Lessons learned: Alan Lillywhite

The experience of being made redundant pushed me to think about things very differently.

I was given the opportunity to become a contractor - or a consultant  - as a result of being made redundant, when I had to consider what I would do next and where I could add value. Before that I was working as part of the training set up team at a financial services firm. We found it easy to get people to do the delivery of training, but much less so those who could do the designing and architecture of training programmes – the bigger picture stuff. So I spotted an opportunity to set myself up as a consultant, for process re-engineering and the design of training.


If you do a good job for a client, you get asked back.

My first assignment with Momenta was in 2011 and I’ve been pretty much working exclusively with them since then. The great thing is that if you do a good job you remain high on a client’s list of people to come back to for future projects.


As a contractor you have to be fluid and dynamic.

You have to be able to respond to change, including regulatory change and the changing needs of the businesses you’re working with. There are certain organisations that don’t like you to be too emotive or emotional, and others that really do. Some are very business-like: so being attuned to the culture of the organisation you’re in is very important.


You need to be flexible and prepared to take on different types of work.

Sometimes I’ve been the lead designer of the training and it’s been my job to do the needs analysis, engage with stakeholders, and plan together how we will introduce the solution. Then I’ll start to put the sessions together, and prepare the training notes.  I may do the delivery as well, or there may be a ‘train the trainer’ event that I’ll run. However, for the piece of work I’m doing currently I’m part of a team, and there is someone within the organisation managing the project team, which includes contractors like me.


Contractors can be cheaper for an organisation in the long run.

One of the reasons external contractors are useful to an organisation is that -particularly at the middle level - the embedded costs of employing someone permanently are not there.


As an external you can see the wood for the trees.

You’re bringing experience in from other places you’ve worked. Strategically you bring a different bag of experience with you. And you can help people see things differently.


Sometimes there’s a strategic role to play, sometimes you’re simply there to deliver the work to a set plan.

The work I like most is when I get to do the whole cycle. For example, there’s an issue that needs fixing, you find out what the problem is, then suggest ways to solve that, and take it right through to post-implementation work.


The interim market is different now that there are more of us doing it.  There is a growing market for interims because this approach offers a company flexibility with its budgets and can be very good for tackling a specific, one off project.


Even as an external you need to be actively part of the team.

You have to be invested in the project so that the people running it can understand your worth, so keep you on, or want to you to come back. Working in the finance sector in particular you have to be up to up to date with your qualifications and exams. You have to invest in yourself and your own CPD in order to remain a valuable and marketable resource.


You have to go the extra mile.

There is a particular work ethic you need because you need to be always proving your worth. But if you’re good at what you do you will want to do that anyway. No two projects are identical, there’s always a new challenge to be tackled and that’s exciting.


Change is continuous in this world.

You need to change and flex with the organisation, and you have to be able to  adapt seamlessly.


You need to actively manage your own finances.

One of the downsides of this type of work is that you don’t necessarily know where your next job is coming from. You need to build up a reserve of funds – you can’t spend everything you’ve earned because your income isn’t as stable as if you were permanently employed.

If you are interested in knowing more about a career with Momenta click here.