Henry Will asked me how I got to work on such interesting projects. What worked particularly well: blogs? presentations? networking?
Working in a big company is a bit different from marketing yourself outside. In a big company, it’s easier to establish and maintain large networks of people, and the organizational structure also helps pass messages up and down. When you hook in through a number of connectors (for example, my manager), figure out the tools for finding opportunities on your own, or build a reputation, opportunities can flow easily. Outside a large company, word of mouth is still powerful, but it can be difficult to build those relationships over distance and with an large number of competitors.
I do a lot of work related to Web 2.0, social media, Gen Y, PHP, Rails, and AJAX. For consulting and strategy work related to Web 2.0, social media, or Gen Y, I find that most of the leads come in through the presentations I’ve given, or from people I’ve worked with in the past. Short presentations with catchy titles or designs can go a long way. I haven’t been proactively investing in presentations. I tend to create them on request. Presentations take a lot of time for me to prepare, so I try to maximize their ROI. In fact, I get a lot more value from the blog posts that I write before a presentation (full speaker notes, ideas, etc.) and after a presentation (questions, lessons learned).
Many of my PHP/Drupal, Ruby/Rails, and AJAX work comes in through my manager, who knows about my different skills and interests. Sometimes I search our professional marketplace for upcoming opportunities requiring those skills so that I’l always have projects in the pipeline. I actually like this work more than consulting (which can be fuzzy and hard to define), so my manager and I try to pick development projects that will keep me busy and happy while still being flexible enough to accept consulting work.
If you work in a company, it really helps if your manager knows what you’re good at and what you’re interested in. He or she may be plugged into streams of opportunities, and help the right ones flow to you. It also helps to invest time into sharing what you know and helping other people out. That way, people know what you’re good at, and they can keep an eye out for things that fit too. You might get to the point of having too many opportunities, which is a great problem to have. If so, build relationships and help others by sharing those opportunities. Good luck and have fun!