How to Accidentally Become an IT Consultant in Six Easy Steps.

Step 1: Pursue a career in Broadcast Journalism.

Admittedly this seems an odd place to begin your exciting journey into the world of professional IT consulting, but here’s the thing they don’t tell you about working in radio right out of college: it’s nothing but long hours and the pay is an amount so minuscule that your paycheck is almost a piece of collaborative fiction that you and your employer get to co-author and enjoy together. It’s the early 1990’s and you have your freshly-minted Anthropology degree and nobody is scouring the earth for twenty-two year olds who can talk about Ritual Gift Exchange in Papua, so an opportunity to get paid to talk on air to Londoners slogging their way around the M25 will sound like a nice change of pace. But don’t be fooled. You’re going to need a second job, and possibly a third.

Step 2: Get a second job (and possibly a third).

If you’re pondering a second job then I’d suggest starting out doing sales for a large UK-based Apple reseller with a complicated and bloody-minded returns policy. As the new kid you’ll be the poor sap who has to do ad-hoc tech support, but hopefully you’ll be like me and turn out to – against all common sense and expectations – be really rather good at it. So good, in fact, that you’ll end up with a third job peddling your skills around Central London, fixing things for fledgling Creative Agencies and falling asleep on the tube a lot. You should keep doing that though, because eventually you’ll end up doing the same job in Atlanta and then New York and then Seattle; happily being given Macs that don’t work and poking and prodding and repairing until they’re back to their original state.

Step 3: Get a better job (and get better at it).

You’re going to also want to go work in-house for a really, really cool design firm for about seven years – right around the time when Apple decided to scrap the old Classic MacOS and replace it with the BSD-enhanced Mac OS X. Pro tip: spend nights and weekends learning everything you can about Linux and BSD so that when Mac OS X finally gets released you’re in the minority who actually know how to work with the thing. (You’ll particularly enjoy the part where you realize that you can effectively automate about thirty percent of your workload, but I’d recommend you don’t talk about that too loudly).

Step 4: Be your own boss.

Quitting when that company gets sold twice in two years and then sort of falls apart like Mister Potato Head is going to be difficult, sure, but you’ll do okay if you strike out as an independent IT consultant specializing in Mac OS X client and Server configuration, installation and support in a huge design market. I’d recommend getting a lot of qualifications and certifications and being diligent about treating people with respect because that attitude seems to be something in woefully short supply with some of your competitors. After all, are you an attorney or an architect or an artist or surgeon? No, no you’re not, and people who fill their heads with doing complex and fascinating work shouldn’t be expected to spend a lot of time worrying about how their network works. You take care of that, and they’ll take care of building and making things and changing lives. It’s a fair trade. Oh, and get pretty good at running cable and chasing down network issues, too. Maybe hire a couple of people once things really get into high gear.

Step 5: Be your own boss (with fewer clouds).

Moving to Santa Barbara a few years later – which will involve selling your existing business and starting another one in a different state entirely from scratch – will be more difficult, but if you got this far you probably don’t shrink from challenges so you’ll work hard and (because you’re pretty firm about the whole treating-people-with-respect thing) it should work out… pretty great. You’ll be surprised that Santa Barbara – which seems at first inspection to be a touristy hotspot – has a thriving underbelly of commerce, biotech and industrial design. Did you know that the Lunar Rovers were designed and developed in Goleta? No? Well they were! Who knew? Not you, it seems.

Step 6: Do interesting work with interesting people.

You’ll want to partner with other people who are really great, too. I’d suggest doing that for about ten years, but eventually it’ll make sense to go and do your own thing, and you should go and do that because, well, you like it. After all, you get to swan up and down the Central Coast of California, meeting jewelry designers, restauranteurs, industrial designers, munitions researchers, professional chocolatiers, architects, veterinarians, graphic designers and architects and plastic surgeons and artists and people who build exquisitely, meticulously precision-crafted homes out of old delivery trucks.

So, that’s my advice. If you’d like to know more then drop me a line…