Bob Galvin majored in criminal justice at St. Mary's University in Winona, and planned to be a public defender. An internship at a juvenile detention center was enough to show him that "it wasn't for me."
After graduation, he took a commissioned sales job in subprime financing just as that industry was taking off. After several years of sales, he realized he wanted to see the other side of business. A friend of his mother-in-law who was a successful businesswoman helped him reframe his résumé and translate his sales background into a job on the IT side of a marketing program aimed at sales reps. He learned testing, operations, billing, error resolution and other useful skills.
Soon, however, he was feeling the need to branch out. He was planning to look for a new full-time job when he got recruited by Twin Cities consulting firm Hollstadt and Associates. "I was leery, but I was ready to listen," Galvin said. "I didn't know a lot about consulting. They didn't sugar-coat it. They told me what to expect, what the risks are, how the pay differs from a full-time job."
Galvin's experience working on commission made him less fearful of the risk/reward ratio of high consulting wages versus possible periods between engagements.
"You just live normally and save for downtime," he said.
He follows the advice of a former sales manager who said, "Don't change your lifestyle when things are good. It will change." After talking things over with his wife, Galvin made the decision to give consulting a try.
So far, he hasn't experienced any downtime. His first project lasted eight months and he went directly into his current project, which is expected to go for more than a year.
How did you make the move from a criminal justice major to sales to a career in IT?
As a liberal arts major, I think I learned to adapt. You take different classes, and it rounds you out. I'm inherently curious -- constantly learning new things. St. Mary's is a smaller college; the teachers know each other and help you connect the dots among their subjects. But I wish now that I'd gotten a degree in business with a minor in technology.
What does a business analyst do?
It means something different on every job. You come into a situation where you don't know the system or the information, but you have skills to acclimate. It helps to be outgoing and ask a lot of questions. You have an outline of the things they want you to do. They'll tell you your responsibilities and deadlines. I take a lot of notes. If you're willing to learn, they're happy to teach.
What's the next step on your career path?
There are lots of options, lots of new skills to learn. Hollstadt is introducing the possibility of BA certification. I could move into project management or recruiting.
What are some challenges in consulting?
There's some anxiety when a project is ending. But if you build your network, you can promote yourself and get better and better positions. It's hard to take a vacation, because you bill by the hour. But there is some flexibility -- I can take off to go to my kids' Valentine's party, or work from home. I work among people who were or are consultants, and there are no clock watchers. The work gets done, we're all accountable. We make it happen.
Poll: What would you choose as a way for you (or your husband) to deal with a midlife crisis?