Last week, fate (via Hacker News) sent a lot of people to this post, about becoming a software consultant. This actually resulted in a lot of new readers and followers. So, first of all, hi to all of the new readers and followers. But secondly, I’m about due for another consulting post. So let’s talk today about how to become a management consultant.
This is going to be a guide to charting a course for yourself from working as an individual contributor to a management consultant. And it doesn’t involve dues-paying or working your way through any degrees or even any other jobs. It’s a lot more direct than that.
First of All, What Is Management Consulting? It’s Not as Pretentious as it Sounds
First things first, let’s get to definitions. I’ve often referred to myself as a management consultant. (If you want a more detailed history of my consulting, you can find that here.) Sometimes I call myself a strategy consultant or perhaps an executive consultant. In a sense, this is all kinda the same thing.
So let’s define that thing. What is a management consultant?
You could probably find all sorts of definitions out there of varying complexity. Let’s go with a simple one, though. First of all, as I’ve explained before consulting is when people pay for your expertise and opinions. (Not your labor.) Management consulting is thus a narrower variant of general consulting, with the following two caveats.
- You are specifically offering advice to organizational leadership (i.e. “management”).
- The advice you offer is related to leadership’s main charter: making organizational decisions and running the business.
That’s really it. You give advice to organizational management about how best to execute their leadership duties and oversee their organizations. Naturally, there are a lot of different kinds of advice that you could give, but I’ll get to that a little later.
Should You Become a Management Consultant?
If you’re reading my blog, you’re probably a software developer or at least software-developer-adjacent. So given the post title and introductory section, you might be looking behind you and wondering if I’m not talking to someone else. You might just want to write code, either for a company or as a freelancer.
Is this advice really for you?
Yes, it is. I’ve previously advocated that every software developer become a consultant. So it’s not much of a reach that I think, if you’re going to become a consultant, you might as well become a management consultant. Developer Hegemony, aside from being a book, is the crazy idea that software developers should be in charge of software development. And if we’re going to be in charge of our own industry, it stands to reason that we should know how to run it well enough to offer advice about the same.
So yes, you should become a management consultant. It’s an excellent way to establish a practice, credibility, industry contacts, and authority. And the pay isn’t bad, either.
You don’t have to live out of hotels or wear slacks everywhere, or adopt an insufferable vocabulary, either. Heck, you might not even need to leave fulltime employment, if you get creative. You just need to establish yourself as an expert in some facet of leadership in the software world.