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Job of consultant in software field !!!

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Hi all,
I m in software field since past 4 years. I often hear word "consultant".
Can anyone tell me what is the job of consultant? What is the qualification & skills required ? How to become a consultant?
Is consultant work independantly or is a employee of company?
What is mod of earning? Is it salary based or commision based?
What is pros & cons as a consultant ?
Pls give me some information?
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I searched in Google 'Software Consultant' and got the resume of Software Consultant.This is Software Consultant
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Consultant is a blanket term for anyone doing anything on a consultancy basis <DOH>.
Think someone who advises or assists customers and is not a salesperson or trainer.
Think a network architect sent out by a specialist firm to assist the IT department of a customer to design and build a new LAN or WAN.
Think a programmer sent to a customer to help them implement a new system for which that customer lacks the expertise.
Think a product specialist helping the customer customise a product they purchased to their specific needs.
I worked as a consultant for some 5 years until the firm I worked for went bust.
In that period I did (among others) the following:
- analysing hardware and software for Y2K compliance (including determining whether proposed solutions were Y2K compliant and helping determine what systems needed replacement or upgrade).
- testing software and hardware systems.
- writing new software and maintaining existing systems, both as a temporary replacement for permanent staff on longterm leave and as an initial capacity starting up departments.
There used to be a few huge firms offering these services and an enormous number of small ones (including many independent consultants working on contract basis).
The market is at the moment so small (as many consultancy contracts are the first to be cancelled when budgets shrink) that all but the largest (and those who have a very deep specialism that makes them market leader despite small size) have disappeared (or are in trouble).
What I liked a lot about working as a consultant is that you get to see a LOT of different environments and you work with many diverse teams.
That is both a great learning experience and prevents you from getting bored with your work (as it is so diverse).
A disadvantage is that you're often called in when the shit hits the fan and things are not going well with a project. Therefore you will usually arrive at the very worst possible time to get acquainted with the environment, when everyone is stressed and working under great pressure.
You also often won't see a project to completion as the moment the customer thinks he can complete it without you your contract will be terminated to save cost.
In those situations when you can be part of a complete project implementation from beginning to end it's great of course. As often the projects are the smaller ones (if they were not they would be given to permanent employees and not hired helps for cost reasons) it really boosts your CV as well
[ December 31, 2003: Message edited by: Jeroen Wenting ]
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FYI, there's a very blurry line between consultant and contractor.
Consultants outside the (pure) software industry are basically people brought in by a company to advise and/or implement. Companies like McKinsey, Accenture, PWC, etc are firms who offer such consulting services in a variety of fields.
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