The Gig is Up!
So far I’ve spent half my career consulting, and half as a permanent employee. As I look back I feel I’ve had greater liberty to make significant contributions as a consultant.
The Great Recession led me into FTE, as I felt a permanent position would provide better security. However, I eventually concluded that consulting remains as durable as ever, and often with less perils of office politics. So when the right opportunity came along I allowed myself to step back into consulting, despite the continued recession.
So I’ve begun a new adventure. It goes like this: American Express bought a company called Serve Enterprise. Contrary to the Amex IT strategy, Serve is Microsoft stack. So Amex had Microsoft consulting brought on board to provide guidance. In turn, Microsoft engaged me as a subcontractor.
Thus I’ve joined the Amex/MS platform software architecture group, where I provide guidance on ASP.NET MVC3, WCF, performance engineering and process engineering. I’m travelling 100% between Phoenix, my home, and St. Petersburg Florida (with an occasional trip to Manhatten). I take non-stop flights both ways from Phoenix to Tampa, on Sunday evening and Thursday evening.
The work and the team are fantastic. I couldn’t have hoped for better.
In a corp-to-corp engagement like this, it is typical for consultants to add $25/hour to the overall hourly rate to cover the three major expenses of air-fare, lodging, and auto-rental. Of course it is a shame to see that money spent that way, and I was determined to do something about it. To put this in rocket-science terms, I keep the expense money I don’t spend.
Part of my adventure has been exploring my cost-savings options. Other than purchasing air-fare 3 weeks out, there is nothing I can do to reduce that cost. That leaves lodging and auto-rental. The hotel used by some of the other consultants is $180/night, and even if they obtain a corporate rate at $120/night for four nights a week, it still means about $2000/month. Worse than this, I have recently taken on a new self-imposed diet that requires I greatly reduce eating out; I can’t prepare meals in a hotel room.
My next stop was to consider Extended Stay hotels. I found the best deal in the St. Petersburg area (Clearwater to be precise). At $300/week it was at a sweet spot for quality and price. Unfortunately it is 10 miles from the downtown office where I work, which means I’m footing a $200 to $260 rental car each week.
I then decided to be more creative. I looked into being a room-mate in a home or condo. My first stop was roommate.com. It is a great web site, and I didn’t mind the modest subscription fee. However, what I foud is that far too few home-owners know about roommate.com. Rather, craigslist was a firehose of opportunity. More than half of the offerings included furnishings (bed, dresser, etc.). In a single evening I located three condo owners all in walking distance to both my work and groceries. All three had pictures showing a beautiful residence.
This was my ticket. As a roomie, I’ve reduced my monthly lodging and auto expenses from about $2500/month down to $700/month (plus $60/week for an airport shuttle).
If you are reading this and are thinking of doing the same thing, my advice is to seek a place to be a room-mate after you have already started your new engagement. This means you should start your engagement living at an Extended Stay hotel. Assume you will need to stay there for about two weeks. When you search craigslist for rooming opportunities, hold out for best! There is no need to stay in a home that feels wrong, or is distant from your work place. There are fresh postings on craiglist each day; It will take you very little time to find something awesome! If you do room somewhere that is not in walking distance of work, at least be sure it has walking-access to suitable public transit.
Keeping It Fresh
Life is what happens while you make other plans. This is one reason I so welcome all this change in my life. I’m travelling to new places, having new experiences, and meeting new people. To the reader, my suggestion is not to wait-out the Great Recession. Make your move now, to live your life now. You won’t regret it.