Having worked in the Data and Analytics recruitment space for over a decade I have seen the industry emerge, evolve and change with an incredible pace. In my experience, this has always been a perm driven market – especially in France (since I focus my professional efforts primarily there).
However, in the past few years, we have all seen a shift in needs and demands from organisations, and also employees themselves. Contract opportunities are now available and continuously growing in numbers, as well as the enthusiastic professionals seeking to take finer control over their career and guide the direction of their projects and skills development. Only in the past year, my team and I have supported over a dozen consultants in their search for freelance missions as data engineers and data scientists - and I'm glad to say that the missions have been successful!
In this blog I discuss the situations and circumstances that influence or should (in my perspective) trigger consideration for a Data and Analytics professional to transition from his permanent position to a freelancer one.
When should you consider a switch from perm to contract?
Growing in a company and gaining solid career capital is a logical way to acquire the valuable skills and knowledge to excel in your career in tech. Learning from others, understanding the business and its processes and developing various projects according to this understanding plus your specialised knowledge, is an invaluable ingredient for your professional development.
What’s next though? Is there space for further learning and development? Could you grow your rank and responsibilities? Is your role still challenging? Are there more exciting projects?
Sometimes the perm to contract transition is just the logical career move based on the answers to the above questions. Many Data & Analytics professionals find themselves stuck in their positions once finished one or more projects just because there is no more space for more… more learning, more challenges, more growth. Some might argue that just using your skills and reputation to join another organisation is safer and more logical. In my perspective, it comes back to the answers of the opening questions and understanding the prime motivations of an individual.
Personality & motivations
A popular opinion is that climbing the career ladder and achieving a higher rank in an organisation or industry equals success. What I discovered through my career as tech recruiter is that professionals in my field of expertise are much more driven by challenging opportunities and skills development rather than job titles. These are the exact individuals that I guide through making the perm – contract transition. These are people willing to be problem solvers, creators and adventurers. They thrive on leading innovation and solving new puzzles regularly.
Just like investors, data & analytics gurus falls into two categories – the ones that invest long term (in this case in their career) and choose to build a stable and safe portfolio, and the ones that are willing to be always on their toes, discovering new opportunities, making quick wins and in most cases… bigger risks – bigger wins.
My job was much harder a couple of years back because I had a lot of Data geeks wanting to go freelance but the skillset did not cover my client’s criteria. Why was that? As hot and emerging Data & Analytics is now, let’s not forget that it is still a relatively young industry. For any professional to become a contractor the most important criteria would be for them to have pockets full of knowledge. Luckily, nowadays I am overwhelmed by gurus and the opportunities in the freelance space for them are endless, but back to my point and title of this section – timing is key for making such transition in your career in Data. As obvious as it might sound – you need skills and experience to be able to succeed in contracting. Cal Newport wrote a book called ‘So good they can’t ignore you’ that I would highly recommend reading it not only to understand the importance of precisely timing your career moves, but also to get inspired and intentional about them.
How can Montreal Associates help with the challenges and uncertainties?
Custom approach is my number one priority for each and every project I get involved in. I do not approach established Data professionals in permanent positions with the intention of convincing them that freelance is the way to go. I approach them to understand their situation, goals and aspirations, to assess their skills and build a detailed picture of their personality. Only then, if relevant according to my criteria, I introduce to them the opportunities I have available as well as the possibility of changing their way of work. Our partnership is a mutual decision and we go through the transition as a team.
Being present in the contract market for over 40 years, at Montreal Associates we have encountered numerous challenges for different consultants on their way to becoming freelancers. We learned, we listened, we broadened our horizons. We made partnerships with organisations that facilitate the process for our consultants and are confident to support and advice on such matters.
Along with helping with consultants with their set up a company (or whatever legal structure they have chosen for their freelance activity) we have had our preferred payroll suppliers reference available to them. Writing this sentence in past tense as I am proud to announce the launch of our very own payroll service at Montreal Associates. We are fully equipped and happy to take care of that part of the hustle too!
In the search for more control over their work, strive for challenges, and often better financial rewards aspirations, many Data & Analytics legends find their way out of the typical organisational structure and build their own career progression path.
What should you do if you wish to join the movement?