About Jim Tanner
Jim is an entrepreneur and IT Consultant from Chicago. Jim has been hired as a consultant by over 30 of the top names in business such as Chase, PepsiCo, McDonalds, John Deere, Northern Trust, CNA, Dover, Citibank, Key Bank and many more.
Jim was founder and CEO of IMLock Software, which had over 1 million users in more than 100 countries.
My first real job out of college was doing scientific research in a lab environment. This work involved a lot of calculations for which I would write programs in DOS and DBase. Writing programs was my favorite part of the job. The pay was pretty low and I started looking around for higher paying opportunities.
Way back then we used newspapers (yes, the paper versions!) to look for jobs. I couldn’t help but notice the number of lab jobs was approximately zero, but the number of listings for computer programmers took up most of the job section. That’s when I decided to change careers to IT. And it was one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made.
I grabbed a copy of “Visual Basic For Dummies” and MS Visual Basic on EBay. I did intensive Visual Basic study for about a month. This was before there was much of anything on the internet. I got good enough (after a few interviews) to land my first real paying programming job as a VB/SQL Server programmer. After a couple of months at that company, I was able to land a better, higher paying job at an insurance company in Chicago.
While working at that insurance company, I got to know some people on my team from a major consulting company. I found out they billed their consulting company as independent contractors. Wait what? When I learned their rates (much higher than my salary), I decided to make the switch to independent contracting, and I’ve been doing this ever since.
As an Independent Contractor, for a variety of reasons, you need to find new clients more frequently than a full time employee. Since I have a wife, kids, mortgage, car payment and the rest, these searches started out as stressful and feared events. If I have this gap in pay, how am I going to pay the bills? And I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t do much for my relationships when there are major gaps in income….
Over time, I made these searches into a system. A system that has worked for me over and over, and has taken the stress out. I can pretty much predict the exact amount of time to get a new contract. For me it’s about one month from the initial start to being onsite working. I could make this go faster, but I only take contracts that suit all of my needs, and I’m pretty picky about work I’ll take. I’ve obtained new contracts in as little as one day, but I consider those lucky events.
I did have one very scary time in my IT career and that was after “Y2K”. Younger people may not know about it, but in the year 1999 there was this fear that when all the computer clocks rolled over to 2000 the code bases would fail. So in 1999 a lot of contract work involved going into all the code and making sure that DATE fields were handled correctly.
On New Years Eve before 2000 my wife and I stayed in not knowing what would happen, the buildup was so big. People were talking about planes falling out of the sky. Thankfully, it turns out nothing major happened. But what did happen is IT programmer demand fell to zero. There were no job postings. No employers or recruiters would respond to resumes (this was before I developed my system). My daughter was an infant, and my wife was at home with her, so this was really scary! I was afraid we would lose everything!
I ended up cold calling software companies (at the suggestion of my brother, who is a pro salesman). And guess what? After about 100 calls, it worked. I got an interview and a job. And that job pulled me through until better times. That was in 2000. For the past 21 years the market has been strong, and I’ve not gone through a similar situation, not even close. I have never had to cold call again.
Since 2001 to present day, I’ve seen strong demand for services as a programmer, designer, and lead. I’ve worked for many of the top companies in business. I see the IT market only getting better with business transitioning to the cloud and AI. Every business now is an IT business and they need people like you and I to make it all work.
I look forward to hearing your story and helping you on your career journey in IT!