Consultancies: The Smart First Job for Software Developers

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When I joined Atomic fresh out of school 11 years ago, I didn’t realize I was making the best career decision a young software developer could make. I was attracted to Atomic Object because it was a smaller company, the people were extremely smart and driven, and the technical practices were cutting-edge.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a much more important aspect of Atomic that made it the most valuable place to start my career. Atomic was a consultancy.

Out of all the places to work upon graduating college, I believe a consultancy is your best option. It’s only in hindsight that I’ve realized just how valuable this opportunity has been. After working at Atomic for a number of years, I suspect I have five to ten times the experience that I would have gained from working in any other type of company.

This type of organization provides several advantages for the young developer. It’s given me the chance to:

Work in a Variety of Industries

Unlike working for a single company, working with a consultancy gives you a chance to solve problems in a wide variety of industries. Within a few years at Atomic, I had experience in:

  • Automotive testing, diagnostics, and programming
  • Education
  • Financial portfolio management
  • Furniture
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Supply chain management
  • Theory of constraints management

Building a skill set in multiple industries gives you many future career options. You also see how common problems can cross over from one industry to another, and you have a chance to apply proven solutions from one field to another.

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Experience Many Company Cultures

Working for multiple clients also provides exposure to companies of different sizes, management structures, and environments. You quickly notice what works well and what doesn’t, and you can bring the good ideas back to your workplace while avoiding the mistakes you observe other companies making.

If you ever decide to leave the consulting world, you’ll have a good sense of what kind of company you would like to work for and how to succeed there.

Develop a Strong Business Acumen

Atomic is a project-based consultancy. We design and develop the first release of new products. To the extent that we can, we take responsibility for the success of our projects. This approach is much different than a staff augmentation consultancy that just plugs developers into existing projects that are managed by the client.

Having project-level responsibility, as we do at Atomic, means you get to understand the business drivers and goals of your engagements. You get experience managing the product development effort to maximize value delivered. You learn about many different business models, opportunities, and challenges.

Being a skilled developer with strong business acumen will set you apart and open up opportunities to collaborate at the strategic level with business stakeholders.

Gain Cross-Discipline Experience

Instead of working on a segregated design or engineering team, Atomic’s project-based consulting teams consist of designers and developers working closely together to develop products. As a developer, you gain an understanding of human-centered design in addition to tactical design tools and practices. Adding design skills to your technical and business foundations allows you to provide immense value to any product development effort.

Working in a consultancy like Atomic builds your project management, product management, and sales skills. Direct client interaction strengthens your written and verbal communication skills, too. This potent blend of skills could open up future possibilities ranging from starting your own company to taking on a leadership role in an existing company.

Add Technical Expertise

Working for a consultancy will give you exposure to an incredibly diverse set of programming languages and tools. Within my first few years at Atomic, I had been exposed to languages including Bash, C#, Java, Perl, PL/SQL, PHP, and Ruby. I became well-versed working with multiple Linux distros, Windows, and OSX. I gained experience with many databases including HypersonicMy SQL, Oracle, PostgresSQL Server, and SQL Lite. I worked with many different frameworks, libraries, and toolsets, writing web, desktop, and enterprise software.

Working with a variety of technologies makes you an expert at learning quickly. Spending time in a consultancy will increase your chances of having the right technical experience for your next project or adapting what you already know to something new.

Set Yourself Up for Success

If you are graduating this year and starting to consider places to work, I highly recommend working at a consultancy for your first job. You will likely gain a broader experience than anywhere else, accelerate your learning, and set yourself up for a successful career with many options.