This blog is the second in a two-part series. Click here for part one.

Previously, I discussed what IT consulting is and the lack of exposure that students have to it in college. Few really understand what it is, and yet it dominates a large portion of all IT jobs out there. The key point was that we cannot all work for Google and as such, aspiring IT professionals should understand what consulting is, the nature of the business, and what options are available to us. Once we wrap our heads around this, we deal with another challenge:  how to rise through the ranks in IT consulting, particularly in the insurance industry.

I have been working with a client at a consulting company for over two years. When I first started, I was simply a hired developing hand. I had a technical lead who gave me instruction on what needed to be done, and I hunched over a keyboard coding the spec. Over time my responsibilities expanded, and my job became more than just coding.

When I started out, there was a clear division between me and business. However that line is hardly discernable two years later. That barrier between myself and business is much fainter, and I have far more exposure to the industry side than ever before. That being said, that divide is still there.

As a consulting architect your job is to bridge the gap between business and IT. That job description requires interfacing with the business. Rising through the ranks means having to jump through many hurdles, the first among them is gaining your coworkers’ trust.

In college you have the perception of job that you want. A doctor is someone walking around a hospital in scrubs; a lawyer or businessman is the one wearing the expensive three-piece suit, and a computer programmer is the geeky person in the skinny jeans and super-hero hoodie.

The face of an IT consultant, though, is very different from this idea of a programmer. Professionals, through years of experience have developed the “look” of an IT consultant. They come in wearing business casual to business formal attire and have no particularly distinguishing characteristics. There is virtually no level of individuality expressed at a glance, a notion that is entirely against the schema that college students come to expect.

While this level of individuality is encouraged and expected in the tech companies of the Silicon Valley, in consulting, business casual is a minimum requirement.

The professional look however is something that can be honed over time, and after two years, I have come to embrace the suit-and-tie lifestyle.

That, however, only solves half the problem. The other half is your composure and demeanor. I have a lighthearted and casual demeanor. I joke and laugh and generally try to have fun while still being serious when I need to be. Seriousness is a way of life for a consultant, and while adding some light humor to a meeting is cool, it does not make a big difference.

The question hovering above your head will always be “How do you add value,” and if all you do is joke around, then the answer will always be: none. While a level of blitheness is nice, if you want to add value and rise up, that carefree attitude needs to be toned down.

If you truly want to earn your place, you must first prove to your leads that you can both do your own work and go above and beyond to add value and be trusted to take on more responsibilities. Do all this and maybe, just maybe, you will earn the trust and respect of your colleagues. Without that trust you have no hope of ever making it in front of a client.

Fulfilling your role as a consultant, becoming the lead of developing and eventually the lead of an entire project is a worthy goal. I have no expectation of staying a developer forever. My ambitions take me to progression.

Coding is still a hobby and I do enjoy it, but my job requires that I learn to be a consulting architect. There are many challenges as I have listed in both this blog as well as my previous one. The one question that I always try to keep in mind is: how can I add value? Always keep that in mind, it is crucial to moving up, not just in consulting but in all career pathways, I believe.

Mohammed Hussain is a software developer with X by 2, a technology consulting company in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Mohammed using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at mhussain@xby2.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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