Ron Smith is the founder of Chalder Consulting, a consultancy offering IT advisory, project management, and business analyst services. He is a husband and father based in New Brunswick, Canada.
Ron also runs Managing Projects, a site dedicated to helping project managers with thought-provoking articles, interviews, and training tips.
In this episode, Derek interviews Ardent Development co-host Ron Smith about his journey in the IT industry and why he’s doing the podcast.
Where to Find Ron Smith
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Derek: Welcome to the Ardent Development podcast. I’m Derek Hatchard. I am here with Ron Smith. This week we’re going to do something a little bit different than normal. Normally we have a guest on the show. We ask them questions and we really help to bring some of their insights and thoughts to you. This week I’m going to ask Ron a couple of questions about himself so that as you listen to him talk on the podcast, week after week, you know a little bit more about who he is and where he came from. So first of all, welcome Ron. Thanks Derek. And why don’t you just take us back. Tell us how you got started in the tech industry.
Ron: So I built software for a living for years and years. And then I had a stint where I went on some testing teams so I tested some software and became a test lead and went that route. Then I started leading these development teams. What I realized was that I was a pretty good developer but I was really good at leading teams leading people. And I found that I was one of those guys that wanted to work with the teams to help the teams to grow and evolve them. So, I got into this I.T. technical project management. Started mentoring some other project managers as well. So that’s really where my sweet spot is. I’m one of those project managers that really enjoys hanging out with the developers and the architecture groups. I don’t code per se anymore but I’ve got that background that lets me stay in the conversation and I get some really neat projects because of it.
Derek: And you and I met we were talking about this just the other day you and I met maybe 16 or 17 years ago. We were both living in Moncton New Brunswick. I had started a consulting company. We ended up working together for a number of years. We bought a rental property together. We’ve done we’ve done a number of things. You really helped to keep the keep things moving in the right direction for the for the consulting company. You know as it grew you know it wasn’t a massive company but you know once you’re in more than a couple of people it definitely gets harder to get to keep everything pointed in the right direction. After that, we we worked on a number of projects together. Do want to give your point of view your perspective on some of the things that we worked on.
Ron: Well one of the things that comes to mind is we had our hand at a little startup that we bootstrapped on Tuesday evenings. We were both working and we decided to set aside Tuesday evenings one night a week. So we would collaborate on Tuesday evenings. We actually produced two products. You had a third product that you had kind of brought into the fold. That’s what we were doing we were determining where to host it. We were getting some administrative help. It was basically a two-man shop. It was brainstorming what requirements the product should have that was building it testing it. If you took two guys and turned them into their little mini I.T. shop that’s basically what we did. Some people go to university and they put money down to learn and to have these experiences and that was time well spent to go through that and to learn some of those lessons that you get as an entrepreneur to attempt to launch some of these products. It was invaluable.
Derek: One of the things that I remember and I won’t say any names on the on the show here but I do remember with one of the things that we are working on. You had made a sale. I’m a terrible salesperson. It’s not my forte at all but we had created this product they had a framework and I’m looking at it going like well there’s so much more to do. We really have to finish the product we haven’t hit MVP. And meanwhile you went out and you made a sale and it just it just blew my mind. That’s amazing. He gets someone to write a check to buy the product. It was pretty cool. That particular product – I guess I’m being very mysterious as we talk about it yeah. If we had it if we hadn’t shuttered that one seven years ago it would be very interesting to see where that would have gone. You’ve been self-employed for a fairly large percentage of your career now. Can you talk a little bit about what that journey has been like for you.
Ron: You’re really business development and your marketing and you are the one who has to get the work done. So it’s quite fulfilling. It’s been really good. It’s certainly not for everybody. You need to have a certain risk tolerance and you need to have a certain network to be able to hear of projects and the like that are happening. But I’ve really enjoyed it.
Derek: Be interesting to hear from some of our listeners about their experiences if you’re self-employed or working in a large company. How you especially folks have done both. Love to hear some of that compare and contrast if you want to go on Twitter or e-mail us. Really interested to hear your stories.
Ron: You know you can get that type of sense if you’re self-employed but you can also get it in a small shop as well I can remember when I first went to work for you. Years and years ago I went from a very large company. There were so many tasks that had to be done and there were people that would do all these things and I remember coming in to you and saying well we need to set up a new sequel server instance and the computers aren’t racked yet. And I said who might do that. And you said why don’t you. It was it was a very you know so when you’re when you’re working for these really small companies there’s not a ton of people to go around and you get a chance to touch so many different aspects of it. You basically handed me the book said the desks are over there and said it is not too bad! So you’re learning really goes through the roof. I’ll tell you a funny story I remember our interview me sitting down with you. And you said So do you do any blogging. And I look to you back in the day and I said what what’s a blog? Everybody’s got to start somewhere right? Anyway, now we fast forward and you learn so many experiences working for these these small companies that your breadth of knowledge. You have to be deep in in what you’re willing to learn and put your shoulder into and it’s very similar when you when you’re self-employed.
Derek: So let’s talk about the podcast for a second. Why the Ardent Development podcast? Why are you doing this?
Ron: Why would I do such a thing? So I’m one of those lifelong learners and I really love to learn. I love to meet people who are doing interesting things and the I.T. industry has the spectrum of the monotonous day to day show up every day get your work done. But there’s this other end of the spectrum happening on the other end that is really interesting people doing interesting things being treated very well by companies and lots of opportunity. And in your career, you can find yourself depending on where you’re working and what opportunities you have falling somewhere within that spectrum. I have really enjoyed teaching. I’ve always been the person who wanted to pass that information along to my peers and it just seems like a natural fit. You see things and you learn things about how corporations work or how I.T. works or what have you and you want to pass it along. And this is a really good way to do that. It’s really quite fun like the people that were we were interviewing last week. You know I laughed out loud several times during the interview because of how creative they are. So that’s my why.
Derek: In addition to the Ardent Development podcast you have the site ManagingProjects.ca. I would encourage folks to check that out as well. You have the Managing Projects podcast feed as well which is on iTunes. And you can listen to those on your site. Also some interesting interviews on there. There’s also a free e-book you have posted can you remind me the name of it?
Ron: Yeah, it’s called rockstar estimating guide.
Derek: Thank you. And that’s really great. Folks should go and grab that it’s free and has some great information about just getting better at estimating which is something that you’ve written about and spoken about over the years. Years ago, at the maritime devcon conference here in Canada you had given a session on that and it’s been one of your pet topics. That and projects at risk which I think. Yes, and as I said you’re insane for being passionate about that and you seem to love projects that are in need of intervention.
Ron: Yeah. The trouble Project Recovery. I kind of fell into that over my career because you’d see these projects that were there were going sideways on a company and you just want to help. And I tried my hand at it. I was lucky enough to work for a company that gave me the opportunity to try it years ago. And I tell you I’m hooked. I don’t know what’s the matter with me but I get jazzed up like the harder the project it seems the more fun it can be. Now when you go into these projects everyone stressed out and everything else that comes with it. So for me it’s the restoration. You take a project, or a project team, or this client conflict and you’re able to resolve it. There’s a lot of emotional good that comes. How can I help I’ll go in and let’s make this better as quick as we can for whatever reason I’m just wired. I seem to think they’re fun. I don’t know what it is.
Derek: If anyone wants to get a hold of you Ron, other than the ardent development e-mail address and the ardent development Twitter feed. Where else can people find you online?
Ron: Well I’ve got a Web site for my company. It’s chalder.ca. That is my Chalder Consulting Web page. You can reach me at ron at chalder.ca and on the managing projects Twitter account which is Manage_Proj on Twitter.
Derek: OK. We will put that in the show notes as well so folks can check that out. They can click through to those sites and find you. I hope that everyone found this little peek behind the curtain interesting and we will see you next time.