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who adapts best to contractors? April 19, 2007

Posted by andrea in working life.
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About companies – some of them are well-experienced in the whole realm of contractors. They understand what they themselves need (a service), and can provide the necessary tools for the contractor. Contractors, on the other hand, should also understand that they are not necessarily “drinking the Kool-Aid” of a company, but providing the necessary service – which doesn’t give you the right to bitch about benefits or perks that full-timers get. And don’t get disappointed when bonus time eludes you…you chose the itinerant life, remember? 🙂

There are some places that get it, and some that don’t. All in different ways, which is interesting. Some dangle a full-time job, like a carrot, thinking that’s what you want. Some don’t understand that while we all know everyone hires “out”; a company email address is pretty necessary, particularly in client relations. Some make you jump through security hoops, and buy very expensive internet access, and then don’t allow you the privilege to see documents with that other (non-contract) team members work on. I won’t go any further to say that hasn’t happened to me in Toronto.

It’s a sliding scale, and we as contractors adapt. But we also remember the experience, and how easy (or not) it was to “on-board”.

The worst: I showed up, and no one: a) knew I was coming; b) had any idea what I did; and c) were quite put out that I couldn’t pinch-hit as a graphic designer. It took me 3 weeks to get an email address, during which time I was on a client site, and had to use my gmail account. The client there set me up better – own office, log-in, introduced around, etc. … the day I went there. The “solutions provider/systems integrator/agency” (take your pick) fell down on that front.

The best: I think this is a small thing, but HUGE: A little pile of supplies – paper notebook, some stickies, pen, pencil, a highlighter. Awww. That’s really nice. A desk, internet hook-up. email access immediately, links to the shared drive to get what I need to start my learnin’. (A huge bonus…when I bring my own laptop in, and can get online with that – kudos!)

A bonus: when there’s a team that you’re joining, and they turn out to inspire you, challenge you, and push you to do your best. Ahhh, that’s nirvana, in my world.

But, at the end of the day, as Led Zeppelin said (did I just really write that?) babe, i’m gonna leave you. With good memories of great work together, and trying times struggling to meet deadlines, it’s all part of the package.

Okay, quiz time: which example above regularly off-shores all its work?

What’s the best? Probably the place where I showed up, totally sick, but knowing that calling in would not be cool…and my lead (love her) sent me home, for very good reasons. They had a laptop ready, a regular email, shared access, even a name tag at my “desk”. Same goes for my latest contract – and then let me bring my own laptop, hooked me up with shared access, printers, email, etc. Both even gave me a little pile of post-its, pens, and such. That’s way cool.

Other places? Well, I worked one project, in a city far far away, where I was not to be trusted. Reasons?: a) from Toronto; b) non-IBM; c) didn’t have a full-time job OR children. Highly suspect, I was (I suppose speaking like Yoda didn’t help either).

Actually, I have to say that most of the places I’ve contracted, which are largely in the web ghetto of Toronto, have been excellent. I’ve met and worked with the most amazing people, again and again; had the privilege to learn a ton of stuff; and generally had a fantastic time. But I don’t want a full-time gig. I get offered that, quite a bit. Why don’t I want that?

I guess this generation is different, a bit. I started out in publishing (crappy restaurant guides), then advertising, then the web-graphic thing, then projects, then severe enterprise app stuff – up and down, all over the place. My mum couldn’t understand it – why do I keep switching jobs? Now she’s one of my biggest supporters, and can talk me through the people stuff.

Okay, not a generation – just me. If I kept switching jobs anyway, I might as well just contract out. I find if I get too sucked into a company, then I start caring about “position” and the hierarchy, and the “career path”. Which makes my work suffer

Another project it took me 3 weeks (out of a 4 week contract) to get an email address.

You know how companies make us sign contracts? Well, maybe there should be a contractor contract: a) provided with access to shared materials (I signed the NDA, you hired me); b) an email; c) introduction to the team that goes beyond “this is Andrea” – uh, maybe what I’m here for? Might be helpful.

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