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General Contracting Question

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venom77

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Post Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:02 am

General Contracting Question

To those of you who have been doing contracting for some time, I have a situation that I'm not entirely sure on how to handle.

I currently work as a sub-contractor and have a contract outlining my responsibilities as such. A few months ago, as my project expanded, my contract had to be modified for me to provide support to other locations (since they weren't in my initial contract). My problem with this was there was originally supposed to be another person doing this and they've basically leveraged my contract to have me do it instead. It's nothing super difficult so I don't mind much but it is something someone else was supposed to do (they eventually gave me an extra $1/hr, woo).

Just last week some guy in a different department turned in his resignation which I guess sent ripples up the chain and the higher-ups scrambling to figure out what to do. They need someone to support the stuff this guy is responsible for but don't have anyone. Eventually, someone pointed to me and I was called by the company with the contract (who I sub for) and was told to do a knowledge transfer from this guy leaving as I would be supporting his stuff. They said it's "urgent" and to just start working with him as they'll "get paperwork handled later."

No one said anything about an increase in pay for this, and I really don't see a benefit to me to do this (it'd just cause more headache). Not to mention, I'd then be doing the jobs of 3 people while still only getting paid as 1. I thought it sounded shady so I called my direct employer who said "you should just do what they want you to do, in 4-5 months down the road we can go to them and say 'hey, you really need to pay for this.'" To me that sounds like BS. I don't know why I should be providing any service for nothing. The contractor wants to look good to the organization because they can say "hey look, you were in trouble and we provided the resource" but that doesn't do a damn thing for me.

Anyway, here it is Monday and this guys last day is Thursday so I'm supposed to be "shadowing" him. If anyone has any sort of thoughts on it please let me know.
Last edited by venom77 on Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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caissyd

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Post Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:29 am

Re: General Contracting Question

Hey BillV,

I have been in a similar situation in the past. One guy left and a second one went in parental leave. In addition, we got another contract that my manager really wanted and guess what, he threw it my way. So for a 3 month period, I was doing the job of 4 people... And at that time, I was still an employee trying to prove himself.

Now, I have been a contrator for almost 4 years now and been through a few situations like this. I can see a few advantages/disadvantages for you:

Advantages:
1) You get to be known by more people. Since you take more responsabilities and tasks, you get to work with more people and it can be good for you.

2) You can get way more in your next contract because if you leave, they are 3 times more in trouble...

3) Good and loyal managers (they are rare but they exist!) will remember what you did and will give something back to you as soon as they have a chance.

Disadvantages:
1) There is no way you can shine in each of the three jobs. Someone who sees you working only in one position will think you are lazy because you simply can't work 3 x 40 = 120 hours a week. But if someone knows you are doing three jobs, they will be amazed by your work. So you will deceived people who aren't aware of your situation.

2) Even if they were going to triple your pay, you will burn out quickly. So you can only do this for so long...

3) Another one related to number 1) above: You will do a below average job in each since you are stretched thin. Your managers need to be very aware of this situation...


So what I think is, because you are a contractor, you should do it for a short period of time (1 or 2 months max) until they find someone else to replace you somewhere. Make it clear in writting that you want to help them turn around and find a replacement. Also, only work on the mandatory tasks and don't bother with the small stuff that can wait.

And if after 2 months they haven't moved yet, then ask for a 25% increase in your pay, highlighting the fact they have already saved 2 person/month (because the other one is gone) and that will cover 8 months of increased salary for you (2 months / 0.25 = 8).

I think the managers are stuck right now and they need help since they could not have seen this coming. But this should be short and rewarded nevertheless...

On the other hand, if you have a little family and can't work more, make sure they accept in writting that you will only work on critical tasks.

Does this help you a bit? I have been there and I have done that. In my situation (the one explained at the very top), I work like crazy for 4 months, didn't get a penny more for that but withing 6 months, I was the youngest team lead in the office which included a $15 000 pay increase. So it was worth the effort for me!

Good luck BillV!
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venom77

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Post Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:51 am

Re: General Contracting Question

Thank you for the very thorough and detailed response, H1t M0nk3y. It certainly does help out, very much so, and I will take it all into consideration until I figure out what to do. Thanks a lot!
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sil

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Post Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:23 am

Re: General Contracting Question

I believe many if not all who've done work as an employee or contractor have faced similar circumstances so I'll add my two pennies hitmonkey "style"

Advantages:

1) You get to learn more stuff. There is nothing wrong with understanding more in an architecture in fact, at the end of the day, it may make your job a bit easier in the long run. There may be some applications or technology worthwhile using/learning. I had to learn python this way back in the 90's. Back then I was a systems admin/security engineer at a company whose backbone was primarily written in python with mod_python running on over 80 Apache servers.

Sure I had more work, the benefit to me was I learned Python which at the time wasn't all that common. This gave me a lot of "footing" come time when I asked for more money. Not to mention the fact, the company KNEW it would be more costly to outright hire someone else then give me what I wanted.

2) "The go to guy" ... Since you're in a contractual position, this gives you better leverage in the event that they look to hire someone full-time. You already know the ropes and your way around the system so it makes more practical sense for them to look to you. This is also a disadvantage...

Disadvantages

1) From the above #2. Because you are the go to guy, you're going to be a target. No one wants to give everyone ALL of the keys to the castle. At some point in time, you won't want to be in the middle of it all.

For starters, when someone knows TOO MUCH, it will be time at some point to begin the separation of duties process. This is the time where depending on the company you work for, they begin looking for ways to outsource your work to others in your department or other vendors. It could be a disadvantage because they won't appreciate anything you've done since they figure: "Well if he could perform 3 roles, so could X in fact X could do it Z cheaper.

2) Stress... Stress no matter how much fun you have in a position will slowly find its way to your life. Can you handle more work in your life. There is a balance and sanity and happiness will always trump work.

What I suggest doing is asking for clarity on how long they expect you to work under these conditions. Say it in a straightforward business sense that a manager can recognize, e.g.:

"While I will do my best to assist in the current situation, be advised that my role here is to perform task X. In my daily work duties of performing task X, the quality or quantity may be subject a lesser quality or quantity because I am now also tasked with Z. I will work with whomever to ensure the quality and quantity of X does not deteriorate however, be advised I was never initially contracted for task Z"

Wording is key. You can nicely tell them - thanks but no thanks, I will help as much as I can, but they need to get someone to fill this void otherwise my normal duties (busy as they are) will suffer. In turn the business may suffer because of it.

OR, you can roll with it and press them for more money. I tend to do the latter, learn as much as I can, get a strong foothold, then ask for more money using a business case. "The cost of hiring another individual will be X amount dollars versus allowing me to continue my work at Y amount. The benefit to you will be the savings associated with the salary, training new talent, and risk exposure with new talent..." and so on and so forth. Me personally, I tend to learn more, ask for more roles/things to do, then twist an arm when I have to (most of the times I don't) to get my way and go about business as usual.

Right now, I'm actually doing the roles of about 5 staff - and I mean solid roles, and I know my worth because I know what it would cost to get a replacement. Because I'm very versatile, I don't mind but I do know factually there are few who can mix and match positions similar to me (I can be a system engineer, admin, architect, network engineer/architect/admin, security engineer, manager, architect, etc.) So its more cost effective for me to twist an arm for say 10-15k more per year versus my company hiring out a bonafide network engineer at what salary? The intro CCNA is about 60k per year... See where I'm going?
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caissyd

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Post Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:27 pm

Re: General Contracting Question

@sil: I thought I was using your "style": long and throughout!  :D

BillV, discuss the matter with your wife (if you have one!). Sometime, they know and understand us more than we do... But I am sure you already did it.

Keep us posted!!!
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venom77

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Post Tue Feb 01, 2011 8:02 am

Re: General Contracting Question

Thanks for the reply, sil.

You guys have both provided me with plenty of information to take into consideration. As you've both mentioned, there are advantaged and disadvantages to it either way.

I will definitely take it all in and ponder on it some more. I will most likely take it on for some time to see how it goes, maybe learn a few new things, and then make a more informed decision.

Thanks again to both you. Very much appreciated.
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mallaigh

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Post Tue Feb 01, 2011 3:44 pm

Re: General Contracting Question

Two pennies incoming....

I think practicing what you want to say to management could go a long way in this situation.  Practicing while commuting to work (good) or in front of a mirror (best), will help you remain focused and calm while saying what you need to say.  And remember, say what you are going to say, talking points, say what you said.

I have learned the hard way that not being prepared for a conversation that pertains to money (raises, equipment, etc), can go horribly wrong and usually results in less than desirable results (no raise, no new toys).

Edited for clarity
Last edited by mallaigh on Tue Feb 01, 2011 4:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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dynamik

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Post Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:56 pm

Re: General Contracting Question

Bill, how have things been going? I'm catching up on posts after a few months of neglect. I'm curious how this has worked out for you.
The day you stop learning is the day you start becoming obsolete.

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