For the past 9 months, I've worked as an independent consultant on gigs that were mostly a few hours long to maybe a couple of weeks. Two months ago, I came across a client providing a service set to disrupt their industry. They were funded in excess of $100 Million.
Landing a stable gig is every independent consultant's dream!
Before I took the gig, the Head of Engineering emphasized two things:
You can work as much as you want. 50 hours, 100 hours, no problem! We have a lot of work.
We want you to know that if you would like to go full-time, the option is on the table.
This prospect was better than others I was about to land because it was a well-funded company with lots of work and going full-time was an option in case I wanted to explore that.
I thought to myself, 50 hours sounds great because I would like to clear some debt and fix some things around the house before our fourth baby arrives. In addition, I wouldn't have to keep looking for work at least for a few months. My family depended on the income from it.
After I signed my contract, I decided to reject a couple of standing offers for long-term gigs. My first week into this job, I was barely able to clock in ten hours of work. I thought maybe this was because both of us needed time to ramp up. The next week, it was ten hours again. Instead of letting that bother me, I decided to enjoy the reduced work hours.
Then, the following week, I barely got to 18 hours. I was told to start mocking up the UI and backend because the backend API's were not ready yet. I mentioned that I was a full-stack engineer and I could work the entire stack, but that was ignored for some reason. In addition, working on their other applications wasn't an option because they wanted me to focus on one.
I was working on a production app, mocking up functionality where parts of the data came in from the production backend and parts from the mock server. Updates were split similarly. This was one of the most convoluted React projects that I've worked on. It used a plethora of React/Redux plugins (very old versions of dependencies that couldn't be upgraded easily) which didn't improve productivity or add value.
All along I was thinking, does $100 million afford a company the ability to be careless with their project? Nothing the application did was groundbreaking. It was clear that the money was raised for marketing.
Somewhere along the line, they assigned a project lead who would ensure my plate was always full. Unfortunately, that person was bound by other constraints and was not able to accomplish that goal. We ended up doing a little bit of pair-programming once in a while which got me another ten hours.
Throughout the project, I was asked if I would like to go full-time. So, I finally had that conversation and during that time also mentioned that I was running out of work-items and I hadn't even crossed 20 hours a week.
Fast forward a week, I was sitting idle for a couple of days, so I decided that it was a good time to follow up on our conversation. I was told that there was no more work because the backend API's would not be ready for several weeks and that they wouldn't consider me for full-time work unless I relocated.
This was unexpected considering the initial conversation. Relocation during the middle of a school year is not an option, let alone with a baby on the way!
What I found really disturbing was the lack of empathy. For the past seven weeks, I mentioned I didn't have enough work and that my family depended on the income from that job, but nothing changed.
A contract doesn't guarantee full-time work!
Anyway, I'm glad that I was able to anticipate this scenario and proactively managed to schedule interviews with the Big Four and a handful of smaller companies. Even though I've been in the industry for so long, I still have to study before interviews, so I'm hoping to be interview ready in the next week.
Over the past two years, I traveled with my wife and three kids for a year through Asia and Europe while I worked on a startup and later worked as a CTO for a couple of companies before deciding to do independent consulting and teaching.
Having worked with close to 200 clients has given me such an incredible experience about the ups and downs of independent consulting. Nevertheless, I feel that I'm ready to go back to work at a stable company. This is something I took for granted and quit two dream jobs in the past.
Regardless of the sequence of events, I am glad that I've tried the things I've felt passionate about. It is evident that I couldn't do that without my wife who supported me in all my decisions.
I've tried to strike a balance between responsibility and following my dreams. Detaching yourself from elements you take for granted makes you appreciate them even more. Events like these are a good learning lesson in case you are complacent.