[SURVEY RESULTS] The 2024 edition of State of Software Modernization market report is published!
GET IT here

Why Every Developer Should Be a Software Engineer Consultant in 2024

readtime
Last updated on
June 6, 2024

A QUICK SUMMARY – FOR THE BUSY ONES

Software consultants are needed in most of the projects

Software developer vs software consultant

According to a dictionary definition, a software consultant is a contractor who helps to replace an outdated software solution with a modern one, maintains systems ensuring the best performance results, designs systems, and runs lots of diagnostic tests to analyze a system and detect possible efficiency improvements.

Whereas a software developer actually writes code in a project. Consultants work more independently and they enter a project to make a particular difference.

And... forget what you've just read

Honestly, these definitions are obsolete, to put it mildly.

"Software consultant" is just a name for someone with a particular set of skills:

  • vast experience in software development,
  • analytical skills,
  • understanding of a business side of a project,
  • and ability to use this understanding during all the development phases.

These are the skills every developer needs to look at the project from the business perspective and go beyond the code. By that, every developer can make a difference and improve the ROI and DORA metrics of a product they develop.

Keep scrolling, to learn more about the role of software engineering consultants.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Why Every Developer Should Be a Software Engineer Consultant in 2024

Software engineer consultant's skills in a project - a business perspective

Without business understanding, developers will only be so-called "code monkeys".

And what they need is to understand how each feature and functionality they develop impact the future ROI of a product. They need to be able to advise, help to choose the features wisely, challenge a client's vision because they're the experts in what actually works from a business perspective.

These abilities are also useful on a more daily level when it comes to setting priorities for a sprint (choosing the ones that are viable from a business point of view in the shortest perspective).

How a software developer can become a software consultant?

Let's start with the fact that every developer can acquire the skills of software consultants. Of course, the biggest requirement is to want to grow in that direction.

What a developer needs is to:

  • gain experience in various software development projects,
  • develop analytical skills,
  • learn how a digital product or service brings value to a business and how to use that understanding on a daily basis (from workshops when product features are being chosen to weekly plannings when it comes to prioritizing),
  • expand communication skills and creativity,
  • become ready to take ownership.

Now, let's go back to the basics.

Software developer vs software engineering consultant - Skillset comparison

Software developer

Depiction of core competencies of a Software Developer.

A software developer is someone who applies the principles of software engineering to design, develop, maintain, test, and evaluate computer software. They are the minds behind computer software, which they write using a variety of programming languages and frameworks, such as JavaScript, MongoDB, Java, Python, C++, and others.

According to statistics from Indeed, an American worldwide employment-related search engine for job listings, the average software developer can expect to earn over $100,000 a year, and senior software developers earn $20,000 more.

The career of software developers typically starts in college, where they learn computer programming, program design, computer systems analysis, fundamentals of hardware, networking, computer architecture, mathematics, databases, and other essential skills.

Junior software developers with a fresh programming college degree are able to write simple scripts, and they can also understand the expected application lifecycle and database and application services such as queues and caching. With several years of professional experience under their belts, and the ability to write complex code, many software developers graduate to software developer positions, where they sometimes remain for the rest of their careers.

While software developers can also deal with clients, most organizations employ someone else to take care of the communication with clients and let software developers focus on code writing. Software developers with exceptionally good leadership and people skills can become software development managers and even chief technology officers, overseeing the work of software developers and taking responsibility for their performance.

Software engineer consultant

Depiction of core competencies of e a Software Engineer Consultant.

Erik Dietrich, founder of DaedTech LLC, programmer, architect, IT management consultant, author, and technologist, acknowledges that the term “software engineer consultant” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

“A lot of people think that it means a software developer that writes code for a company other than their employer. Some think it means you come in, hand wave and spout buzzwords, and leave before anyone can figure out if you’re helpful or not. And still, others think it’s sort of a black belt of soft skills kind of deal,” he writes. “But it’s none of these things. Instead, being a consultant means something much simpler.  It means that you provide expert advice” he adds.

Typically, software engineer consultants are senior developers with years of professional experience. They are hired by companies to advise, strategize, design and together with software developers build software that solves business problems. As such, they spend quite a lot of time collaborating with various stakeholders, capturing project requirements, and translating them into concrete technical objectives.

Because there is no clear-cut path for software engineer consultants to follow, real-world experience is the most important qualification they have. Leveraging this experience, software consultants adapt to a client’s business and plan or build software as if they were a direct part of the business.

Software engineer consultant versus software developer

Depiction of the difference in core competencies of a Software Engineering Consultant vs Software Developer.

“It’s not about employment status or how you collect money. It’s about how you deal with other people,” explains Dietrich. Fundamentally, software developer consultants don’t receive specific direction from management. Instead, they are tasked with a certain mission, and they use their experience to accomplish it, which typically means reducing costs, increasing revenue, or making processes more efficient by providing technical advice.

At Brainhub, we know that every product has a vital business goal standing behind it. We believe that it is important to challenge every idea in order to find and choose the best solution and path to achieve it. To ensure that result we constantly train all of our developers and help them develop consultancy skills.

Contrary to our belief, many software developers in other teams are told exactly what to do and how to do it. A project manager prioritizes their work, a business analyst tells them what the software writing needs to do and why, an architect tells them how to write the software from an abstraction perspective, a tech lead reviews their work and supplies more granular detail, and senior software developers provide direction as well.

“This is the epitome of commodity labor, which is why, by definition, it costs the least. The hope, for both this ‘junior’ developer and the organization is that some of those bosses melt away with time and seniority. More people defer to this ascendant developer with time, and fewer people have to say ‘what’ and ‘how,’” writes Dietrich.

The allure of being behind the steering wheel and calling the shots is self-explanatory, but not every software developer dreams of being in charge. Some software developers actually enjoy being given clear tasks to complete and then being rewarded for their completion. This feedback loop shares many similarities with video games, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying its straightforward nature.

However, even software developers who enjoy being told exactly what to do and how to do it should consider transitioning to a position that utilizes consultancy skills because there are many ways it can benefit them professionally.

<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>Read also: What's the future for software engineers? Will they be replaced by AI?</p></span>

Software engineer consultants help making better decisions

Software engineer consultants offer business-related knowledge and the ability to combine technological decisions with business goals. That brings remarkable value to development projects.

They help to break down boundaries between development, operations, and business, which is a domain of the BizDevOps culture. It allows for the undisturbed flow of knowledge and supports business-driven decisions.

<span class="colorbox1" fs-test-element="box1"><p>A development team with even one consultant on board fully understands the business context and makes technical decisions driven by business goals.</p></span>

Typical responsibilities of a software engineer consultant

1. Understanding client needs and objectives

  • Conducting meetings and discussions to understand the client's business goals, technical requirements, and challenges.
  • Analyzing existing software systems and business processes to identify areas for improvement or innovation.

2. Solution design and development

  • Designing, developing, and implementing software solutions that meet the client's requirements.
  • Selecting appropriate technologies and frameworks for the project.
  • Writing clean, efficient, and well-documented code.

3. Project management

  • Planning and overseeing the project lifecycle, including timelines, milestones, and deliverables.
  • Coordinating with project managers, other consultants, and client teams to ensure smooth execution.
  • Adapting project plans as needed based on changing requirements or obstacles.

4. Quality Assurance and testing

  • Conducting thorough testing to ensure software functionality and reliability.
  • Identifying and fixing bugs and performance issues.
  • Ensuring the software meets all security and compliance standards.

5. Communication and reporting

  • Regularly communicating project progress, issues, and risks to stakeholders.
  • Preparing and presenting reports and documentation related to the project.

6. Providing expert advice and guidance

  • Offering technical expertise and advice to clients on software-related matters.
  • Suggesting strategies and improvements for better software performance and business alignment.
  • Keeping up-to-date with industry trends to provide informed recommendations.

7. Training and support

  • Providing training to client teams on new systems or technologies implemented.
  • Offering post-deployment support and troubleshooting.

Top 3 reasons to become a software engineer consultant

Depiction of key reasons to become a Software Engineer Consultant.

1. Broader outlook

Software engineer consultants typically take long-term ownership over the life of a product, from the initial requirements analysis to maintenance. Having a clear understanding of everything that goes into developing a software project from start to finish is an invaluable skill for software developers, and work as a software engineer consultant is the best way how to obtain it.

Developers who utilize their experience in consultancy, usually know how to save time, money, and effort in the long-term, which makes them very attractive in the eyes of companies that are looking for fresh talent.

2. Morale boost

When software developers start to transition to consulting after years of being told what to do, they tend to experience a major morale boost. “There was so much to learn and grow, and I loved the fact that you are not treated as a commodity. You get a chance to talk and work with people at CTO & VP level,” says one former software engineer consultant. “It gives engineers the morale boost which I see many engineers lacking.”

Developers that are becoming consultancy-focused will find their engineering experience highly beneficial in helping them complete challenging software projects and avoiding the dreaded software developer burnout, which is so prevalent in the industry.

3. Put your soft skills to good use

Soft skills have become very important for software developers, but saying that software developers have an abundant amount of opportunities to put them to good use would be an overstatement. Software engineer consultants spend quite a bit of time with clients to create software that solves business problems, which tests and further hones their people and management skills.

Some software developers can be average at programming but outstanding as software engineer consultants because they can put their soft skills to good use.

How to become a software engineer consultant

Depiction of how to become a Software Engineering Consultant.

Becoming a software engineer consultant isn’t difficult per se, but it requires some patience and good planning. Here are 5 steps every software developer can take to make the transition:

  1. Get enough software development experience: Software engineer consultants need enough software development experience to understand the many nuances of software development and be able to guide junior developers. For some software developers, a couple of years of experience will be plenty, while others may want to have at least a decade under their belt, and preferably spend it working for multiple companies.
  2. Master a new technology: Nothing can stop the relentless pace of technology. New technologies rise to prominence all the time, presenting many fantastic opportunities for aspiring software engineer consultants to evangelize it. Once the technology takes off across the industry, the available software engineer consultant opportunities will be abundant.
  3. Become a company hero: Every company needs a hero from time to time. When the time for a hero to save the day comes, some companies quickly hire outside help while others don’t have to because someone from within their ranks rises to the occasion and saves the day, single-handedly promoting themselves to the role of a software engineer consultant.
  4. Establish a strong online presence: Thanks to the internet, software developers can become software engineer consultants by establishing a strong online presence and industry authority. Those who successfully carve a niche for themselves in their field can expect plenty of job opportunities coming from companies in the same niche.
  5. Learn from other software engineer consultants: The value of a good mentor is immeasurable when it comes to learning the ins and outs of a certain profession. As a software developer, the best thing you can do for yourself to kickstart your career and get much closer to being able to work as a software engineer consultant is work with a mentor and learn as much as possible from them.

Skills you need to develop to become a software engineering consultant

Software engineer consultants require a mix of technical, interpersonal, and business skills to be effective in their roles. Here's a breakdown of these skills:

Technical Skills

  1. Programming Languages: Proficiency in languages relevant to the client's needs, such as Python, Java, C++, or JavaScript.
  2. Software Development: Understanding of software development methodologies (Agile, Scrum, Waterfall) and software lifecycle management. Besides of knowing the theory, you need to understand how these methodologies work in practice.
  3. Problem-Solving: Ability to diagnose and resolve complex technical issues.
  4. Database Management: Knowledge of database technologies like SQL, NoSQL, and data modeling techniques.
  5. Version Control: Familiarity with tools like Git for code versioning and collaboration.
  6. DevOps Practices: Knowledge of continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) processes and tools.
  7. Cloud Computing: Understanding of cloud services (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) and how to deploy applications in a cloud environment. For example, you need to know how to create an effective cloud migration strategy.
  8. Dealing with Tech Debt: Tech debt is unavoidable, but software engineer consultants need to understand how to manage and reduce it. It's also crucial to know how to prioritize technical debt repayment.

Interpersonal Skills

  1. Communication: Ability to clearly articulate technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders and work effectively with diverse teams.
  2. Client Management: Skills in managing client expectations, building relationships, and understanding client business needs.
  3. Teamwork: Ability to collaborate effectively with other team members and stakeholders.
  4. Adaptability: Flexibility to adapt to different working environments and rapidly changing project requirements.

Business Skills

  1. Project Management: Understanding of project management principles to oversee projects from conception to completion.
  2. Analytical Thinking: Ability to analyze business processes and propose software solutions that align with business goals.
  3. Consulting Acumen: Skills in understanding the market, identifying business opportunities, and providing strategic advice to clients.
  4. Negotiation: Competence in negotiating contracts, timelines, and resources with clients.

Continuous Learning

Given the fast-paced and ever-evolving nature of technology, continuous learning is vital. Staying updated with the latest trends, tools, and technologies in the software industry is crucial for a software engineer consultant.

These skills collectively enable a software engineer consultant to not only deliver technical solutions effectively but also to ensure that these solutions align with the broader business objectives of their clients.

Start expanding your skills right away

One of the greatest ways of expanding skills is to learn from a real-life use cases. You can start with one of those:

FAQ

Why developers want to become consultants?

According to Evans Data Corporation, the number of software developers is expected to reach 27.7 million by 2023. Attracted by high salaries, plenty of job opportunities, and the chance to work on world-changing projects, junior software developers are united by their shared passion for technology and their unique problem-solving abilities.

However, software developers are not the homogenous group they are often presented as. In reality, they come from diverse backgrounds and different parts of the world, some thrilled by the intricate nature of complex algorithms and others being more business-oriented and always paying attention to the overall objectives for successful project execution.

Developers want to become consultants because they want to have impact on product's growth from the business point of view. Consultants also earn more and often have more responsibility over the project.

Is consultant same as software engineer?

Software consultants often have additional set of skills, like better business understanding, more analytical skills, and better communication skills. Every developer can grow those skills to make a difference in a project.

What is the difference between a consultant and a developer?

According to a dictionary definition, consultants work more independently and enter projects to make a particular improvement or change. However, in our opinion, the real difference lies in a skillset and approach to a project.

People with the right skills deliver better business results. No matter the name

To avoid burnout in any field, it’s important to always maintain forward momentum. One way for senior software developers to fall back in love with software development is to transition into the role of a software engineer consultant and put their non-technical skills to good use. Software developers who spend at least some time working as software engineer consultants develop a broader outlook than they would have otherwise, and they get to march to the beat of their own drum, which is often exactly what they need after years and years of being told what to do and how to do it.

Frequently Asked Questions

No items found.

Our promise

Every year, Brainhub helps 750,000+ founders, leaders and software engineers make smart tech decisions. We earn that trust by openly sharing our insights based on practical software engineering experience.

Authors

Matt Warcholinski
github
Chief Growth Officer

A serial entrepreneur, passionate R&D engineer, with 15 years of experience in the tech industry. Shares his expert knowledge about tech, startups, business development, and market analysis.

Olga Gierszal
github
IT Outsourcing Market Analyst & Software Engineering Editor

Software development enthusiast with 6 years of professional experience in the tech industry. Experienced in outsourcing and nearshoring market analysis. Our expert in presenting tech, business, and digital topics in an accessible way.

Read next

No items found...

Get smarter in engineering and leadership in less than 60 seconds.

Join 300+ founders and engineering leaders, and get a weekly newsletter that takes our CEO 5-6 hours to prepare.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.