Austin Henderson and I organized a CHI'98 SIG about working as a
It's scheduled for Thursday, 11:00-12:30, place to be announced in the
Details from the Extended Abstract in the CHI Proceedings:
CHI'98 SIG: "So you want to be a User Interface Consultant"
This SIG will provide CHI professionals with insight into the challenges
and rewards of being a CHI consultant. The expected audience would be CHI
professionals who are interested in the tradeoffs between doing research
and/or development as an employee and working as a consultant. This would
include those who are considering leaving jobs in product companies,
government agencies, or academia to become consultants. It would also
include those who want to better understand the range of skills that CHI
When CHI professionals consider becoming consultants, they have many
questions about what a career as a consultant holds for them. Do I want to
leave my life of research or development for one of being a hired hand?
What are the rewards of consulting, i.e. working on someone else's project?
What are the pitfalls? What is it that I actually do that others value?
How competitive is the CHI consulting market? Will I make more money or
less than in my "regular" job? How easy or hard will it be to regulate my
workload? Do the benefits of consulting outweigh the insecurity of not
having steady work? How will I find consulting opportunities? Is it
feasible to focus my work in my areas of interest?
In addition to these questions, CHI professionals who decide to become
consultants face many important decisions about how to operate in that
role. Should I join an existing consulting firm or strike out on my own?
If I choose to work for myself, should I incorporate or not? Should I
focus on particular client product areas (e.g., games, appliances,
institutional software, consumer software)? What services should I offer
(e.g., usability testing, task analysis, software design, ergonomic design,
graphic design, prototyping, heuristic evaluation, GUI development)? How
should I market my services? How much time should I devote to overhead
work vs. consulting for clients? How much should I charge for my services?
Within the SIGCHI community, there is a wide range of experiences and
decisions about how to work as a consultant. Some of us have been
consultants for many years and have a great deal of wisdom to share; others
have become consultants relatively recently and have fresh memories of how
they got started. Some formed corporations; others chose not to. Some
work for or run large consulting firms; others work for themselves. We
differ in the consulting services we offer and the types of
client-companies we serve.
This SIG will provide an opportunity for those of us who are, or have been,
consultants to share experiences, and swap tales. In addition, it will be a
forum for those whoare not (yet) into consulting to learn more from have
been there and done that.
This SIG will be run as a semi-structured discussion. After brief
introductions, we will raise and capture issues, select a few to discuss in
depth. We will respond to questions throughout, but will reserve the final
15 minutes for questions for those who want to know more on topics we have
not yet discussed.