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Tales From Consulting: No 2nd Jobs

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Hi, I'm James Kim, CTO of Technomancer. I've been doing I.T. consulting my whole working career, working with a wide range of people and clients. Here are some stories I'd like to share.


This story isn’t what you’re expecting.

When I first started working at a certain consulting company under Dave (my manager, not his real name), the employment contract had a clause that said “employee (me) shall notify employer (my company) of any other employment that they have”. This is years ago, so I’m just paraphrasing.

I couldn't understand the point of that clause then. I didn’t have any intention of working part-time, but still I wanted the option to do so. What if I wanted to make a little extra money on side gigs?

So I asked Dave what the clause was about, and he just reiterated it.

“If I wanted to work at McDonalds or Best Buy during my off hours…?”

     “Not a problem.”

“How about if I do programming on the side?”

     “No problem, as long as you finish your main work and don’t reveal any confidential client information.”

“Are there companies or industries that you don’t want me to be involved in?”

     “Not really. We don’t really care.”


I couldn’t understand what was the point of that clause then, and I was worried that there was a catch I just couldn’t see. Dave noticed my confusion, so he said that this clause was added because of a previous employee, Steve (not his real name).

Steve was on the bench for 6 months.

In the consulting world, if you don’t have a project/client, you’re considered to be on the bench. And in the companies I worked for, you still got your full salary. They usually used this time to provide training on a variety of subjects to maximize this downtime by trying to improve the marketability of their consultants, but usually it was just busywork and waiting.

I know the “horrors” of the bench because I was once on it for 8 months, due to my “luck” of having all my prospective projects being delayed and/or ultimately canceled. I finished ALL the training modules they had available, and they literally had nothing else for me to do except just hang out in the office. I wanted to work, or to help out my friends who were overwhelmed with work on other projects, but I wasn’t allowed to, due to the hourly rate nature of consulting. So I started coming to work later (sleeping in), coming to the office to check if I had a project, taking 3 hour lunches, and then going home early. All fully paid. All my friends were jealous of me because they were so overworked with deadlines. And they wouldn’t believe me when I said I was bored out of my mind. I was also worried about keeping my skills current and up-to-date. If I knew I was going to be on the bench for 8 months, I would have quit. As it was, my next project was always 1-2 weeks away, supposedly. For 8 months. I was a legend among my peers.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get back to Steve. Steve was on the bench for 3 months. He would come to the office once a day to check if he had a project and say hi to the people in the office. Dave would tell him there still wasn’t any work. But Steve was a happy carefree guy, so he would just smile and say no problem (despite the internal stress I assumed he must be feeling), and then go home. Despite the obvious internal distress he must be feeling, and then he’d go home. And the cycle would repeat the next day.

One day, when Steve came in, Dave gave him the good news: he finally found him a project! Steve smiled and simply said “Oh. Nice. By the way, I quit”.

It turns out that Steve had found another job in the same building. But instead of quitting with Dave, he collected 2 paychecks from 2 different jobs, knowing that he’d quit as soon as Dave found a project for him. Now Dave had to scramble to find another consultant that would be a good fit for that client, making life harder for everyone involved.

And that’s why, henceforth, all contracts with Dave’s company had: “employee (me) shall notify employer (my company) of any other employment that they have”.

Because of Steve.