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Home » CONSULT400 » April 2002

Employee vs. SubContractor



fixed

from Al Macintyre

I need an education in the differences in what is involved -
responsibilities, relationships, finances, gotchas - between being an
employee or being a subcontractor, probably both part time & telecommuting.
Perhaps someone point me at some web site that spells this out in terms that
are meaningful to a computer professional, who for most of my life has worked
for people who are not technical managers, so it seems to me that the biggest
difference one job to the next is the degree to which my manager comprehends
the details of what I am doing for the company, and the degree to which the
manager imposes upon me constraints based on that understanding, or lack of
understanding.

For example, I have had managers, and end users, insist on some standards
that I felt were not in the best interests of corporate computer security, or
efficient use of resources, or accuracy in output, because of their
experience, training, background & so forth.  They are the boss, so after an
arguement, I comply.

As some of you know, I work at Global Wire Technologies in Evansville, which
did a name change last year from Central Industries of Indiana, then due to
the recession's impact on Wiring Harness Manufacturing laid off some office
staff and in my case cut my hours and pay in half.  There is the expectation,
not promise, that as the economy & business turn around, there may be a
future increase in my hours, but since I am in a computer support role I tend
to think that other office positions will get the growth long before they
need more hours from me.

So I became available for part time work, where there is no obvious conflict
of interest with my "day job" where I still work swing shift late afternoon
hours, early evening.

I have been asked the question - do I want to work as an employee or as a sub
contractor?  My answer has been that I have no idea, what are the
differences?  Well, I feel like I have a grasp of some of them but not a good
picture.

As I do get a better understanding, then I will be asking people who know me
quite well to advise whether I would be happy in this or that relationship or
head in this or that direction.  I also plan to write up something like
http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2002/03/28.html#a1164

except where Robert Scoble is only describing what kind of a company he wants
to work for & what he expects from them,
I need to describe what I like & want to do for any company,
I need to describe what often comes with the territory that I am NOT eager to
be doing much of,
and out of lists of what I have seen in my career,
both what I desire & do not desire from the work environment.

I have heard several examples of the differences between employee &
subcontractor in which it becomes extremely murky ... how is this different
from my professional career?

There is the question of degree to which my boss directs what I do.
Well, for most of my career as am employee, it has been to keep the computer
and applications running smoothly & doing such modifications as the end users
might desire, to help them do their work more productively.  Technical
details have been up to me for 95% of my bosses, their only input being
relative priority of which of many possible things I might work on, and often
it left up to me to determine priorities.

The users, for who I do modifications, don't direct me either ... it is team
projects.
They try to communicate their needs, I try to understand what they really
need in computer terms, often with the help of other users, I suggest things
that I think are doable that would help them, we let our respective bosses
know what is going down unless they object, primarily because bosses have
veto power over what we work on, but the most important reason for me is
because of the other users who will be impacted by whatever we are up to & we
need the managers to help with consensus building, and if they ask for
estimates I warn that this is never an exact science & there will always be
surprises, but if they expecting something done in X weeks, I periodically
revise when I expect it will be done, before the X weeks are actually up.

In all modifications I try to break it into parts that can be implemented
independently & consult with the users as to which are most critical to them,
so that if the effort gets interrupted by some other priority & this whole
effort is never completed, the odds are that they will always get some of
what they desire in any project.  I also leave documentation inside of the
programs so that if a fellow professional picks up pieces after I disappear,
they do not have to go back to scratch.  Usually that fellow professional is
me, many months later, after I have forgotten about that project due to
others in the interim.

I have primarily worked in enterprises where the company hired such people as
were needed to run sales, accounting, and so forth & they hired me to run
their computer, and I was the only person in that area of technical knowledge
and responsibility.   When a situation came up that I felt I lacked what it
took to get the job done, I would speak up & suggest that we ask this of IBM
or IBM Partner.

There is the question of when I am there.
Well, except when there is a major project when they want the max hours that
I am able to deliver, they basically expect that I put in a minimum X hours a
week, on the average with my time sufficiently overlapping the users times so
that they can communicate their needs to me.

There is the question of the tools that I would use.
Well, when I am on site, there are the corporate resources & whatever I bring
in with me to help my own productivity.   Global nee Central in the past had
been very liberal about giving new professional employees whatever they asked
for on their desk top that they said they needed like Word Perfect or
Microsoft Word or something else, but as the company is getting more
integrated network oriented they are becoming more that everyone is using the
same sets of tools.

I am interested in doing new work by telecommuting from my home computer,
which might not be up to that task, since its acquisition & upgrades were
sufficient to support past history home computer needs, but part time
telecommuting probably needs something more.  It is Win 98 on Pentium III
with about 3 Gig disk space unused (50% utilization), 320 Meg Memory,
recently added a CD-Rom/Write drive (to experiment with backup that way), on
the low end of display quality resolution (because I not like to futz with PC
settings when switching to DOS games), bottom of browser & e-mail barrel,
"high speed" Internet connection, protected by Norton Firewall.  I have
several flaky challenges & not really want to move forwards to the next
Microsoft flaky solution to some earlier Microsoft flaky problem.

I am told that Client Access to connect to some company's 400 is licensed so
that the place I working for would pay IBM license based on number of users
(sessions?) connecting ... i.e. "free" to the end user, but somehow I have to
figure out how to get this to my PC & learn what the impact is going to be on
my PC resources.

MacWheel99@aol.com (Alister Wm Macintyre) (Al Mac)






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