Technical consulting is a service provided by expert staff in a particular area of science or engineering, most often for projects in these fields. Consulting firms employ engineers, scientists, skilled technicians, and scientific project managers. All have a least a bachelor degree in science or engineering, although the vast majority also have a master’s degree or a doctorate in a specific area of expertise.
A technical consulting firm would normally be called in for projects that require a great deal of expertise for a short period of time. Large projects, such as building a bridge or even a space station, routinely require the hiring of specialized consultants to address one specific need. A microbiologist, for example, might be required on a bridge building project to ensure that the materials used will not harm the native organisms over the next 20 years. These type of very specialized skills are required for a short period, but must be high caliber and reliable.
When selecting a consultant, there are several key items that should be a company's top priorities. The company should create a clearly defined project requirement and a firm time estimate. It should also list the areas of expertise that are required and detail the minimum acceptable education credentials.
When someone is hiring a technical consultant, he or she should obtain at least three quotes for services. The person should be sure to ask for the resume of the potential candidate for evaluation purposes, and verify the references before making a hiring decision. He should focus the reference checking discussion on the details of the project the consultant worked on, what he was required to do, and his ability to complete the task successfully.
For large, multi-stage projects, the project manager should make a list of the consultants that he will require and the estimated time line. He can then contact potential firms well in advance to allow sufficient time for the selection process. When the appropriate candidate is located, the manager can confirm that the consulting schedule matches the required time frame. The demand for highly skilled technical consulting tends to be cyclical, so companies should plan ahead to ensure that the resources they require are available when needed.
People who are considering becoming technical consultants should know that there are several skill sets that are critical to success. A good consultant is customer service-focused, has excellent communication and listening skills, is an excellent problem solver, and is driven to learn more. The most important skill in this field is the ability to focus on the clients requirements, endeavor to understand them, and to ensure that every one of these needs is met.