Consulting: First Day on the Job

I'm about to start a consulting position that will last between 1 to 2 years. The position will be that of a programmer analyst, and I will be solely responsible for the design and programming for an application. Programming will be mostly .Net and SQL.

I'm sure many of you Experts here have done some consulting in the past. My question is, what do you normally do on the first day on the job when you are consulting? I know I should take time to meet the people there that I will be working with but should I expect they would want to immediately get started with development the first day?
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Its all about the user requirements.  How many people are you working under?  After you meet everyone, show that your pro active by going to your boss and proposing to gather a list of projects and different areas that need to be worked on.  Then you can sit down with your boss and prioritize where what and how much you should get started on.  

1) Makes a good impression of a pro-active, motivated, productive consultant that is willing to find out what YOU need ..

2) Gives you a starting point to judge what to put your hands on first.

I don't know how much you've worked before ( I am relatively new in my position also) but no one is going to expect you to start of knowing everything.  I found my best answer was telling them that I need a bit of time to look at the code and familiarize myself with the program and the logic behind it.

I hope this is what you were looking for, it worked wonders for me.


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OH but make sure that you propose it.... I wouldn't wanna jump into peoples faces ... that would be not so cool.
WadskiIT DirectorCommented:
I presume you are not providing your own software so I would try to get your workstation setup and email etc (and internet access for EE!!!)

I would then start by getting a project plan together and agree achievable deadlines for parts of the work.
Check on future backup of your work early to prevent a problem later.

A meeting with your Line Manager would be useful and a tour of the building to get to know the important poeple.

I would suggest you do not develop on your first few days as you'll be nervous so liable to make mistakes!
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Jim HornSQL Server Data DudeCommented:
>what do you normally do on the first day on the job when you are consulting?
Locate the restroom, locate the boss, locate the 'consultant-manager' at this place, get login/email access to computer, hand out business cards.

Then spend the next two months (Kelvin81's comment above) doing nothing but gathering requirements.
Yah.. I guess I because I wet myself the first day it wasn't all that important for me to try to locate the rest room... but I have to agree.. that and the coffee machine go to the top of the list
slightwv (䄆 Netminder) Commented:
I know this first comment is pretty much a lounge statement but I'm going to make it anyway:
new town?  also locate the hot single co-workers, fitting your sexual preference, and ask them to show you around town.

I agree with everyone thus far.  Just wanted to add something that I feel should go w/o saying but just in case:
Be yourself!!!!!!  You'll never please everyone and you'll be more comfortable if you stay who you are.

To generalize some of the above comments (although this can't be done on the first day...  most people probably won't even talk to you):
Get the lay of the land.  Figure out who knows how things in the organization work.  Your boss may not have any 'real' idea how things work (I've worked for a few of these).
My first day would be:

Talking to the person that hired you.
Let him show you where you should be working.
Make him introduce you to the people there (well make him introduce them and you introduce yourself to the collegues)... a bit of a tour of the place.
You want to get to know the company to be fully able to build an application to THEIR liking.

Once you get your own place to work.. well then work.
SOOOO?????? how did the first day at work go?
nmwis70Author Commented:
It's not for another week.

Thank's for the comments guys, it was pretty much what I was thinking myself.

I'll leave the question open for a until Monday and then I'll close it, maybe there are others with something to add.
slightwv (䄆 Netminder) Commented:
Sure I'll add some more that I failed to add and haven't seen anyone else post:

You didn't give a lot of detail about the company/job/??? but here's some other tid-bits I've come across.  Can't speak for all but I've been on both sides of this.

You may be considered a lower life form in the eyes of the 'regular' company employees.  It doesn't matter how much better you are than them.  Don't be surprised if you overhear 'cube' talk:  "They're only contractors".  I've heard this from people that aren't qualified to carry my books and I had to smile and take it.

Also, in a heavily mixed contractor shop (large contract with many different contracting companies), be careful of the other contractors.  Their first priority is protecting their own company and it's stake in the contract.  Not to be a total cynic but after being burnt a time or two after being pumped for information at a certain job, I started asking myself: "What could they possibly do with this information" after being asked a simple question like "Think it will rain today"?

I hope you never find yourself in a job like this but if you stay in the contracting world, I'm sure you will.....
Find out how your product is going to be used. Read the specifications and discuss unclear points. Evaluate the the specification and see if there are some gaps, weak points or unrealistic assumptions.

Ask about

 - coding standards
 - version control
 - coe inspections
 - testing procedures
 - tools and methods they use

Estimate the level of competence of your coworkers and superiors. Find out if you have some unque skill or experience that may advance the project.

Learn about the company policies regarding data security and other matters, written and unwritten.
Also ask on OpenIt where a bunch of us computer consultants hang out:
Ask alot of questions.

Don't spill all you rknowledge on them. Find out what problems your solution needs to solve. Dont make promises or let on that you could make it do more.

Confront anthing that may be a problem first. For instance
ASK them " I expect the solution to take this long to be completed, but my history tells me that if we encounter a bug, we may take longer, if this happens, how would we handle it?"
Explain that if it takes longer it may require more of an investment. ASK "If this happens what would you have me do?
Oh, if they say "Well we need you to work for free to finish the project" , then you should bail.

That way, you have already broached the subject, of the problem, and if you don't make the deadline, you already know what would happen.

I do this with my worst fears, get them out of the way first. Also if you find that you can't possibly agree with how they want to handle a problem then you can call it quits up front, instead of in the middle of the project.

Meet everyone, decide on who the decsion makers are, and determine how you will communicate with the decsion makers. Usually, i am given someone to work with, but they dont always have the authority to make a decison. You need to find a way to get the answers you need, when you need them.

In conclusion, Determine how to communicate with the decesion makers.
Ask tons of questions,
Head off the negatives up front. So if they happen, you can always say, "remember when we talked about this on my first day"
Dont make grand promises, i bet they would appreciate you trying to understand what thier problems are instead of telling them what you can do for them.
Hope this helps,Good Luck
I did not read all the text thus I may cover some items that was already mentined. I have high anxiety and thus cannot focus on reading alot of comments.

I consulted for 15 years as an internal consultant where the plant paid for my time.

The first thing I would do is:

Get from the plant the names of the staff personel and memorize their names and job function. One always loves to know that someone cares about his name. It is important to him.

If possible get a layout of the offices and memorize where they sit.

Plan ahead for a presentation so that not only for office personel but factory personel know what you will try to accomplish. Realize that one's attention span is about 15 minutes. Thus give an opening speach, answer questions, then use for example overheads if they are not technically advanced in the company. Use a lazer pointer and stand to the side of the screen. You should have just about memorized the text and thus able to almost face the audience.

Next open it up once more for discussion and prepare a closing speach.

Make sure that every one knows you are not there to cut jobs.

Also if it is a plant, have them available to listen to your comments but taylor it to the audience, remembering that some may not even know how to read a graph.

Be sure that everyone knows that all recommendations will be implimented as the study is being done and with full acceptance of the company. Be sure that you leave a detailed 'operations' manual which contains everything agreed upon and tasks assigned to the respective personel.

Now if you gave me an idea what type of task you will undertake, I possibly can taylor it to your needs.

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