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Read as William McKnight talks about his career as a Data Consultant.  Find him at www.mcknightcg.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a consultant. I run a consulting organization and deliver consulting services. I specialize in information and work with clients that need to harness their information for gain as well as with the vendors that provide the software.

How would you describe what you do?

I provide value through unique insights and methods based on experience and leading edge exposures.

What does your work entail?

On the end client site, I do short-term, high-impact strategies of various kinds as well as running implementation programs. With vendors, I do a lot of live speaking and training, webinars, white papers, and consulting on their architecture and marketing positioning.

What’s a typical work week like?

There are multiple profiles to my weeks. I might be heads down with a single client or I might be working many client situations. Clients could be short-term, high-impact, or they could be my primary client over multiple months for a project. I might be at client sites or at my office or both. I might be presenting live or in a webinar. I might be on the phone a lot or a little. It depends on client priorities, but I make my commitments and am always responsive. These clients I speak of could be local, domestic or international, which obviously impacts the day’s profile. Either way, I’ve been 100%+ as busy as I’ve wanted to be in all my years of consulting. I’m very time conscious and try to apply my time to productive and/or fun activities and not time wasting activities.

How did you get started?

I started my career at IBM as an engineer of the DB2 product, which is one of the world’s best database management systems. I started consulting after I was an executive in health care who inherited dozens of high-priced consultants. I knew I could provide much better service to clients and wanted to spread my experience around more.

What do you like about what you do?

I enjoy making a big difference to clients. What I do can have tremendous impact if done well. I enjoy stepping away knowing that people and the company will be on a different and better trajectory as a result. On a personal basis, I enjoy seeing people more engaged in their daily work and their life as a result of some direction I’ve helped with.

 What do you dislike?

I don’t like turning away fun business because I could not give good service because of other commitments. Some situations wait for me, but then others always come!

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I am compensated fairly for making dramatic improvement to my client’s conditions.  Top consultants make in the top percentiles of income.

How much money do people in Master Data Management make?

Being an MDM professional at a single company will yield about what enterprise software professionals make. It varies in the low six-figures according to how well it’s perceived you do it and how important it is to the company.

How much money did/do you make starting out?

N/A

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

If you mean MDM, I would say a bachelors in a technical discipline, some years of experience and, depending on your role, either vendor-neutral or vendor-specific tool training. Having a been-there-done-that consultant as a coach is very helpful.

If you mean a consultant, good news – there’s no certification. Call yourself one today. Oh, you want to be a top consultant? Get my book, 90 Days to Success in Consulting (Cengage Learning, 2009).

What is most challenging about what you do?

Some client challenges are difficult, but I believe I’m up to them.

What is most rewarding?

Making that big difference to clients.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

I’m pretty big on setting achievable short-term goals and taking a stepwise approach to their accomplishment. Get after your goals now. You’re only human so trick yourself – tell yourself you’ll only spend 10 minutes on the goal. More often than not I find that I go on until the task is done or I am at the point of diminishing returns and have some other tasks I can apply some energy to.

Also stay healthy. Get variety in your day that involves movement, the outdoors, family and stimulation. Don’t allow yourself to get into ruts and be conscious of how you spend your most valuable asset – time.

How much time off do you get/take?

I do work every day although sometimes it’s more than others. I usually don’t consider it work because it’s enjoyable. With mobility, you can work anywhere.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

That I only do 1, or a few things – the thing they’re seeing me doing at the moment and the things I’m saying I do otherwise. In reality, I wear many hats.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I hope to see a turn in our collective efforts towards a sustainable, high-quality of life for all.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

In terms of the domain I practice in, information, it is key to most all company goals and a point of competitive advantage in the market. It’s also very dynamic.

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