Do you have a passion for accounting, payroll management, publishing, or even gardening?
All of these are among the top 20 consulting industries thriving today. If you are thinking about starting a consulting career, how do you elevate your passion to industry expert status?
Evonne Waters is pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Project Management from Capella University. She’s also an executive consultant at a Fortune 50 diversified health and well-being company, and offers her experience and advice to others interested in consulting.
Q. How did you choose your consulting industry? What led you to become a consultant?
A. The field of population health management was “hot” in 1989 when I completed my master’s in public health. An undergraduate public administration fellowship originally introduced me to the topic and to key people in the industry. Following my graduate studies, I worked at the ground level as a field worker but had incredible mentors along the way. My mentors opened up a broader perspective and set me on a career path to consulting.
Furthermore, living in Chicago had its own opportunities. I was able to join boards that debated and decided about developing and funding public health programs. I would recommend board service, fellowships, and similar opportunities for anyone wishing to consult. This insider’s view provides invaluable knowledge and perspective you can’t get anywhere else.
Q. What was your first consulting job? How did you get it?
A. My first consulting job was to develop a plan and implement a small pilot for reducing risks that led to children entering the juvenile justice system. The lead came from a colleague working with groups that serve children with behavioral disorders. We were referred to an agency that had been unsuccessful at intervening within a specific geographical area, which put them at risk of losing funding for that area.
At the end of the contract, the client was delivered a full community assessment, new individual assessment and treatment tools, and a pilot that demonstrated the efficacy of combining in-home and onsite intervention as the best modality for reaching this hard-to-engage population.
Q. Are you an independent consultant or with a consulting firm?
A. I am independent because it affords me great flexibility and allows me to select jobs that interest me.
Q. In which areas of consulting do you work?
A. I’ve worked as both an internal and external consultant. It’s great when you can get both.
An internal consultant is an employee hired specifically to identify and resolve problems within the organization. If the organization is diversified, there are many opportunities for exposure and expanding your knowledge base. Internal consultants can include business process consultants, IT consultants, and clinical program consultants.
My external consultation has included a diverse portfolio. Sometimes I get to work in population health management, and other times I work smaller short-term contracts that are hands-on and deliver short-term deliverables.
Currently, I work internally as a Six Sigma and project management consultant.
Q. As an independent consultant, how do you build your network?
A. I have recruited clients through word of mouth and referrals from others. I’ve also gone the route of using websites and various search platforms, as well as speaking at conferences. I won’t stop using these because they have other benefits; however, the majority of my opportunities I find through my network.
Q. Do you have a specific target market for your consulting practice?
A. I’m interested in expanding work in the public administration/governmental market. I believe the governmental market allows for longer-term contracts and better networking for me when compared to private industry. I just need that extra boost which I think I can get from the DBA.
Q. Did you need to get additional licenses or certifications in order to become a consultant? How did you know you were qualified?
A. Some consulting opportunities came as a result of certifications and degrees, but those were primarily training and research engagements. Other opportunities required specific work or project experience. I knew I was qualified when I could see my training and experiences as a package that differentiated me from others.
Having a Six Sigma certification, project management certification, and nursing licensure makes me stand out from the crowd. I have advanced in each of these areas and received Master Black Belt certification and nursing case management certification. My DBA will open up more doors and will provide an extra edge, especially for landing government contracts.
Q. What do organizations expect from you when they hire you?
A. The variety of job assignments is something that I relish about consulting. For instance:
- Short-term consultation data analysis to evaluate a disease management competency training program;
- Concrete short-term projects with distinct pre-determined deliverables e.g., medical records assessment at 10 clinics to determine levels of adherence;
- Intermediate level projects to develop a solution and pilot it e.g., reducing the call abandonment rate in a call center; and
- Long-term contracts to design and implement a program on behalf of a company e.g., development and implementation of a home-based case management program for chronically ill adults.
Organizations expect you to complete the contracted work, but it is not enough to give them what they expect—you have to do more. Identifying additional problems and opportunities allows you to sound less like a sales person and more like someone who has become part of their team.
Q. What special knowledge or skills do you have that organizations are willing to pay for?
A. I think that program and portfolio management are the most sought-after skills. They provide the foundation for both clinical and business process improvement projects in my field. Being able to look at a complex system and map out a plan to achieve goals adds value.
Capella University offers a variety of online business degrees.
Connect with Evonne Waters on LinkedIn.