The Successful Consulting Series is a set of articles that are being written to both, help decisions on joining the consulting field and also, help existing consultants in their professional development initiatives.  Please visit, “Successful Consulting Series” for a full listing of each part in this series.

Aptitude can be defined as talent.  Don’t think this means that you can only be successful in consulting if you have a talent for technology.  Of course, talent breeds success if the will and motivation are combined.  You can obtain talent by hard work, even if it comes seemingly easy for some people. Consulting and aptitude simply have a relationship in which the level should exceed the mundane nature of other positions.  Consulting in data architecture, for example, holds a certain need for technical aptitude that should be sought after with a high level of energy.  This aptitude can be gained in a few ways.


Early Stages of Technical Aptitude

Most people that ask me if they should move into consulting first consider their aptitude levels and how high they should be.  That question truly doesn’t need to be answered in a lot of situations.  The early stages of building a high aptitude in the technology you are consulting in can begin from consulting itself.  Many career paths in consulting are no different than others.  A consultant can start in a position that allows for the experience to be built, exposure to be had and aptitude to grow.  As we’ve already discussed, this starts building the talent you will need as you become more successful and gain the high level aptitude most people will always seek out.
So, when deciding if you want to move to consulting, if uncertainty is lingering due to the feeling that the skill level may not be there or you are just not sure of yourself, look to consulting positions that are a starting point.  This allows for the decision to move to consulting to be made while building your technical aptitude to the desired level.  In other instances, testing your own aptitude by allowing other, seasoned consultants in the same technology area to test and measure your combined aptitude, is a great step in making decisions that can potentially change the course of a career.

An Existing High Technical Aptitude – You are there!

How can an existing high aptitude make a consultant truly successful? Again, we’re not taking away from starting out in consulting while building technical aptitude measurements.  We’re looking to the level in which, potentially, a senior level data architect might be looking to move to a principal level architect in consulting.  There is a slight difference in many instances.  Aptitude takes measurements of several technical areas.  For data architecture this can be coding, designing, modeling, hardware, services and so on.  All of these measurements may be hard to obtain when not exposed to the many situations that consulting has a tendency to do.  The nature of consulting tends to allow you to hold a practice area in which you are highly trained and skilled in.  However, in consulting, situations come up when your practice expands and contracts given the needs and readily available resources (consultants).  Given this, a senior or principal level consultant should have a high level of technical aptitude measured in a broad area of the practice, and should work to expand to some basic level of knowledge in other technical areas as well.

A Real Life Example

A good example of this need for success and a high level of technical aptitude came about recently in a real consulting situation.  Having a high aptitude in the data area, I was required to perform .NET development.  Since my aptitude reached, even at a medium level, into .NET development, the need was fulfilled.

With that situation, the capability of fulfilling the position’s level and required aptitude was successful.  That ability may not come quickly. You will need a definite desire to achieve it and you might need a great amount of energy to gain it.  Working as a consultant, exposing yourself to many situations and areas of technology while maintaining a high aptitude in your specific practice, will undoubtedly help you become successful overall in consulting.

Measuring Technical Aptitude

The last thing this article will touch on is measuring technical aptitude.  There are measurement tests out on the internet and you can take them at some colleges.  There are ways you can measure your technical aptitude by focusing on the consultants or co-workers around you.  Earlier we defined aptitude as talent or a level of skills in areas specific to that in which you are working.  In most situations, a consulting company will be comprised of many different roles at many different levels.  Taking advantage of those other roles and levels is a great way to measure your own aptitude.  For example, working as a consultant in a career path of Consultant, Senior Consulting and Principal Consultant, allows you to focus on the Senior and Principal levels to test the level you are currently at.  This lets you know where you are but also provides a structured set of goals that you can work on to move to the next stage.

Ask a Principal Consultant to test your technical aptitude by possibly sharing an extremely hard client situation where several factors were involved with several technical areas extending outside the boundaries of your practice.  Set a time in which you can both discuss what you, as a consultant, would do for that given situation.  This can go an extremely long ways in gaining knowledge and intelligence building in being a consultant.  Experiences and exposure are two primary factors in aptitude building that are hard to obtain without years of service.  Given the example or test we’ve just went over, that exposure can be had in segments while cutting time down a bit.  Of course, this cannot replace real-life exposure and working on situations like this but it can give an advantage otherwise not had.