Engineering & IT consulting:
these good jobs can be fun, too
The consulting segment is expected to grow as companies work to stay cost-competitive and reactive to customer needs
Skillful techies can find work locally, or take adventurous jobs that send them all over the U.S. or around the world
Consulting and contracting work in engineering or IT means more flexibility and gives techies a better chance to manage the courses of their own careers.
Consulting and contract positions, either as an individual or working for a consulting or contracting firm, can provide a better work/life balance. But it can also do the opposite, as long hours are put in to keep a contract assignment on schedule. On the plus side, consulting almost always pays better, and sometimes much better, than a regular job with the same responsibilities.
Of course there’s a basic drawback, and you know what it is: there is no guaranteed job security in consulting except what your own brain and skills provide. But for a courageous techie, happy with his or her abilities and able to “sell” them to customers, consulting can be a wonderful opportunity and sometimes a lot of fun.
Consulting at Aerotek: short and
“As the U.S. continues to grow toward a service-based economy, IT and engineering firms are moving to more flexible organizational structures to service their customer base,” explains Daniel J. Curran, director of national sales for aerospace and defense at Aerotek (Hanover, MD). “This results in a greater demand for contract and consulting services.”
Opportunities for jobs and advancement for folks in consulting and contractual roles have increased over the years, he adds. “The popularity of contract positions is growing because people can learn new skills, advance their careers and get competitive benefits. Staffing companies like Aerotek offer medical, dental, 401k and other benefits to consultants and contractors.”
Contractual opportunities vary by level of experience and skill sets, Curran notes. It’s common now for companies to contract for folks with high-level analytical skill sets. Adventurous and skillful techies can find contract or consulting work locally, or take jobs that send them all over the U.S. or around the world.
Some Aerotek contract assignments last just a few months while others go on for years. It’s a real perk, Curran believes, when individuals can pick out positions that fit their own interests and lifestyles. And, he adds, consulting “will continue to grow in the coming years as companies work to stay cost-competitive and reactive to customer needs, and as members of the baby-boomer generation look for ways to use their knowledge with a more flexible work schedule while they move closer to full retirement.”
Booz Allen’s Carmen Cateriano: “I wanted to be a consultant!”
“Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA) wants to be the employer of choice in the consulting industry,” says senior associate James Woodard. “A key part of realizing this is creating a climate and culture in which employees are engaged and empowered.
“We seek the best talent from all backgrounds to provide consulting services in strategy, ops, organization and IT.”
Carmen Cateriano is a senior associate at Booz Allen. “When I was in college I knew my passion was in project management, planning and organizing, the kind of skills a person needs to lead a project team,” Cateriano explains. “You also need soft skills to communicate and listen effectively. In the late ‘90s IT was booming, so I decided to pursue a career in that field.”
Cateriano got her BS in business admin from Strayer University (Newington, VA) in 1992, an MBA from Strayer in 1995 and a master’s certificate in project management from George Washington University (Washington, DC) in 2004.
She worked at Claritas (Arlington, VA) from 1987 to 1999 as manager of QA for database, senior project manager and director of project management. From there she moved on to a series of contract jobs: senior project manager, then director of project management for U.S. Interactive (Reston, VA); senior project manager for Viaken Systems/VSA Corp (Gaithersburg, MD); contractor/senior project manager at Cayenne Informatics (Washington, DC).
She made the move to contract because “I wanted the excitement of visiting different facilities, wearing ten different hats some days and working in selling, marketing and administration. I wanted to be a consultant!” she declares.
Cateriano’s wide experience has paid off. Now she’s a consultant with Booz Allen, with added responsibilities for managing the work of other consultants. She’s become knowledgeable about many industries and clients, information that continues to help her in her various consulting contracts.
Responsibilities are more intense, though, she acknowledges. “As a consultant, you are the product. The company is selling my expertise to a client.”
Her role today combines marketing lead, program/project management and administration. As a marketing lead she looks for opportunities and shapes them to help the customer. As a program/project manager she manages the account, and as admin manager, her job is to grow the staff, mentor them and help them set and achieve their objectives. She’s responsible for matching associates with projects according to their abilities and goals. Forty associates report to her, and she’s currently working on four different projects.
“A consultant has to be flexible and adaptable,” Cateriano warns. “Things can change rapidly, and you have to be able to shift plans and objectives right away.
“I always try to focus on people,” she explains. “I need to manage technical systems, and yet I need people skills for problem solving and decision-making, important aspects of my job as a consultant. You will never succeed if you don’t have the experience to create the right team.
“I wouldn’t be here today without my past mentors,” she adds. “They helped me reach my goals. I watched how they dealt with people and learned from them. At Booz Allen I’ve had a great mentoring community.”
Besides helping her own team, Cateriano is a mentor in the company’s “DC-area circle.” She enjoys the varying perspectives that get shared during mentoring.
Her next career step will be to achieve “principal” status at Booz Allen Hamilton. She’s already looked on as a person who can deliver new business and grow it. The position of principal would give her more of the exciting responsibilities and challenges she loves.
Mitre’s Belinda Edwards is a lead info systems engineer
Bill Albright, quality work/life and benefits director for Mitre Corp (McLean, VA), notes that the company’s workforce is diverse in many dimensions.
“We are committed to an environment of mutual respect, cooperation and productive relationships. Recognizing and developing the talents of each individual brings new ideas to the company, and we benefit from the innovation when people with different experiences and perspectives work together,” Albright explains.
Belinda Edwards is a lead information systems engineer for Mitre. She moved into the consulting arena after working for fourteen years as an in-house employee for the federal government, a telecom company, and IBM’s global service practice.
“In my current position I support the sponsor’s project management office,” she explains. “I assist with strategic planning, facilitate team meetings and negotiate partnerships with various agencies.” Her team consists of five direct reports and four others. “I have led teams throughout my career,” she notes.
Computers have long been a consuming interest for Edwards. She chose Indiana Institute of Technology for college because she could start courses in computers in her first year. She graduated in 1991 with a BSCIS.
She went to work for the Internal Revenue Service as a Cobol II/DB2 developer, moved to Bell Atlantic in 1996 as a Cobol developer, and went on to IBM in 1997 as a middleware architect/developer.
“Bell Atlantic showed me my skills were marketable outside of the federal government, and at IBM I learned how business drives technology,” she says. “In all my jobs I knew that I had to maintain marketable skills to stay competitive.” A mentor encouraged her to look into Mitre, and she joined the company in 2004.
Edwards rarely travels in her job with Mitre, which was one major reason she made the move. In her previous jobs she had traveled almost continually.
“On the positive side, traveling shows your supervisor that you’re open to new and exciting challenges,” she says. “But if you travel too much your supervisor may never get to know you and your career goals.”
Edwards is currently working on a masters in CS management at the University of Maryland University College. She’s focusing on software development management, and she’s also working toward the project management professional certification test.
“I mentor some of the kids and young women at my church, and show them where the love of math and science can lead,” she says.
“I really enjoy my work here and I can envision a department head position in the future. There’s always room for additional growth,” Edwards says happily.
Jennifer Anderson is an SPA engineering consultant
Jennifer Anderson is a military operations analyst. She’s assistant program manager for program executive office integrated warfare systems 5 at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc (SPA, Alexandria, VA).
Anderson graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999 with a BS in nuclear engineering. Then she joined the U.S. Navy for four years as a nuclear surface warfare officer. She managed maintenance for a wide array of self-defense weapon systems and nuclear controls equipment aboard a destroyer and an aircraft carrier during two deployments to the Arabian Gulf. Her specialty in undersea warfare operations research has directed her career since.
When she left the Navy she spent a few months at Ward Leonard Electric Co (Thomaston, CT). Then she joined SPA as a professional staff member.
She enjoys the variety of her engineering consulting work. The job, she says, lets her utilize her Navy experience in multi-tasking as she adjusts to new situations and leadership to help clients accomplish their goals.
She credits the Navy with teaching her how to lead, and how not to lead. She’s currently leading a team for one client, and working as a team member for another client.
Over the past three years with SPA Anderson has conducted operations research and campaign analysis in areas as disparate as distributed networked sensors, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and unmanned undersea vehicles. She’s developed analytical tools for war-game analysis, supported ASW systems engineering efforts, planned a nanotechnology summit and developed unmanned vehicle operation concepts for surface action group ASW.
These are all highly specialized undertakings, and Anderson is one of only a few women who does research in undersea warfare. Most of her coworkers are men who were initially surprised at her depth of military experience and familiarity with submarine technology.
In the Navy, she notes, about a quarter of her fellow officers were women, and the proportion is about the same in her current work. “But I’m the only woman with actual military experience in my division at SPA.
“In the Navy, women aren’t allowed on submarine duty because there isn’t enough space for them to have separate berths and bathrooms. But surface ships, airplanes and helicopters also conduct anti-submarine warfare, and that’s where I got my experience and training.”
Kimberly Stevenson: “I run an industry for EDS”
EDS (Plano, TX) is a global technology services company: a consultant providing business solutions to its clients. Kimberly Stevenson is VP of the EDS communications, media and entertainment industry practice. She’s responsible for driving growth and establishing the global strategy for the segment.
Stevenson is a well-recognized expert in the IT services industry. CMP’s VARBusiness magazine has named her one of the “most powerful women of the IT channel.”
Stevenson started out with a 1985 BS with a business concentration in finance and accounting from Northeastern University (Boston, MA). She spent the next seventeen years working for IBM (Armonk, NY), beginning as a financial analyst in communications.
Her career at IBM progressed through jobs like senior financial analyst, controller, manager of corporate financial systems, director of finance for the microelectronics division, VP of finance and ops for mid-market servers, and VP of marketing ops for the eServer iSeries.
Along the way she earned a 2001 MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Business (New York, NY).
In 2002 Stevenson joined EDS as director of global mainframe services, responsible for development, market management and strategic planning for the company’s $2.5 billion mainframe outsourcing business segment. A year later she became VP of desktop, mobility and security services, a $5 billion global business.
In 2005 Stevenson moved up to VP of portfolio management for the EDS infrastructure business. Its $12 billion global infrastructure services portfolio included offering development, financial performance and strategic planning for network, data center, desktop, distributed systems and security services.
Three months later she became VP of IT operations for global service delivery. Now her responsibilities included service delivery for more than 450 clients, sixteen megadata centers, an $11 billion budget and 29,000 employees around the world.
Last September Stevenson took on her current role, VP of the EDS communications, media and entertainment practice. “I run an industry for EDS,” she declares. “Our client base is corporate and government IT organizations around the world. I understand what our clients are talking about and what their businesses need because I’ve been in their roles; I’ve had the same jobs my clients have.
“Everything we do for our clients is consulting-led,” she notes. “We try to help them execute a more efficient business model, consulting with them about the changes we see in their industries or businesses and how we can help them meet those challenges. We provide them with a broader, more systemic thought process.”
Stevenson meets frequently with her many clients. Listening is a big part of her job, along with asking open-ended questions to pin down problems and find new opportunities. “Most of the value in IT consulting comes from business process changes or client mindset changes rather than technological implementations. Often changing simple things provides a more cost-effective way to do business,” she comments.
Mentors have been a very important part of Stevenson’s career path. She’s worked with mentors above her and junior to her, inside and outside the company. She’s also a mentor herself for more than a dozen people: “all people with whom I work,” she says.
Stevenson is a member of the corporate diversity council, and represents EDS on the board of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (www.ncwit.org).
“This latest role has been a great step for me,” she says. “From here, I’d like to continue to develop the scale and scope of what I’m responsible for!”
OPPORTUNITIES IN ENGINEERING & IT CONSULTING
Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded companies.
|Company and location
|Technical and professional staffing
|Bank of America
|Booz Allen Hamilton
|Strategy, operations, organization and change, IT consulting
(New York, NY)
|Consulting, technology and outsourcing services
|Deloitte Consulting LLP
(New York, NY)
|Software, hardware and consulting/IT services
|Manages three R&D centers for the federal government; independent R&D program
|Systems Planning and Analysis
|National security consulting and technical services
Back to Top