Consulting: Visions and Revisions

We have reimagined consulting.  More agency, fewer puddle jumpers, and definitely fewer last-minute fire drills from sterile Boardrooms.

To some ex-consultants roaming the professional landscape, even the word “consulting” conjures unpleasant memories.  We hearken back to late-Sunday-night arrivals in flyover cities, dragging our roller bags into the Westin, stressed and sleep-deprived, greeted by a doorman who knows our name even if the doorman of our actual residence does not.  The hospitality professional behind the counter thanks us for our loyalty and commends our platinum status.  This will grant us access to an almost embarrassingly large room whose insides we will essentially never enjoy and free perks for which our client would have reimbursed us anyway.

What a gorgeous room. I'll bet the bathroom has one of those fancy showers with multiple high-pressure jets and things. Probably offers free high-speed wiFi, complementary coffee in the morning, and all the loyalty points you could possibly know, if you had enough waking hours left in your life to travel for any purpose other than business.

We are hungry, and the sandwich options at this witching hour are sparse.  Jimmy John’s delivers, but it’ll take nearly an hour for reasons that seem inexplicable1. Even the cushiest of beggars can't be choosers.  But this allows us a moment to open our laptops.

And time yet for some slide decisions,

And for a hundred emails of revisions,

Before consumption of food or fees2

T.S. Eliot never worked as a consultant, and J. Alfred Prufrock’s loneliness and existential dread were perhaps more profound, but nonetheless, this dreary existence repeats itself, week after week.  Sun-deprived faces cram themselves into the claustrophobia-inducing commuter aircraft that connect lesser dots on the maps in magazines wedged between the vomit bag and the list of never-to-be-discussed safety procedures.  Bodies fattened on expense-account meals and souls thinned by spreadsheet drudgery shuffle from hotel to ridesharing service to office and back again, laptops on laps, knee-to-knee.

Only with three other people, a couple more random laptop bags, and the olfactory combination of fast-food, sweat, and fatigue. Yes, fatigue has an odor. Go with me on this one. You think any consultant who's been in a Uber or an airplane from sunrise to sunset smells like roses?

In the Zoom, the clients come and go,

Balking at what their data show...


This is not it at all.

This is not our AE, at all

How do we avoid this rather dismal fate?  How do we “disturb the universe?”3  Most consulting firms hire too few consultants to satisfy obvious incentives.  If the work of four can be done by three (who sleep less and consume an extra client-expensed sandwich or three), the consulting firm can pocket the difference.  At AE, we don’t hire too few consultants.  We hire too many.  Why?  Because the brilliant, agency-increasing skunkworks ideas developers and data scientists generate on a daily basis should themselves become MVPs.  But that value will never be realized without some surplus capacity to nourish and nurture those ideas.

Other agencies overwork their consultants.  We prefer Meatloaf to Jimmy John’s–we would do anything for our clients, but we won’t do that.  More explicitly, we leverage our idle hands to construct agency-enhancing skunkworks, some of which we sell (link to relevant blog post)!

In other words, we’d rather you have fewer than 40 hours of work than more, because we recognize the value of human agency, of the creative process experienced even by folks who pen lines of code rather than poetry (or both!).

And indeed, there will be time

There will be time to conjure and create

And time for nascent code you push each night to Git

Whose raw potential lies in wait

Time for you and for AE…

Alas, the long hours and mediocre dining options do not exhaust the horrors of traditional consulting, leaving more for AE to contribute as improvements!  In the existing paradigm, one’s mastery of a suite of bespoke spreadsheets and dashboards begets “one hundred visions and revisions.”  Eventually, the expert is literally and figuratively trapped, wedged into the back seat of an Uber ride that lasts seven hours through the upper-midwestern hinterlands4 (the calculus of flight cancellations and meteorology).  The indispensable analyst is pigeon-holed, left to ply the same trade until boredom reduces intracranial matter to grey goo.

But AE aspires to build better data scientists, better founders, better products, and better code.  And that, weary consulting travelers, requires rotation; traversing the technologies that develop new skill sets and keep coders current.  We want you to develop your side projects.  We want you to maintain the growth mindset only possible when new topics land upon your keyboard!

See! She had extra time to write on her walls and she came up with an idea to sell giant postcards with lightbulbs on them! (Or am I failing to interpret this image properly?)

Maximizing agency for developers means the work needs to feel like yours, not theirs.  The right people, working the right amount of time, on the right projects, write better code.  It’s not complicated—it’s just right.  Want some of your own skin in the game?  So do we.  Want a piece of other folks’ nascent ventures so you might align your objectives with their aspirations?  Want them to do the same for you?  We agree.

The best results arrive when we put our money and time where our mouths (and code-writing fingers) are.  If you want to nurture your side hustle, and you’re weary of air mattresses and ramen noodles (or at least want to upgrade the latter to the restaurant quality version thereof), we’re looking to increase your agency at ours.

Show us your human agency-increasing side projects!  Talk to us!  We promise to avoid T.S. Eliot references upon request.


There is a food poisoning incident which springs to mind, involving a conference room, impending gastrointestinal horrors, an urgently-requested Uber back to a hotel, and an empty garbage back strategically-procured from said conference room upon exit to said Uber.  Sparing graphic details, let’s end the digression by noting that my decision turned out to be prescient.


With all due credit and citation delivered to T.S. Eliot, J. Alfred Prufrock, and all litigious English professors living and dead...


Yes, I dare quote Eliot again.  If he wants to find time “to murder and create” charges of plagiarism, let him find me.  I’ll be hiding in a Wasteland outside Chicago, in February, which I assure you, is a crueler month than April.


As it turns out, ridesharing is a more efficient mechanism of transporting three weary souls from Columbus to Chicago both temporally and monetarily, given some midwestern weather patterns.  Mathematical proofs generated in a backseat somewhere outside of Warsaw, Indiana are possible, though not advised.

Thanks to Paul Graham for inspiring AE with his insights and enduring visual style, recreated here. If you enjoy irreverence, social commentary, and satire, check out our parody page. Thanks also to all the other amazing people changing the world with agency increasing technology. Apply to join us at AE.