Ron is an efficiency expert for companies and factories in Brazil. He began to work in this field by chance and has remained in this line of work for more than thirty years. In this interview, he explains the ups and downs of working as a contractor and shares how he uses the fury that comes with dealing with difficult clients as motivation to achieve great things.
What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in that field?
My title is Process Improvement Expert, and I have over thirty years of experience.
Would you describe what you do on a typical day?
After analyzing and assessing current processes and looking for viable ways to improve and simplify bureaucratic or labor processes, I analyze data to ascertain results and the financial value of improvements.
What is your ethnicity and what languages do you speak? How has it hurt or helped you?
I am a Brazilian from the middle class and 100 percent fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, and I know some French and Italian. My ethnicity hasn’t had an impact on my professional life. The languages I speak have been an important part of my marketability, and I expect they will continue to be an asset professionally.
If you’ve experienced discrimination, in what ways have you responded and what response worked best?
I have not experienced discrimination, but I have seen bad behavior from some hierarchic superiors, and I simply decided not to continue working with these individuals and companies.
What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?
I learned the meaning of the phrase «don’t be defensive» the hard way. When I was starting out, I was sometimes put on the spot by management and asked to explain why I had done something. I was also told not to be defensive. After many years of listening to this reasoning and not quite understanding it, I realized that it meant I wasn’t always in front of a firing squad for my actions, and I wasn’t always being blamed for something going wrong. Sometimes, managers just needed to understand the decisions I made and the reasons behind them so they could know how to move forward or how to change direction.
What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
No course in any college could have prepared me for what I learned in my line of work. One time a client asked me how I achieved in only fourteen weeks what that they had tried for many years. I explained that the theories and lessons we learned in college do not apply to every single situation and that we must follow either our gut or what we learned in other real-world cases to find the solution for a problem.
How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I started out in this line of work by accident when I went to Brazil for a job I had been invited to and upon arrival found out that the company had placed someone else in the position. I decided to give the country a try and looked for a job that could pay me something similar to what I was earning overseas; I found a consulting firm that was willing to train me on the job. I was a natural fit for this new line of work that allowed me to combine logic and creativity. I would never change my choice and only regret the time it took me to find my job.
On a good day, when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?
I love the «natural high» feeling that I get whenever I accomplish something the client thought impossible or whenever the client says, «Oh, we hadn’t thought of this».
When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?
The only problems I find at work revolve around people who resist change, particularly if they rank high in the client’s organization. Although I try not to show it, fury explodes within me when someone tells me that what I want to do is impossible. Such a word does not exist in my vocabulary.
How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
When working under contract for a consulting firm, I feel some stress as I have to explain and defend myself from attacks and internal politics. When working independently and directly with a client, I have no stresses or any kind of pressures and never work longer than ten hours a day.
What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
Working as a contractor for a consulting firm, I get paid between $700 and $1,000 per day, which could be deemed underpaid depending on how many people are on the job. When working independently, I charge my clients $1,500 per day, which is considerably lower than what the consulting firms charge the clients for each of my worked days.
What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
There are two moments:
The first one happened during my second project many years ago in Brazil; I gave the client an ROI of 120:1 when the consulting firm had promised a 10:1 ROI.
The second one was when I doubled the plant output in a mine in as little as ten weeks, working solo.
There are many others, but I will stay with these as the highlights.
What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?
Realizing that I had left my first job in consulting a bit earlier than I should have and thinking that I had learned enough when I hadn’t were challenging moments.
What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
Common sense is the single most important quality to design a perfect plan.
What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
It is a wonderful career if you don’t mind the hard parts and the ups and downs or potential long gaps between jobs.
How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
When I am in between jobs, I think it is too much vacation.
Are there any common myths you want to correct about what you do?
The belief that consultants use the clients’ watch to tell the time, charge for it, and then keep the watch.
If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
Exactly what I do now.