Today we continue our interviews with consultants sharing their perspectives on how and why they got into consulting. I’m really happy to have our guest Kevin Roy, a podiatrist who entered into informatics in 1992 as an associate director of informatics with a hospital in the northeast. He got involved in consulting in 2008. Within the last year he has been working on a project with Healthcare IS, which involved transitioning from one long-term engagement to a project with our firm.
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David Kushan: So Kevin, you got into consulting in a way that didn’t really feel like consulting but was maybe a staff augmentation or a consulting role to start your career. Can you tell us a little about that?
Kevin Roy : Sure! I had been working for a very large Healthcare integrated network for about 15 or 16 years. I had briefly left for another job and at the time was unhappy, I wanted to come back but this institution was on a hiring freeze. It was not uncommon practice for them to hire consultants through their “other than personnel services” budget on more or less an ongoing basis and that’s how I got back into that institution.
At the time, for me, the check came from a different point but otherwise if felt like just being a regular employee. There was no end date to the project, in fact, I had every reason to believe I would continue until retirement or until the hiring freeze was lifted.
David Kushan: Interesting. You know, I see that quiet a bit. I see scenarios out there where, based on budgets and where money is allocated, there’s not necessarily a role for somebody but there are other avenues that can be used to get talented people back into the organization.
Sounds like that’s what happened with you in this case.
Kevin Roy: Well that’s exactly what happened and it felt like to the entire world that I was hired employee for a while… until the institution started to consider replacing their clinical information system with one which I was not familiar. They had been looking to do this for a number of years. Although there was some lip service being given to the idea of hiring consultants and training them I knew that there was no such guarantee and it might be time to find a new position and learn a new system.
And that’s about when I spoke to you Dave.
David Kushan: Excellent, so this is an example that we try and provide for our listeners out there and not just give cookie cutter examples because people get into consulting many different ways and for many different reasons.
So tell us a little bit about some of the things that were going through your mind or what you were beginning to contemplate with this change.
Kevin Roy: Well, I was technically in the consulting role for four years but I was commuting back and forth from my home. I was not doing traveling and the fact of my consulting role perhaps being limited to a specific time frame, knowing that I would have to be looking for another one, was something that I had not really thought about much. In addition that idea of traveling a lot more was something that I had to give some serious thought to.
David Kushan: Absolutely. One of the things we hear quite frequently is that traveling was a bigger part of the decision.
When you finally decided to move forward with this project, were there one or two things in particular that made you feel like this was the right direction for you?
Kevin Roy: Well, I think that’s not too hard to answer. I was actually considering a role as a full-time employee at another healthcare facility close by on long island but this position that I took just seemed infinitely more interesting with a far better challenge. My opportunity for growth was much greater.
David Kushan: You know, I hear that quite a bit and you mentioned earlier that one of the biggest hurtles for people getting into consulting or contracting is the fact that it requires travel and for many people that eliminates any serious consideration but once people are open to the possibility of travel on a week to week basis, many people do it for the challenge.
When you submit yourself to your local market place, if you have to limit yourself to any particular geography you also limit yourself to opportunities.
It sounds like you fell into the bucket of people who recognized that there might be things more challenging that enable you to grow from a technological or professional perspective in your career if you opened yourself up to traveling.
Kevin Roy: Yes, and perhaps more so because of the fact that I live in New York. So many of the hospitals in the New York City metropolitan area are major teaching institutions that have been computerized for sometime. They have been way ahead of the curve. So their staffing is already well defined and they are somewhat more in a maintenance mode. So many opportunities for me are outside my hometown.
David Kushan: That makes sense and that’s also the case for many people across the country as well. So now you join this project, which you felt would provide a lot more intrigue and challenge.
Let’s look at three months into this project from the perspective of what you thought you were getting into and what you later realized, has everything aligned? Or were there some things that popped up a little bit different than what you expected?
Kevin Roy: I would say that it was very much what I expected except that… it turned out to be a heck of a lot more fun than I had anticipated. I really enjoyed meeting new people, being treated very respectfully at client sites and working with a very bright set of colleagues. It has been a pleasure and it continues to be.
David Kushan: That’s good to hear and I guess to be fair to anybody listening I don’t want to say that every scenario is perfect like that but I want to bring up the point for anyone who is considering consulting as a whole, the fact that the people that you work with, the organizations that your going into and how they treat you certainly has a lot to do with how you feel about the project.
So when you think about your decision and you look back, what are some of the things you thought about or some things maybe that you didn’t think about, that today you would tell somebody new looking into consulting on a contract to contract basis?
Kevin Roy: That is a good question. I would say don’t hesitate. The security you think you have with a full-time job probably doesn’t exist anymore and in my limited experience you’re more likely to have more challenge and more respect in a consulting job than you would as a hired employee. The security of a full-time position is somewhat more of a myth now then it was 40 years ago but more over I think the greater consideration is the impact it has on your family lifestyle. I’m fortunate; my kids are old enough that I’m able to be away from home. At the same time realize that some consulting jobs take you away from home far less than others. So three days a week for me is really not a problem at all. I still have plenty of time on the weekends to spend with my kids, as a matter of fact my concentration on the weekends is better and my family is the beneficiary of that.
David Kushan: Well, that makes a lot of sense Kevin. As much as you say don’t hesitate I’ll still caution everyone to make sure that they have done their homework, which I know you did, but I think that so many people get that natural fear of change and they back away so I think that once people have thought it through, certainly they should go with their logic.
Having said that I haven’t worked with a lot of people who regretted their decision because like you said, nothing does seem to be permanent now days, so it’s maybe just a bigger step in a career.
As you move forward into new projects is there anything that you have learned to look for?
Kevin Roy: I’d say that I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from across America, and a lot of people in New York think there is nothing west of the Hudson river, and it’s been an education in itself.