January Consultant of the Month
While teaching Java coding in India, Sandeepa Nayak made a shift into software development and built strong connections with everyone she worked with, networking her way to work in Atlanta, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Her long-standing development team works with clients to create websites and web applications using various languages and content management systems.
What are you currently working on?
With EM Marketing, I'm working with two clients. One is using an interesting, code-less content management system called Webflow. The other project is on a very advanced platform called Gatsby, a newer language in the market.
Sandeepa’s Keys to Success
- Building strong relationships
- Staying on top of technology
- Consistent communication with clients
- Giving 100% focus to any project
- Leadership in networking organizations
Do you have a favorite platform to work with?
Any platform that works for the client is my favorite platform. I'm always interested to see what makes the development faster. If a client asks to recommend a platform, I ask what they are planning to do and what the budget is. Do they want to manage the website every day? Or do they want to hire somebody else to manage it? It all depends. Everything has pros and cons.
What was your favorite project to work on or work you are most proud of?
It's not just about the project for me. It's about the outcome, what the feeling was, and how the relationship moves forward. Am I still connected with this person? Is that connection strong? I want to make you look extremely good. I want to make you feel like, "Yes, I have a team behind me. I can throw anything at Sandeepa and she will get it done." If I can accomplish that with you, then I have succeeded.
What path did you take to become a consultant?
In India, I started off teaching Java to college students who were just a few years younger than me. Then, I taught people at a software company. After working all day and taking the class at night, nobody was paying attention or learning anything, so the vice president asked if I’d be willing to take a job with them. That's how I went directly from being a teacher to a software developer.
My first assignment was to work with their team in Atlanta, adapt their software, and go back to build a team in India. When I was in Atlanta, I met a nice colleague who took me everywhere with her on the weekends. Her best friend was working at IBM as a technical writer and needed help because they had a release right after Thanksgiving. I worked night and day through the holiday. In those three days, I learned the software. By the end of it, she was so impressed and kept contacting me for work.
I worked with her for over 12 years until she retired. During that time, I moved to Washington State for several years, then settled in California. Along the way, I was introduced to some amazing people. One of them took a job at a property management company and hired my development team. Wherever he went, he took us with him. I’ve been lucky to work with the same group of people for 14 years.
What do you love about consulting?
I get to work on a variety of projects, meet a variety of people, and learn about various businesses. It has been really a fun experience.
What has been your biggest challenge about being a consultant? How have you addressed it?
There's always a matter of learning how to let go, how to depend on other people rather than doing everything yourself. Trying to learn how to be more efficient. I feel every day, little by little, that if I can encourage and coach people, it will not only benefit me. It'll benefit them too.
How do you market yourself?
I basically found everything through referrals. It is a reliable way and I love it. I am very active in two small business networking organizations: Business Networking International (BNI) and ProVisors. I’m part of the BNI leadership team and love the people in the network. Some of them have been there since the start, over 15 years. You get to know some of the best people in their professions. And they're all rooting for you.
What are the things you like to do when the work slows down?
I like to play with my pets. I love gardening. I love to cook and experiment on food with a lot of vegetables for my two dogs and cat. I'm trying to cook everything at home and not buy ready-made stuff.
What’s one tip you would give to new consultants?
Communication is the key. The client is not able to read your mind. Have a schedule to do reporting. Tell them what you are working on, where you are at. Try to be that person who they can depend on. When you do that, work comes to you. You don't have to go looking for it.
Whatever is in your hand, focus on that. Don't say, "Oh, there's a new thing." Give what you’re working on your 100%. Deliver it. New things will come your way. Just because you're working on something small, something inexpensive, doesn't mean that you pay less attention to it. Whether it is the small business owner who has one edit or another client who has the whole website, for them, what they need is important.