Milestones, Goals, and the Power of No

It’s been a few weeks since I hit my latest milestone, but life was fairly full in the immediate aftermath. On the plus side, the extra time was good for reflection.

The milestone to which I am referring is that, on October 27, 2019, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. The race itself and the training leading up to it were the hardest physical things I have ever done. The weather during the actual race was crazy, with torrential rains for my first 14 miles or so. My finish time was a lot slower than I’d hoped, but I don’t care because I finished. I learned a lot and am already looking to do another.

Looking back on the process of training for the race, it was very much a clarifying experience. As the daily and weekly mileage ramped up, my time management skills were put to the test. It was no longer possible for me to squeeze in the mid-week training runs during a lunch hour, so it required more communication with my co-workers. To a one, they were supportive.

On the other end of the day, I needed to make sure things didn’t extend in a way that impinged on time with my family. Our kids are older and fully self-sufficient, so a lot of the logistics that were needed when they were younger were no longer a factor. At this stage, I just wanted to make sure I was getting meaningful time with them and my wife.

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The Consultant’s Dilemma

I’ve worked as a consultant for my entire career, and one of the most rewarding aspects of it is the variety of projects you get exposed to. I’ve gotten to meet and work with great people over the years and have also gotten to work with a lot of emerging technology. In that regard, it’s been a great experience.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a consultant, and probably the biggest thing that makes it not a life for everyone, is what I call the “consultant’s dilemma.” It goes like this: A consultant is often brought into an organization to provide a specific set of expertise that does not exist in the organization at a sufficient level to meet a goal or solve a problem. Despite being brought in to provide a form of leadership, the consultant is never the owner of the solution; nor does the consultant have authority to direct execution. In short, a consultant is brought in to provide direction, but must do so from the back seat.

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Perspectives

Today marks the first day of classes for the spring semester at Salisbury (Maryland) University. This is significant for me because it also marks my first day as an instructor in the Masters of GIS Management program, teaching an online course called “Leadership in GIS Organizations.” This is my first foray back into academia in the 22 years since I finished my own degree.

Aveiro March 2012-18
By Alvesgaspar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This new venture doesn’t represent a career change for me so much as an enhancement. I have spent my entire career working as a consultant, primarily developing geospatial systems for government (mostly federal government) users. This means I live in the for-profit private sector and interact with government fairly regularly.

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Slow Food

In 1985, I was a junior in high school and I got my first job at a local chain steakhouse. I ended up staying there for a few years and did everything, including management. This particular location happened to be the busiest store in the chain, which had a couple hundred locations at the time. Basically, we just unlocked the doors and people came in. We often had a line and managers from all over the country came to see how we did business.

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Using Redmine for Proposal Management

I work at a technology consulting company that does a lot of software development. A while back, we started using Redmine to manage our software development projects. Redmine is an open-source, web-based project management tool. It provides a lot of capability, is easily customizable without coding, features SCM integration and, since it is built on Ruby on Rails, can be extended using RoR as well. We are still getting comfortable with it but it has been meeting our needs well and has been well-received by our customers.

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