Opinion: Consulting vs Mentoring

I was interested to see our old buddy Pinal Dave recently post a link to one of another old buddy Brent Ozar's posts from 2015:

What's the difference between a contractor, and consultant, and FTE?

Brent defined consultants as giving advice on what the client should do; whereas contractors turn up and do what they're told. This distinction is pretty clear and I agree with him.

I always thought that was a great post but I also always thought it misses one additional category: mentor.

I'm often a consultant but one of the challenges for clients is that once you give them advice, they often don't know how to implement the advice.

Conversely, a contractor tends to come in, do the work, and share little knowledge with the client. Unfortunately, many contractors specialize in holding back information.

A mentor, however, does whatever he or she needs to do, to get the staff at the client organization into a position where they can do the work themselves. This will involve:

  • Guiding them through decision processes
  • Helping them to understand the pros and cons of the options
  • Working with them on proofs of concept
  • Training them
  • And more.

The key difference is that a very high degree of knowledge transfer is happening.

99% of the time, I'd rather be a mentor because when I leave again (and I will), they are the ones that need to look after whatever we created, longer-term.

Side-note: I found it really hard to find an image for this post, where a woman was mentoring a man. It was always the other way around. We need to keep trying to change that.


One thought on “Opinion: Consulting vs Mentoring”

  1. Thanks, glad you liked the post! I never thought about contractors holding things back, and it makes sense given their financial objectives. Interesting thought.

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