As companies continue to cut costs, consolidate staffs and eviscerate executive salaries, more and more senior-level IT professionals are eyeing corporate exits -- or being shown them against their will.
For many such tech execs, the next step on the increasingly rocky, do-it-yourself 21st-century career path is independent consulting.
[ Looking for work in tough times? Then get sage advice on IT careers and management from Bob Lewis in InfoWorld's Advice Line blog, such as his take on whether or not embellished resumes are disqualifiers. ]
But do you have what it takes, or even know what it takes, to strike out on your own? Where do you find clients? Should you specialize? What about marketing and finances? Where can you get decent, affordable health insurance once you're cut loose from corporate benefits?
How do you navigate the enormous cultural changes of minding your own calendar, developing and building your own marketing presentations, and horror of horrors, scheduling your own economy-class air travel? How do you make your mark and find paying clients fast, when it seems like every other laid-off IT exec is setting out his own shingle?
To answer those and other questions, Computerworld rounded up a boardroom's worth of former CIOs and other high-level IT professionals who successfully made the transition to IT consultant. Here are their hard-won answers and practical advice.
Find your niche
Whatever your depth and breadth of experience, simply switching your title and business card to "IT consultant" isn't likely to land you a single client. Specialization is absolutely critical, according to successful CIOs-turned-consultants.
Eileen Strider, a former CIO at Universal Underwriters Insurance Group (since renamed Zurich Direct), is now a partner with her husband in their own consulting firm, Strider & Cline Inc. in Kansas City, Mo. Strider's niche is reviewing large, often troubled ERP projects in the higher-education segment.
Jack Tugman, former CIO at the U.S. Army's Fort Monmouth, N.J., base, has leveraged his military and Department of Defense experience into a specialty: He now helps companies develop their IT infrastructures in such a way that they can become suppliers to the DoD or other government agencies.