Homepage Heroes: Josh Sanderson

Sara LeHoullier
March 22, 2022

It's time to get to know Josh! He's a Partnership Lead for one of our client's Product Marketing Teams, and we had a fantastic - and truly eye-opening - conversation about working as a consultant with Simplicity.

Sara:  First, let’s talk a little bit about your career journey, the path that led you into consulting. What did you do before all of this?

Josh: My career spanned through a lot of different areas. I started in educational research as a salesperson and then went into marketing there, left that industry and moved to Chicago where, you know, I kind of I stayed in the educational area, but in a different role. Then I moved to LA, where I started navigating through the entertainment industry, and landed at William Morris Agency. I started as an assistant to some talent agents, and then moved into the music side of the business where they did touring. I found that I was really good at what I did, so I moved to management, where I was an assistant for a manager for various electronic acts. After awhile I started my own company and did music licensing for four or five years of that, and I got a call from a friend who was working at Microsoft who said I'd be perfect for a role opening up in her team. I didn't really want to move to Seattle, but my business at the time was really challenging for a number of reasons, so I took the plunge and that is what ultimately what led me here. I got laid off in 2014 and did some entrepreneurial things, and eventually started looking to get back in with Microsoft, but I didn’t really want to go back full time. I met a woman who was consulting and she connected me to the firm she was working with – when my last contract there came to an end in the middle of COVID I decided to take a three month hiatus before getting back to the job search. When I started looking again, I talked to people who worked with a lot of different consulting firms and Simplicity was one of them – and this opportunity came up that was perfect, and the rest is history. I'm actually really enjoying being back in partnerships after good entrepreneurial stuff and taking a ride through product management, which was fun, but maybe not the best fit for me.

Sara: This type of meandering is really typical for the consultants I’ve spoken to – you look back and you think - "Oh, I did all these seemingly unconnected things, but it just all comes together a lovely way that reflects continual learning and passion around supporting and building relationships." What are some of the things that you like about consulting?

Josh: As an FTE, I felt a little bit more like there was an understanding between the employer and me that I was going to work until the job was done, whether that was 40 or 50 or 60 hours. And when I would push back and say I'm, I'm overloaded and I can't do the amount of work I have, the feedback was always well, you know, how can you be more efficient? It wasn't about helping me reprioritize. What I really enjoy about consulting is the consulting firms have worked had been very supportive and saying the contract is 40 hours, and what you're being paid for, and that’s what you’re encouraged to do. Of course, there will be times when there are more deliverables, and more hours can be put in within a week, but there will be other weeks where you work less, so it’ll balance out. The work life balance for me has been much better than when I was FTE previously, and I really love that. I enjoy being I enjoy being in a position where I'm a part of a team - I feel very closely knit with his team – I’m not just another vendor. And I know that I might be here for years, and I might go on to a new project – there's a little fear in that, but there's also a lot of exhilaration in that. I can explore different interests, I can be parts of different teams, I can show up and, and be a problem solver and take on big tasks quickly and efficiently and know that I can deliver. I enjoy not having to do annual reviews and some of the other things that go along with being an FTE.

I really love the fact that I can just focus on the work because that’s what I want to do – I’m not super interested in plotting out my 5-, 10-, 15-year career goals. I just want to show up and be of service and enjoy my time enjoy my teammates, and focus on creating cool things.

Sara: A lot of people have also mentioned flexibility is something they enjoy. That's something that really helped me because I was homeschooling my kids for the last two years - those boundaries, they're easier to do to draw when you're consulting.

Josh: Absolutely, and I also get the sense that the team I'm on is taking a much broader view of flexibilities related to FTE; I don't think there's anyone on my team that feels pressured to work when there's something personally like they need to do. That's really reassuring to know, not only that I am being taken care of, but also my teammates are who are FTE. And I think it leads me back to this idea that I'm 40 hours, but I'm not expected to work in the night - put my kid to sleep and then work another three hours - unless I want to.

Sara: What would you say that some of your what are some of the soft skills you have, or have cultivated, that have helped you as a consultant?

Josh: You know, I have spent a lot of my adult life kind of getting over myself, getting over the fear and the stories I told myself as a child - maybe that I'm not cool enough to hang out with the cool kids. After having done all of this work, and learning to trust in who I am, and really liking the person I've become, it allows me to show up in a way that I can walk into any room in any situation with any level of person and feel comfortable - and make others feel comfortable. I think one my skills is the ability to show up with another human being and not be intimidated, and not be overcome by the parts of me that used to be fearful. As a consultant, that’s a huge gift because I'm always being put into situations with new and different people. Starting over with new teams, you just have to be you, and have a certain level of self confidence and the ability to adapt to different types of people.

Sara: Yes, and ask questions. You always have to ask strangers questions and not feel embarrassed.

Josh: Absolutely, and with maybe age and wisdom I find that I can ask a question without saying ‘this is a dumb question’ anymore. Because it's just a question. There's something I don't know, some knowledge I need in order to pursue what you have asked me to do. And I'm going to ask for that knowledge, whether you're the CEO or somebody else, and I'll do it appropriately. It’s wonderful to be able to be in a position where you can be curious and constantly learning. And I'm sure that's an FTE thing as well, but I really love that as a consultant, being in a position to always be learning.

Sara: That’s so great – it seems like a wonderful fit for you! So we're doing these homepage hero posts for a variety of reasons. We love to hear your stories, obviously, but it's also about showing people who might not be familiar with consulting or what it entails, or what kind of people are currently doing it – so they can start seeing themselves reflected in some of your stories.

Josh: When I used to think about a consultant, I thought I want somebody who went in and kind of got the lay of the land and then told people how to change their business or how to do something. It seemed more like being a coach or an advice giver. Now that I’m doing it myself, I can tell people that I really am hired into a role as if I were an FTE, but I work for a consulting firm, so its’ more like being a temporary employee; I act like an employee and I act like a standard teammate. That’s how I look at this type of consulting that I'm doing today, and maybe one day I might do a different kind of consulting where I am that person who just goes in and says you should do this, not that.

Sara: Yes, you’re basically there to support your manager and your team and help them be more efficient and do their jobs better – help them be successful! What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about consulting, but they're not sure they want to dip their toe in?

Josh: I would say if, if you value variety, and learning and constantly stepping into something new, in order to tackle a new opportunity, this is perfect for you. And if you're someone who really relies on a very deep stability, then it may or may or may not be for you, because you might find yourself in between positions for a month, or three or six or eight. One of the biggest things I say is that as a consultant, I have to focus on my personal finances; I don't spend my money that I make as if I'm going to make it every single month in perpetuity. I make sure that I have an appropriate reserve to make through six or nine months, so that if I hit one of those spots uncovered, I can continue to effectively pay myself a salary to cover my day to day expenses. In my opinion, that’s something that new consultants should know, especially coming from standard career paths.

Sara: I think it’s great that at Simplicity, as your contract is coming to a close, the talent team starts trying to figure out where you’ll want to go next, but you’re right – there’s no guarantee that you’ll find another good fit right away! I know we make an effort to put consultants with clients who are going to be a good match for them – not just skills-wise, but they look at personality and team culture fit too!

Josh: I know, that's become a one of the things I shared with each one of the consulting firms that I met with when I was looking for new work was that, certainly, income is important to me. But the most important thing for me is to find a good fit. I want to be in a team with people who respect and care for one another, a team that looks out for one another. I'm not interested in being part of a shop or a team that is anything other than that, really, because I spend 40 plus hours of my week with these folks, and I want to be a part of something that feels good.


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