Why I Love Working as a Verification Consultant — by Neil Johnson

February 6, 2017

I’ve been a Principal Consultant at XtremeEDA for almost 10 years. That’s a long time in hi-tech, especially when it comes to working for a consulting company. It’s also twice as long as I’ve spent anywhere else!

I can honestly say the last decade has been great experience working with great people. To give you a feel for what it’s like to work for a consulting company like XtremeEDA, here’s a few reasons why I love it…

Do a Variety of Work

I think the biggest difference between working as a full-time verification engineer for a product company and working as a verification consultant is the variety of products you work on. To state the obvious, starting with a new client means working on a new product. In ten years, I’ve worked on a variety of products for a variety of applications, from wireline and wireless communication devices to servers chips to various design and verification IP blocks. I find the variety refreshing and energizing.

Meet Good People

For the record, I’m an introvert. A pretty outgoing introvert but an introvert nonetheless so I wouldn’t consider mingling and striking up conversation to be two of my strengths. That’s why part of what I appreciate about working as a consultant is that it’s great for getting me out of my shell. I’ve found opportunities to develop communication, negotiation and facilitation skills I know I didn’t have as a full-timer. And regular opportunities to join new teams means I meet a lot of good people and make friends I’d otherwise never meet; many of whom I keep in touch with long after an engagement ends.

Become a Better Colleague

This is a little hard to quantify, but I know working as a verification consultant has made me a better colleague. I’ve learned how to build trust with clients and teammates. I’ve learned how being responsible sometimes means taking responsibility for difficult situations. I’m better at knowing when to lead and when to follow; when to help and when to ask for help; when to speak up and when to shut up. Basically, working as a verification consultant has helped me become self-aware and understand how my actions ripple through client teams and organizations. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m also much improved.

Learn New Technologies

Even for experienced verification engineers, changing jobs and starting with a new team means ramping up on a lot of new technology. Every team has different planning strategies, tools, languages and implementation practices. As a consultant, working with new clients means seeing and learning new technologies is part of what you do on a regular basis. Some people may find it stressful, but I find it exciting! It’s a chance to see what others are doing, add new tools to your tool belt (and resume) and gain the kind of perspective that is very difficult to attain any other way.

Wear More Than One Hat

A pretty fundamental part of being a consultant is developing a client base so you can stay busy. So while verification consultants are responsible for verification (obviously!), they’re also in sales, marketing and business development. If you’re an independent, I’m guessing that’s a lot of extra stress because it’s all you 100% of the time. But working with a consulting firm and having the opportunity to contribute to sales, marketing and/or business development (without my next pay cheque directly depending on it) is something I do enjoy. It’s a chance to strike a nice balance between the technical and business sides for people that are into that.

Work/Life Balance

This may vary a bit depending on who you talk to, but in my experience client engagements are structured around a 40 hour work week. I don’t know of anyone that treats that as a hard-fast-rule because there are spikes depending on where you are in a project schedule or what you need to get out the door on friday. But while you may average more than 40 hours, overall the amount of time spent in the office is still pretty reasonable. You put in a solid day, you’re focused, you’re productive, then you go home to recharge with family or friends in the evenings and weekends.

Motivation to Improve

I don’t like mundane or repetitive work. I can’t do it. Not that I’m a huge fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants risk taker, but I do need a little uncertainty to keep things interesting. If I don’t have it, I feel like my skills start to dull. I think this is pretty common for people in engineering and technology related industries. We need to stay current.

In working as a verification consultant, I believe I’ve found just the right amount of uncertainty I need to stay sharp. Consulting has helped me appreciate the necessity of continuous improvement and develop the skills to actually do it. It’s manageable. I don’t obsess over it, but I’ve learned to make time for it with clients and on my own. In the process, I’ve found new technology I’m passionate about and the confidence to put myself out there without fretting over consequences :).

If you want to know more about consulting with XtremeEDA, feel free to reach out with questions anytime:


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One response to “Why I Love Working as a Verification Consultant — by Neil Johnson”

  1. Charles says:

    thank you for sharing about about your consulting experience at XtremeEDA! While consulting is not for everyone, you are proof that it is an arrangement that can work for engineers of varying types. Growing your network — an oft neglected practice — is a natural benefit of a consulting career.

    As engineers, most of us are purpose built to enjoy an environment that fosters our learning — and such factors can include the variety of the work as well as the diversity and quality of the team(s) with whom you work and learn.

    The ability to wear multiple hats is great for those who desire it — and while that flexibility exists for XtremeEDA engineers, it is not a requirement since we have dedicated teams for sales and administrative functions.

    Charles Fielder
    XtremeEDA CPO

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