry Adams
Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (June 3, 1986). Originally published 1904.

Henry Adams toured French mediæval gothic architecture, and apparently took a lot of notes, focusing on the Grande Cathedrals of Mont-Saint-Michel (built in the 1100s) and Chartres (built in the late 1100s to 1200s). The notes became the book. If that were the extent of the book, however, it could be summed with a few nice photos and captions. But there’s also 360 pages of mystery and fascination surrounding the architecture. Continue reading

Marketing Deeper

Conventional views of marketing is that it’s shallow, purely promotional, and not deeply informative like other forms of information, such as research articles and manuals. There’s been a large gap between deeper learning versus glossy brochures. Today, good marketing is bridging that gap. Continue reading

Content Marketing

When scientists publish articles in reputable journals, it enhances their reputation. When the scientist works for a company in the industry, it enhances the company’s reputation. That kind of knowledge leadership builds trust and indirectly generates revenue. No amount of marketing can create that kind of trust and customer loyalty, until now. That is precisely the kernel of truth upon which content marketing is built. Continue reading

The Doublecheckers

Exhausted after fifteen hours of preparing a CD product that had to ship that day, one last little error was found, and fixed. “It’s good to go!” said the person who fixed it. It was 11 p.m. on a Friday night, we had been working on this since 8 a.m., pushing to meet the deadline. There was a sigh of relief by everyone, except for me and my lead Quality Assurance Analyst. We looked at each other and nodded in agreement—“No, not good to go.” Continue reading

My 4th-of-July Thank You

Like every year around the 4th of July I hear a lot about the Fathers of America, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams. They were men of character, courage, and intelligence. We do well to learn from their example. We should be grateful year round for those who set such a high bar risking everything for others, doing what’s right without faltering in fear of painful consequences Continue reading

Archaeology of SDLC

There are some great names among the founders of the still-nascent field, industry, and profession of Software Testing & Quality Assurance: Dave Gelperin, Boris Beizer, Glenford Myers, Rick Craig, and Lee Copeland, to name a few. A name not often included in that list is Michel Foucault. That may be because Foucault was a social theorist and philosopher rather than a software quality practitioner. But I was listening to a Foucault interview on knowledge and culture from 1971, and as with all things interesting, I started thinking how it might relate to QA. Continue reading

Shakespeare 450

William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday is today, born 23 April 1564. Or at least it is traditionally celebrated on 4/23. He was baptized 4/26 so his birth date would be a few days earlier. Being born 450 years ago today adds a certain symmetry—he also died on 4/23, in 1616, 398 years ago today.

Just about a tenth of all the words in Shakespeare’s works are words that he invented Continue reading

“Software Test Essentials” in Tea-Time with Testers

My article: “Software Test Essentials” is published in Tea-Time with Testers magazine, March/April 2014 issue.

Tea-Time with Testers is the largest-circulated software testing monthly in the world, and one of the best international software testing publications available for today’s test and QA professional. Link to the magazine homepage.