Is there demand for consulting that supports other AiT consultants?

After some 25 years of experience in IT, I find myself once again thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. I have much experience advising on Automation in Testing for organisations and projects, am finishing a book on AiT, and also found that I like coaching / mentoring both individuals and teams.

So I am wondering: Would there be demand for a consultant whose main role is supporting other AiT consultants / automators? So not juniors, but experienced automators and advisors? Somewhat like Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective? Are there people basically doing this already?

Your thoughts are most welcome.

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This is a cool question! I will never know what I want to be when I grow up, but I’ve also been thinking about career possibilities in the medium-future. I do need a lot more experience first, but something like a consultant is something I’m interested in longer term, at which point a coach or mentor in the automated testing space would be something I would realistically be interested in, and financially able to justify.

I think of testers as supporting testing, including automation by definition (tool-assisted testing). I suppose I’m wondering what support you’d offer and why it’s worth money.

Let’s pretend I own a company. I meet you at a conference and you hand me a business card, and I ask what you do. You tell me that you act as a consultant for test automation experts. I ask if you deal with new projects where nobody has experience and you say that you do not. So then I ask why would I hire you if I already hired testing experts that are supposed to know what they’re doing?

So I guess if you can answer that convincingly enough for me to pay you, and without making me look foolish for hiring people who need a consultant to do the work (not forgetting that I don’t understand automation or testing and have no wish to), then perhaps you have a saleable model.

It’s much less about what you can provide and more about getting the opportunity to provide it. It’s sales and marketing. I need to know why I need to spend money. What risks I’m averting or profits I’m encouraging.

If you wanted to be an automation consultant for new or failing projects then your market opens right up because everyone’s doing that and many automation projects fail or become totally unmanageable. Often that’s not because of technical automation concerns, but failure to understand the role and limitations of both testing and tools, or is a symptom of other company problems, but if you’re into that then there it is.

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@kinofrost That is a very valid question. Thanks for asking.

So I have been an ‘automation consultant for new or failing projects’ for a long time. And yes, there is good money to be made there. It is just that I think I might enjoy the mentoring more, as I have done some of it already.

The situation where you own a company is probably not the most likely one for me to offer my services. The larger the company, the more likely managers are to think that they are doing fine with the staff that they have. When in fact I would argue from over two decades of experience that, while a fair number become experts at some tool, few people become experts at AiT as a craft. (Why is an interesting topic in itself, perhaps I should raise that one also …) So you probably won’t hire me.

It is the more experienced professionals that sometimes realise that there is more to AiT that they are not learning that much about from experience, StackOverflow, and events as they think they could and perhaps should. I know very few books on automation that I would dare encourage people to study to learn the craft, especially more strategic stuff (which I why I felt that perhaps I should write one).

And the most practical way to advance beyond the usual stuff is to work together on some project. So people in an advisory role might involve me for a few hours per week to make sure that they do a better job and learn a lot in the process. He or she could even take on a project that is clearly a bridge too far with the explicit cooperation of a ‘guru’ that will ensure that the end result is really good (and the person learns a lot). The higher rate pays for my hours, and after a whole the person is worth that rate without my support. Some customers will gladly accept a construct like that in light of the scarcity of highly skilled professionals.

Does that clarify the idea? Do you think this could work?

If the scenario where I own a company wont work replace them with someone with spending power asking the same question. It hinges on the idea that someone with authority to spend money does so. If you can persuade them that they “will gladly accept a construct like that in light of the scarcity of highly skilled professionals” then it could work. I know this because bad consultants exist due to persuasion so good ones certainly can.

Im seeing it more now as coaching and project management. The concept is sound in principle, the sticking point is always selling it, and I think the idea of selling a finished project with people that can subsequently run it is an excellent approach, and a good answer to my original question. Thats stuff I can confidently spend money on and contract for. Also an opportunity to do some good for the industry by educating people about proper use of tools in responsible service of an actual test strategy.

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