There are a lot of Myths out there
There are lot of Myths about being a Software Contractor – say, that they are delivering value from first hour stepping in the door.
What myths did I believed to be true and they held me back from starting my career as a Software Contractor.
In the end of this post I will also elaborate on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly thing about being a Software Contractor.
Before that, let’s just clarify what a Software Contractor is.
What is a Software Contractor?
A software contractor is hired on short contracts to help out with building software. Just like a Software Engineer, but just on a limited contract.
Why are they hired on short contracts?
Well, there can be many reasons. For one is the demand of software engineers cannot follow the supply. Hence, the competition to get software engineers is so high companies need to pay contractors to fill the missing seats in their teams.
That also mentions why you would want to become a software contractor.
The pay – you get a really good pay.
In the end of this post I will write more about the Good things, also the Bad and Ugly things about being a software contractor.
Myth #1: Software Contractors are good developers
I would say, I know a lot of software contractors and they come in all flavors.
No kidding. In general, they are not better than the average senior software engineer. Meaning, no better than someone with about 5 years of professional experience.
But there is a catch.
Software contractors are most of the time hired into projects that are understaffed and have no senior developers in them. This makes the Software Contractors seem really good comparing to the other developers in the team.
Of course, you should not underestimate the experience you get as a software contractor, you experience a lot of different implementations and see what works and what doesn’t.
This is great value to contribute with in a tech team.
Being reflective on what works, pays highly.
Myth #2: Software Contractors add value from the first day
This surprised me a lot. As the hourly salary for a Software Contractor is high, you would expect that the people hiring you would have a stopwatch counting every second to get the most out of you.
I used to think, that there would be an expectation of a Software Contractor could just sit down at a computer and immediately deliver valuable code from the first day.
That a Software Contractor is just understands the full software ecosystem from first hour and can find bugs, add new modules, and so forth just by looking at an overall design diagram.
First of all – that is not the case. As a software contractor you are not overly human.
Also, what surprised me, the first day everyone wants to talk to you and influence you. They know that your opinion matters. You are more senior. You have the external eyes on the system.
That means the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, the people Manager, the Team manager, the C-level staff, want to influence you.
For many reasons, but one is often common.
- They want to challenge the decisions made by the team on technologies.
Myth #3: Software Contractors add value every second
To be honest, I thought that especially manager would be focused on keeping Software Contractors as efficient as possible. The main reason being, that they are expensive.
Again, I was wrong.
Actually, the managers seem more busy pushing the employed staff as busy as possible and less the Software Contractors.
The managers love to discuss things with Software Contractors. They seem to think of us as a neutral party that always will tell the truth and not be biased by the team.
Managers think that your judgement is better than employed team members.
My experience is, that you sit more often than you like it not doing what you love. You love to code – and that is how simple it is.
Myth #4: Software Contractors need a huge savings
This kept me for many years from starting as a Software Contractor.
The nature of being a Software Contractor is that you live from contract to contract, and that can be on a monthly basis.
I had noticed, that some Software Contractors seemed to be part of teams longer than the hired employees. But the reality was, that they needed to get contracts prolonged every month or similar.
Therefore I thought you needed at least 6 months of savings to start as a Software Contractor. What if you couldn’t find the next contract?
You can be terminated from day-to-day.
This sounds scary.
But the reality is, that you get offers all the time from recruiters that need Software Contractors like you. The demand is so big, that you can start in a new position the day after you get terminated from your current position.
Another reality is, that even though you are hired for short term, they almost never want to let you go. They want to keep you there.
There is simply no need to have a saving.
Myth #5: Software Contractors deliver perfect solutions
This is kind of a weird one.
I actually thought that Software Contractors were hired to make great software solutions. But that is actually not what directors in organizations want.
They want something totally different.
Now, I think it is kind of strange I never thought of it before. Yes, I truly believed that directors wanted good solid software solutions, that was built stable.
No, they just want results.
Teams talk about how to make the “perfect” solution, that is easy to maintain, that can be extended easy. The problem with this is, that they go into too much analysis.
Directors just want results. At the cost of making it good. They need products they have promised to customers.
They promised solutions. But the team went into hibernation (from the view of director) and did not deliver.
You, the Software Contractor, is hired to get results. Results fast.
The Good thing about being a Software Contractor
As promised, here are some of the good things I like about being a Software Contractor.
- No employment development plan – when you are hired as a software engineer, your manager will make a development plan on how you should improve your skills and keep up to date with everything. It is a waste of time and you never follow it. Things change faster than your yearly made plan. I just love to avoid this pain point.
- No participation in social meetings and events – you simply do not get invited into meetings where they discuss future strategies, plans on how to make it a better place to work and so on. If anything is important for you, you get a summary with the highlights. No more wasting time in these hourly meeting. You get time to do what you love without interruptions – code.
- You are often the most experienced – you get hired into teams with less experienced. This means that you can shine with your experience. The senior in the organization you work for are often stuck supporting their critical systems.
- Mostly Greenfield projects – the most fun projects to work on are Greenfield projects, as you built something new. Again, this is because they need to try something new and their seniors are stuck in their existing systems. This means you don’t end up in an old legacy system.
The Bad thing about being a Software Contractor
Here are some bad things about being a Software Contractor.
- Showcase how you develop your skills – Before you get hired into a project, they always want to know how you keep yourself up to date with the technologies. They expect this to be done in your free time. So it is important you can showcase this.
- Good at job interviews – you need to be good at job interviews, as they will run you through a lot of things in no time and expect you to be on a totally different level than normal software engineers are in job interviews. This is just practice, but you need to good at selling yourself.
- Big network – having a big network is also a key thing you want to get the interesting contracts. Recruiters are pain, and are often hired to get contractors into projects that cannot attract anything. That said, it means using the offers from recruiters is plan B. You would want to know someone working in a project you want to be part of.
The Ugly thing about being a Software Contrsactor
Here are the ugly things about being a Software Contractor.
- You are responsible for your code – if you work as an employee in a company, you are actually not responsible for the code you write. As a Software Contractor you are. That means, if you make some code that is the result in a company losing a lot of money, then they can sue you for that. This means you need an insurance.
- There are no benefit – while the pay is great, you get nothing else. If you want to participate in social events where you work, you most often have to pay for everything yourself. Also, if you need to go somewhere on behalf of what you do for them, you also need to pay the expenses yourself.
- Contractors have a bad reputation – As mentioned above, Software Contractors are most of the time hired to get results fast. This often comes with a price of quality in the solutions you deliver. Some Software Contractors don’t mind this, and just come, deliver code, and leave. I like to discuss solutions and why choices are made with the team, to compensate for the design and solution choices.
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