Hello & Question for the IT contractors Hello & Question for the IT contractors
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  1. #1

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    Default Hello & Question for the IT contractors

    Hi all,

    I've been reading the forum for a few days now and have found a lot of very useful stuff on here that I wish I'd found earlier, so thank you to the regular contributors. I do have a question for any of you in the IT world, if I may.

    I've been contracting for the past 4 years in, erm, PPI 'financial services'... Had multiple renewals in that time, comfortably survived a couple of downsizes, moved around the country to deliver support/training/write processes, and moved from case handling into management early last year. Worked both on contractor-specific sites and sites where I've reported directly to the client, and spent 2 months on another agency's site helping set up their operation when they joined our project.
    So I would say a decent breadth of experience and a fairly representative taste of contracting life (perhaps moreso than the perception of the 'average' PPI contractor, depending on what our reputation is like round here..!)

    However, with PPI set to completely disappear in the next 6-9 months, I've been looking at my options.

    I've seen contracting called a lifestyle choice on this forum, and I agree - I love it, and want to stick at it. Of the various roles I've done on this contract, my most enjoyable ones have been delivering high quality work that's down to myself and my speed/efficiency/attention to detail to deliver, and I also like enabling others to do the same. Hence, I believe some areas of IT contracting would fit quite well.
    I've also built up skills in managing a team, discussing directly with clients the work they need doing, distilling their needs down into workable plans for the contractors, and generally being a go-between for the perms and the contractors, which bodes reasonably well for the desired "soft skills" I've seen mentioned on here.
    (Plus average IT day rates are £50-100 higher than my current rate... so that helps)

    I see this as learning a trade for life, so I'm prepared to invest 3-5 years in getting up to speed and getting the kind of technical experience I'd need to get my foot in the door with IT contracting. I know I'll have to build that experience in a perm environment to start with, but I can certainly live off an entry-level salary for a couple of years.
    To land that first job I've been looking at MSc Computer Science conversion degrees, which I could run part-time over 2 years or full-time over 1 year. However, I've also read about people getting an entry level job off the back of a 4-month coding bootcamp, which would get me started a lot sooner.

    Questions for you guys and girls are:
    - From reading this forum, recruiters look for experience of contracting as much as technical IT skills. Would my 4 years' contracting experience count much at all here? I'm hoping it would even slightly cut down the time it'd take to get back into contracting once my skills are up to scratch.
    - As for the technical IT skills: as a 30-yr old with no industry experience, would a 2-year part time MSc in Computer Science (provided the course material is of actual substance) significantly help in landing a role with better career development/a higher salary once I graduated? Or would it have no real difference over taking a 4-month coding bootcamp now, getting an entry-level perm job after it, and building experience on the job over the same 2 years?

    Many thanks if you took the time to read this far. Welcome your thoughts/experience.

  2. #2

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    Sound very much like a permie most of that. What do you know about IR35?

    No. An Msc will not help land a role. Clients want demonstrable skills and experience. An Msc does not help with either of those. They need someone to carry out a task trhy don't have resources for, not someone to learn on the job.
    Same for boot camps. You have no evidence in delivering these skills and there wi be plenty of people that do.

    You can't start a career contracting. Your best bet is to go perm and build up some experience and skills.
    Last edited by northernladuk; 26th May 2019 at 07:02.
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by northernladuk View Post
    You can't start a career contracting. Your best bet is to go perm and build up some experience and skills.
    That was the conclusion I reached too.

  4. #4

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    Look at it this way:

    Your job is being a contractor. You are therefore selling your skills and experience in the open market, which means you are competing with people who have equal or often greater technical expertise and experience in their trade and who have been working as a contractor for some years. Add to that the fact that your potential client wants someone with specific experience who can start tomorrow and be immediately productive. So given them and yourself, which would you buy?
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  5. #5

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    Yes and no to some of the above comments.

    Maybe I got lucky, I don't know. I'm not going to give my life history but most of my early gigs have been through luck and having a well timed bit of paper and enough nous to know when I have a reasonable chance of blagging my in. If I can't convince myself I can do a job well, I don't expect to convince a client.

    Look at the roles you want to do. Look at the way the skill requirements are worded. Consider if you can reframe your skills to sound similar. Don't lie, although I know plenty who do and annoyingly get away with it.

    Do take courses in key skill areas - it's not all about experience on the job. I've gotten roles because I did a course and then realised afterwards that some of what I was taught I'd been doing for years, so I reframed the wording accordingly and gigs appeared.

    Never stop learning. Look for roles where you can see opportunity to learn something new. Build up a network of contacts and keep in touch with them. Once every six months is enough, more if you actually like them!

    Never having gotten a degree, I also can't see how a MSc will help. I see it a lot on the job boards and it has never made any difference to me. If a client is basing their decisions on a bit of paper I didn't get 20 years ago then they're not really a client I'm interested in working with anyway.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by malvolio View Post
    Look at it this way:

    Your job is being a contractor. You are therefore selling your skills and experience in the open market, which means you are competing with people who have equal or often greater technical expertise and experience in their trade and who have been working as a contractor for some years. Add to that the fact that your potential client wants someone with specific experience who can start tomorrow and be immediately productive. So given them and yourself, which would you buy?
    The OP could interpret this as "don't bother", but they should interpret it as follows: you're at a significant disadvantage, so prepare yourself for failure, have a back-up plan, and build a reasonable warchest before you start. Either that, or rely completely on luck (which you'll need to some degree anyway). Obviously, all old contractors were new contractors once, but they made the right choices, had some luck, and times change too. Bear in mind that there are very substantial changes afoot in the coming 1-2 years w/ IR35, the outcomes of which are very uncertain (but unlikely to be favourable to new contractors unless they want to work like disguised permies).

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