The Firsthand Perspective of the Field Service Contract Workforce | Future of Field Service
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The Firsthand Perspective of the Field Service Contract Workforce

Sarah talks with Tamika Fields, independent IT Services contract technician, about what she enjoys about being independent, what could make W2 roles more appealing to talent, and how companies can make their relationships with contract workers most effective to ensure positive CX.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we’re going to be getting an inside look at the perspective of the field service contract workforce. I’m joined today by Tamika Fields, who is an independent IT contract technician. We’re going to get a little bit of perspective from Tamika on what is in the hearts and minds of the contract workforce and relate that back to some of the things we talk about here on this podcast in terms of leveraging contract workers, making sure that doing so allows you to still provide that positive customer experience, et cetera. We will dig into all of that, but Tamika, welcome to the podcast, and thanks for joining me.

Tamika Fields: Thank you for having me. Hello, everyone.

Sarah Nicastro: Before we dig in, tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an independent contract technician.

Tamika Fields: Well, my name is Tamika Fields. I’m an Alabama native, southern born and raised. Honorably separated from the Air Force. I’m an artist, a curious, creative, spiritual being on a very human journey. I’m just the student of information technology and communications. I started before the Air Force, but then I transitioned. And then after that, I went straight into my career working W-2 work, that’s what we call it now, now that I’m a contractor. I transitioned into the full-time contracting subsequently as things didn’t necessarily work out the way that I would’ve thought as a professional at that juncture.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. Okay. So how long were you doing W-2 work and what were some of the reasons that going that route was appealing to you?

Tamika Fields: If we just start with my full-time career in communications and information technology January 1999 when I joined the Air Force. I just continued working obviously from that job to other jobs, subcontracts, but I was still a W-2 within the contract. The very first contract that I got, ironically, I got two months after getting out of the military, and it fell through. And then that was the first inkling that in my mind I’d just come from this military contract and everything really is a contract, but I was still in the tether of what I call the matrix of the illusion of what W-2 work is considered for most people.

And from there, just fast forward to January 2016. I pretty much did what I consider W-2 work, but they were consistent contracts, because most of the work was range contract. It wasn’t the direct high private sector work for this school until towards the end. I took an independent temporary role that was supposed to be flexible, that was supposed to be, “You are a contractor. We’re subbing you. This is temporary. At will at any time we may not need you. We call you in part-time.” The role was part-time as part of their temporary services, and I was still being treated like a W-2 employee with the restrictions that come with that, without the flexibility to do what I knew how to do, to make things more efficient, to scale and streamline what they needed because they were trying to upgrade all of their devices.

They were breaching many security policies and had things on the network that shouldn’t have been. I was trying to help with that, and I was being treated like a W-2 employee with these restrictions that wouldn’t allow me to really get them to where they needed to be, and for all intents and purposes, that the IT manager hired me to do. That was the first time that I was just like, “Hey, January 2016, I think something needs to change here. I’ve been doing the same thing somewhat expecting a different result, hoping that people see what services I provide.” And I’m just like, “I just need to take the leap because this is me treading water in a temporary role but not having the flexibility.”

And that was it after that. That ended about a year later, so six months I took a hiatus to reassess if I really want to continue in IT, because I’d already taken a break briefly before starting that role. And by May of 2018, I was full on, “I’m an independent contractor.”

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. From your perspective, what are the benefits of being an independent contractor versus being a full-time employee with one organization?

Tamika Fields: Off the top, flexibility, autonomy, greater sense of purpose, and self-branding to represent what services you provide and the quality and standards that you provide that apply to all business needs, in my opinion and experience.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. Okay. If you look at the flip side of the equation, I mean, is there anything that would make you reconsider being independent at this point and taking a full-time position with one organization?

Tamika Fields: Realistically, probably not.

But just thinking from the standpoint of I am the sum of my experiences, and I know there are some things that are beneficial when you have W-2 employment, the only thing that really would make me reconsider a full time employment role would be if I was in a position where the organization allowed me to have the exact same growth opportunities, flexibility, autonomy to get the job done with an efficient manner in the standard of the white glove service that I provide irrespective of office politics, which is virtually impossible. I’ve really only had that as an independent contractor.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So highly unlikely.

Tamika Fields: Highly unlikely, but eightball says anything’s possible.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that’s true. The reason I’m asking some of these questions is the organizations that listen to this podcast I think are really struggling with a couple fundamental questions of themselves, which is, number one, “We don’t have enough talent, period, to do the volume of work we need to do. So whether that’s looking at how we attract more people to the industry to hire as W-2 employees or whether we find sources of good 1099 or independent talent that we can leverage, it’s a problem that needs to be solved.”

I think companies tend to have different feelings about the use of contract workforce versus the idea of having a network of their own technicians. So I think it’s interesting to look at this from the perspective of from the independent contractor perspective, what do people like about that role, whether it’s understanding it so that you can build a good relationship and leverage talent like yours in a way that helps them deliver the brand experience they want to deliver. Or whether it’s understanding what motivates you to be independent, to question themselves on are there things they can offer to make full-time employees make that role more attractive? To your point every time I’ve asked that question, you say flexibility. I always am urging organizations to think outside of the box in the sense of, yes, a lot of the industries we reach, service work, it needs done when it needs to be done. That leads people to believe, “We can’t offer flexibility because we just need to service our customers when they need service.” True, but that doesn’t mean schedules need to be built the way they’ve always been built, right?

Tamika Fields: Correct.

Sarah Nicastro: If people are willing to get more creative and not just do what they’ve always done, then maybe you can do a rotation, maybe you can do a four-day workweek. I don’t think any organization can hand you all of the benefits you have of being independent and poof. But I think we do need to ask ourselves more what are those things that are really drawing people to want to be independent and are there ways to adapt so that we’re providing more of that, right.

Tamika Fields: True.

Sarah Nicastro: I just think this idea of, “Nope, it’s this schedule, it’s always been this schedule, it has to stay this schedule,” I don’t subscribe to that. I think if you really want to change the game and get more creative, then that’s what you need to do. And if the problem becomes a big enough problem, people will be forced to start getting creative and thinking differently.

And so, that’s where I think the perspective of you is helpful to really understand what are those motivators and either how do they begin to incorporate some of that into what their employee value proposition looks like or how do they consider those motivators so they can build relationships with someone like yourself that can help them be successful in their customer experience, right?

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So, if you think about that comment, are there aspects of your role as an independent contractor that you think it’s possible for companies to provide more of to their full-time employees?

Tamika Fields: Absolutely. I don’t think that cavern of absolutes in black and white separation exists personally. I think they make it exist because, like you said, they’re dogmatically holding on to that. I don’t think it has to be mutually inclusive. I feel like if full-time employment roles… For me, let’s see, in terms of making it more appealing, what could be provided, I just feel like I find myself to be more proactive when I’m working 1099. I’m focused on the process and improvement. I do that anyway, but there’s so many things that limit that because there’s so many steps and approvals and people who don’t see what’s really happening and what really would change things and scale things to what they actually need. They see things on papers, it’s abstracted, it’s not tangible. They’re not dealing with the forward-facing aspect of it, nor are they dealing with the actual infrastructure and what it is that they’re doing or trying to do based on the industry that they’re in.

And so, for me, that’s all I’m focused on, efficiency. It’s most challenging and rewarding for me to have that aspect that I always find in independent contract work. Ideally, that’s the most nurturing environment. But I feel like just even with the very last W-2 role, the very last most longstanding W2 role that I had, I would say… I don’t want to say a full-time temporary, but it was just the project based, but you’re tethered to us. So even in that role as a W-2, “Yes, you’re W-2, but you don’t sit here 365 all days except for those holidays. You’re here when we have these big projects. You’re the first person we pull in. You might be the person that consults on this and also maybe you’re the person that when it hits the fan, call that person first. Because if we know nothing else, we know based on the consistency with all these other projects, that they’ll be able to put a fresh perspective set of eyes, give us some insight on what we can do to quickly to keep the ship from sinking and then give us time to go hire, say, the other person who would be the one that sits there and patches that hole when they go back to their respective independent corner.”

But I know that’s really creative, just even that thought and just that analogy to somebody in a corporate structured world. They’d be like, “What do you mean? You’re just on retainer?” “In a way, but you don’t have to pay me until I show up for work.” So the retainer is the relationship.

Sarah Nicastro: And so, I want to get back to talking a little bit about the independent contract model, but I also think it’s important to dig into this a little bit for the sake of people that listen and the way the industry is struggling with talent as a whole right now. There’s a few things you said. You said flexibility. You said autonomy. And you don’t like the corporate politics. Those are things that I think are representative of how the desires of the workforce are evolving. I don’t think companies have a choice but to evolve with the workforce. I’m just bringing those points back up because I don’t believe you are alone in desiring those things, and organizations have to start finding ways to deliver more of that.

Now, I also want to take it a layer deeper here, so bear with me. You said in the beginning you identify yourself as a creative. I think that’s also part of what’s happening here, is you have ideas and you want that autonomy to make suggestions and make changes and not be tied down by outdated policy and a very cumbersome process for introducing new concepts. I think it’s a really important point because not everyone is like that, and that’s fine. Everyone has different strengths. Some people are happy to just follow the rules and do what the process is, et cetera. But I think as we hear things in headlines of the importance of company culture and innovation and are we creating an environment where employees do feel that they can contribute to that innovation, what we really need to do is figure out how to make creatives like yourself feel more empowered and more involved in the process instead of a victim of whatever decisions are being made at the top.

I think that’s a huge transformation underway, but again, I want to call out to the people listening that if they have talent within their ranks, like you, who is creative, who has ideas, who wants to problem solve, who wants to take issues and figure out what can change to make them go away, you really need to figure out how to harness that talent instead of having it get frustrated and leave that outdated dinosaur-like culture to just go-

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: … do their own thing.

That is not me saying, and I want to be clear, that is not me saying that folks like yourself shouldn’t be independent contractors or companies should not leverage independent contractors. I’m just also stating that unless a company’s strategy is to use all 1099 employees, these are some of the really hard questions they need to be asking themselves and grappling with. Because the realities are just that we know the frontline workforce, I say this all the time, holds so much power, because you are the person interacting with customers. You are ultimately the external arm of whatever brand or customer experience a company wants to provide.

You’re also in a position where you see more challenge and more opportunity than many others in the organization. So if we’re not listening and we’re not involving and we’re not leveraging that insight and perspective, we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice while also making people that have the talents or the drive that you have feel that that environment is just not right for them. I’m really just urging people to hear what you’re saying and think about how they start to make changes, however difficult that might be, to empower and encourage and involve and engage their workforce rather than just sticking to process/policy that has been around for a long, long time.

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Does that make sense?

Tamika Fields: It makes perfect sense, because we are the unintentional mascots for any organization. I’ve worked for hospitals, nonprofit schools, I mean, government agencies, contracts, subcontracts, security teams. You name it, I’ve done it. Yeah, you are the person they remember, you are the face, so whether you’re the begrudged, curmudgeon stereotype or you’re an open communicator who is adapted and emotionally, intellectually keen, you’re still what they remember, irrespective of you showing up two minutes before because somebody got sick or you’ve been there for two years. You do have the insight that it’s impossible for you to have if you’re not on the ground. It’s just impossible.

And not to get into war and politics, but the reason why people feel the way they feel about President Zelenskyy with regard to the Ukraine as the Ukrainian people, because he’s there, he’s in it, he’s not like removed, he’s not detached, he’s right there putting everything on the line with everybody else. We’re the conduit. We as the frontline IT people, whether we’re there every day… Again because I’ve been W-2, and I did that for years with the same people, seeing the same people every day and navigating the politics. You don’t want to just be the guy saying, “Where’s my red stapler?” If you’re saying, “Hey, this needs to be resolved, maybe we can work on this. I know you can’t fix it in three months, but maybe we can start the action rolling so that in three months we can have tangible plans that are implemented by the end of six months.”

Most IT people have a realistic background and understanding of that. But like you said, if we’re screaming, “We are here, and this is what needs to be done, and you have creatives,” I feel like it’s actually more cost effective for you to leverage the person that’s willing to stay that’s already W-2. Like you, I’m not saying get rid of all 1099 contractors, don’t have independent consultants. Absolutely both are needed. But if you have somebody who has the quality, the skill, the growth, and the expansive scalable mindset within your organization, you have brand loyalty by default. You don’t have to train that, you don’t have to adjust that, you don’t have to have the little nuances that change when somebody’s going from just having worked at a hospital to now working for DOD contractor to then working for some nonprofit art school. Because there are shifts that most people can’t do, and that’s why they always have the stereotype of the IT person, the flat asset, and this, that, and the other. But not to digress.

Sarah Nicastro: It’s a good point. No, I’ve talked on this podcast before about, I think as the nature of field service evolves, we need to start thinking about maybe part of getting more creative is not just about how do we offer flexibility and how do we offer more autonomy, et cetera, but also maybe we somehow segment roles differently than we have in the past. Because there are different talents, and they have different value.

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So maybe you have a very technical talent that can repair X, Y, Z, but they don’t have an interest in the customer experience or the relationship building. It doesn’t mean that talent isn’t a talent, it just means-

Tamika Fields: Agreed. 

Sarah Nicastro: … there are other talents needed. I have some thoughts on how that might evolve, which is not the topic of this podcast, but I think it’s another point for people to consider is you will have people that are willing to just show up and do the work, and then you will have people that have fresh ideas. They’re both important. Don’t stifle one and pander to another. Figure out how to harness both talents and skills.

Tamika Fields: You have to. It’s practical.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep, for sure. I want to shift gears a little bit, Tamika, and talk about, as an independent contractor, so keeping in mind that our audience is companies that would potentially hire folks like you to either augment their full-time employee W-2 workforce or some companies are taking the strategy of using all independent technicians. I want to shift gears. We’ve talked a lot about what attracts you, what do you like and enjoy about being independent and thinking about that through the lens of how do we bring some of that to the full-time employee. I want to shift gears and talk about how do we take that into consideration for organizations to work successfully with contractors, okay?

Tamika Fields: Mm-hmm.

Sarah Nicastro: One of the biggest concerns, if not the biggest concern, that companies surface when they’re unsure about how to leverage a contract workforce is that they fear that brand or customer experience will not be as strong as it will with someone who, like you said, is only working with customers in that sector, who understands the intricacies of that brand, et cetera. What are your thoughts on that concern and its validity? And then let’s talk a little bit about what good relationships look like and how that can be offset a bit. Sorry, I always ask multiple questions at once, so first – what are your thoughts on that concern?

Tamika Fields: Well, okay, so it is a valid concern. I don’t 100% disagree, but I largely disagree because I feel like, okay, if you have a professional who’s adept and at a certain level in the industry, there’s a level of embedded communication skills and decorum just by virtue of being in the industry at that level. So you have to think in terms of whoever the HR person is or whoever the temp employee services person is that are bringing these people on and onboarding them, you have to present to them what it is that’s needed so that they source correctly for that role. If you do that, then that concern, it’s mitigated just by working with your onboarding person or the HR person or the technical recruiter that’s within your company or whether you outsource that. And so, as far as that, to me that resolves that.

But of course, nothing’s cookie-cutter. The representation of an ideal vision of what a company would want to get the quick turnaround of the deliverables and have all the projects on task, perhaps someone who’s not… You’re worried about, I guess, people being complacent and just coming in there because the high dollar last hired consultant and they just come in and do the job. Again, even if it’s hot tasking, we’re behind, we’re trying to catch up before we lose this contract, you still have 15 minutes to an hour to onboard somebody with the proper expectations of the contract. If you’ve got time for people to sign NDAs and to make sure that the routing number is correct, you’ve got time to have them sit down and even just have a meeting like this, like, “This is our company, this is our vision. We know this is a short project, short turnaround, but you represent us at all phases and this and this. These are our mission statements. This is what we bring to the table. Our customers are used to this expectation. This is our standard operating procedures.”

If you don’t have time to do that, then you’re probably in bigger trouble. I kid you not, that’s a 15 to 45 minute moment of communication. Bring everybody in, make space for that, lay it all out, have them repeat it back to you. If you’ve got nothing else but add another 30 minutes to role play, and then you’re done. So what have you invested? 15 minutes to an hour and a half of somebody in HR and communications time to do that with a contractor. But most people don’t think that way. So it’s not even the fact that they don’t have the skills and resources already available, they don’t think about it. They’re just like, “Well, we only want people who already know, who are already working here.” You’ve got people working there 10, 15, 13, 5 years who don’t even understand the vision and the brand of the company, who could care less. That’s just a fact.

And then you have people who are just like, “Hey, I’m a chameleon. I’m here for you. You pay me for the service. Part of that service is me representing you in every aspect. And then you get all of the benefit of my years of experience from all of the other companies.” But, of course, I’m pitching my identity, my experience because this is what I do.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Now, to take that a step further, okay, that’s really good advice, are there relationships you have where you’re getting feedback on performance and/or feeling appreciated or recognized when you are providing above-average performance as an independent contractor?

Tamika Fields: I do. I don’t want to sound like hubristic, but every single job that I have taken since the one that I mentioned in January, they have within the first week, if not the first day, asked me to stay permanently.

Sarah Nicastro: I was going to say, “How many times are you… “

Tamika Fields: How do you say this without sounding arrogant? But I mean, I’m not…

Sarah Nicastro: No, no, honestly, I’ve thought that since the beginning of the conversation. Yeah, because that’s the thing, and that’s why naturally I started with thinking in my mind and talking about how do companies attract, bring on board, nurture, and retain talent like you, because it is what they all want. I mean, I can absolutely see how that would be the case. The challenge though is, what are you getting from the experience of not being tethered to a particular company, and what does that mean for the future of the workforce?

I also think there are aspects of this conversation, there’s company or industries that have very seasonal work. There’s industries that go through big ebbs and throughs, and they need to be able to scale up and scale down. It isn’t all about just that they’re not providing an experience that full-time employees necessarily want.

Tamika Fields: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: There are a lot of aspects that can make the use of a contract workforce be a valid option. But, I was bringing some of those points up because I talked to so many business leaders and service leaders that are really struggling with talent, that I know it is part of the challenge. In terms of best practices though, so I’m thinking about advice you can give to companies who are looking to work with contractors, so investing the time, 15 minutes to an hour and a half to really set the stage and provide clear expectations sounds like something people would think to do anyway, but I’m not shocked that it doesn’t always or often happen. What does the follow-up look like? Other than people trying to just hire you in full time, do you have any thoughts for companies on how would you like to see them deliver feedback and let you know either, “Hey, you did a great job.” or “Hey, we set the stage for you, and you didn’t really deliver what we were looking for.” or “We’d like to not necessarily bring you in full time, but we want to continue to leverage your services and that sort of thing.”

What I’m thinking about, Tamika, is I did a podcast quite a long time ago with company in Australia named Foxtel that only leverages contract technicians. What they’ve done is almost sort of Uberized their process. They have a scorecard… and it’s a very simple scorecard. It’s only four things so the stages set when people start. They work with a firm that helps them with this, but it’s very clear to the contract worker, “Here’s what we need you to execute on.” They continually get ranked, and the people that are getting the highest scores in those clearly-defined areas get the best and most frequent jobs. It’s essentially, the better work they do, the more they’re able to stay independent but rely on that company for the best jobs and the highest volume of work to the degree they want to accept it. And then obviously at some threshold, the people that aren’t doing a good job, they just go by the wayside.

Tamika Fields: Yeah, definitely sounds Darwinian, but yes, it works. I was going to allude to that, similar to what Field Nation uses and very, like you said, Uberized or Lyfted or if you want to use those brands to reference that. The scorecard system works so long as there is, of course, quality assurance and checks and balances in there, because we’re human, we’re dealing with human beings, and there’s subjective biases that need to be addressed. But outside of that, to me that is the ideal way because you get immediate feedback, you have the clear and present expectation, and then you have the follow up. Like you stated, I have several companies that have worked with me last year, wanted to bring me back on for seasonal work. Some things they only need you seasonal to cover when their main IT people are out. Also asking me to come on board in a similar situation.

It’s not always, like you said, just the fact that they don’t want you or they don’t have the model set up for that. But that company in Australia, what they’re doing, I think if they could incorporate that within the model of the corporate umbrella, I think that would actually help. Because some people need, I wouldn’t say daily, but some people need more immediate feedback and course correction. Even the people who like to just tunnel vision, “I’m in my cube, I’m doing my thing.” And again, we need them. We need the analyzers, the data people, the people who are just going to sit there and, “This is the process. I follow the process. I came in at this time, I leave.” There’s a place for everybody because I’m inclusivity, not exclusivity. We need everybody. We need the people who don’t want to lead, and we need the leaders. We need the visionaries, and we need the people who need everything to be painted out black and white, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

So yeah, that definitely would be the way. Like I said, I have organizations that just straight up said, “Hey, we only need independent contractors right now, but in the future if a position opens up, please… ” They’re very direct. Or, “This company changed their mind. We were going to hire you for this, but please go back to our website and look.” A lot of companies that are IT contracting firms, they just directly say that because they also know it has to be reciprocated, and they also know what they really can’t offer. “Oh yeah, we definitely want you, but we don’t have the role available. At contract fell through, we don’t have that.” or “We want you to come back next year, but we only need you next year, 10 months from now,” that type of thing. And with the understanding that, “Well, you do realize I can’t just tread water for 10 months.”

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Right.

Tamika Fields: “So if I’m not available at that time, it is what it is.” But the relationship doesn’t have to be lost because I have literally won one company three times, but I was already doing something else. But it’s the same company that contracted me last year. And then they wanted me again for the actual thing that they contracted me for, but now at this point I’m already doing something else. But every single time we engage, we’re solidifying the relationship. I still want to work with them. If the moon is in the southern sky and Jupiter’s on its right, I will be there. But if it doesn’t align, we don’t have to burn that bridge just because it’s not working out.

For some people having space for that to keep in their database those names and numbers, you never know, even if it’s like five people, “But we really haven’t worked with them and this many time years. And every time we try it doesn’t work out.” “Hey, but if you keep them and if they’re alive and they’re working and they’re building their skill sets, when it does hit, you’ll have them.” As opposed to every single time we clear the database and forget about it. So that’s just one aspect in addition to what you mentioned about the Australian company, in addition to the way field things and many other ranking systems work, but of course with the quality assurance built into it for negating inherent biases of our humanity.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm. That makes sense. Are there any other thoughts you have, advice for companies listening to this, how to create a positive working relationship with the contract workforce? Do you feel like we covered it, or is there anything else you would-

Tamika Fields: We’ve been pretty thorough because we hyper threaded our questions and our answers. Sorry to talk over you, but let me see. I’m reflecting, I’m reflecting on what we’ve said so as not to be redundant, but…

Just continue to keep an open mind as far as diversity. Talent matters based on what talent can do, not what talent looks like. In many cases, not even necessarily what they sound like. Obviously, you want to have the base level of communication. In this country, our language is English, I get it, but a lot of times people lose sight of presentation. When you’re dealing with a technical industry, yes, okay, so this isn’t a allocution or a… What’s it called?… a finishing school. It’s IT. So you got to think, at the end of the day, can this person route this network most efficiently? Can this person run these cables? Can this person actually recover this data and bring this up? If they can do that, you need to already have in place an understanding of, “We can groom and work on everything else.” Because if they’re spot on, if they’re coachable, if they’re honest, if they’re timely, if they’re respectable, don’t let the biases of presentation take you away from hiring good talent.

That’s the only thing that I could suggest. They’re obviously inherent biases, but they’re changing, but they’re still not changing as much, because if there’s 11 or 10 people in the room, there are three people who identify as female or present as female, because it wasn’t like I asked, but I’m just saying. And then if you further get into the diversity beyond that, it might be me or one other person who’s of the African diaspora, maybe an Asian woman, maybe a South Asian woman. I actually have to be honest, I’ve never worked with someone who identifies as part of the Latinx community.

Sarah Nicastro: No, that’s a really good point.

Tamika Fields: Female, I mean. Sorry, I’ve worked with men.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Yeah. I think that point is a really good point as well around diversity. You brought up Field Nation, so just quickly, you use the Field Nation platform.

Tamika Fields: I do.

Sarah Nicastro: How do you feel technology like theirs impacts the life of an independent contractor?

Tamika Fields: I feel like it’s a game changer for people who haven’t used it. I remember when I first found out about it in May of 2018, I was just like, “Wait, what?” It would’ve just been so helpful to know about it five years before that because that’s when I came back into the IT industry after leaving because of burnout, because of lack of opportunity, because of feeling unseen and unvalued and just feeling like there’s no room for me to grow because I just basically spent 20 years doing the same thing. And even the fact that I could just leave and step right back in proved that, you know what I’m saying?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm.

Tamika Fields: Because it wasn’t like I did some certification course or changed anything. I just stopped and I just started back. So for me, Field Nation, it opened the door for me to offer all the skill sets that I’d already had, all the ones that I’d learned doing augmenting and doing other things in the interim when I left the field briefly, that weren’t being utilized in full-time employment because you get stuck in these niche roles. It just gave me greater pride in my work because I knew that I was like, “You’re getting rated in real time. These are the expectations that you got to deliver.” You don’t have till the end of the week or those things where people like, I don’t want to say fudge, but they hide in the gaps of the corporate workweek. I was just like, “You’re paying me while I’m here to do the job. If I get the job done in two hours, but you’re paying me for six, I’m going to tell you that I’m done in two hours.” Some people don’t do that.

I’m just like, “I’m done. Now, what else is it that you need me to do? If not, I’m leaving because I don’t need the money that way. I want to be efficient. I want to get it done. I want to show you that, yes, if you hire the right people, this job that you keep paying people eight to 10 hours to do, it really only takes four to six.” But have the expectation because Murphy’s Law is real, and that is the God that I serve, but outside of that, stop spinning your wheels and wasting money. To be able to say that and not feel like you’re going to get a low rating or get shunned in the coffee break room or just even that freedom to say, “Hey, quality assurance points, things that you can improve, ways that you can save money,” and not feel like you’re going to get some type of repercussion after, that was enough for me. But it just gave me a greater way that I could leverage my assets, not get stuck in each position more than anything, and that is what the platform offered me.

Sarah Nicastro: I’ll link to Field Nation in the comments or the show notes for this. For people that aren’t aware, it is IT specific, but it’s a platform that allows companies to hire contract workers, allows contract workers to find open jobs, and then also to your point, Tamika, provides that real time feedback. Last question, what are your thoughts on how the talent space and the working environment will change over the next one to three years?

Tamika Fields: Well, if we don’t get stuck laughing at all of what we call soft quitting individuals and the people who are just starting their own companies, I encourage more people to do that because it will just create what I call the catalyst for change that the industry’s plural need. Because to me, IT is ubiquitous, and it’s a part of all industries as a collective global market of companies and organizations. That was part of one of the reasons why I took it as a creative because people always talk about artists and creatives having the feast or famine or starving in order to exist. I’m just like, “Or I could do something that I’m already naturally inclined at doing because of my functional, obsessive engineering monk-like mind and have something that is permanent. I don’t have an electrician degree because they also are always going to be here until the grid goes down or World War III, God forbid.

But I just hope to see continued diversity, inclusion regarding the challenges of the landscape. I feel like in a modern world, in a modern information technology field, tech work is the way, but also you can have onboarded W-2s longstanding relationships with field technicians that are part of your organization. I feel like the available independent contracting opportunities in addition to the full time employment opportunities, they’re going to continue. As you say, the need is there. It’s just that if we keep open dialogue with the diverse sums of experience that are being leveraged, it allows capable talent and intelligent technicians to just contribute in a way that’s more sustainable in the long run. It just allows individual contributors like myself to make a greater impact. And now, I think that’ll just make us all stronger than any one individual part of the whole.

And even that, it just makes everything run more efficiently because you have all these resources from the contractors, from the longstanding workers, from the people that are floating in seasonally. Whether they’re using a platform or not, it just makes the information technology sector stronger. It makes us scale and evolve more exponentially to where all of the different organizations that uses this technology and uses these resources can apply it more broadly to what needs to be done and make those changes that you talk about from the archaic dinosaur model to the… If you want people to stop soft quitting, if you want the burnout to end, if you want people to stop phoning it in and telling you that they’re busy, but they’re never really doing anything or stringing out a project that they literally could have done over their lunch break just to get… like, “Hey, I need this.” You know how it goes. That’s how you resolve that, in one of the many ways. Because be open to change. Be open to growth. Keep the dialogue flowing.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, very good input. Thank you, Tamika. I appreciate you coming. I really enjoyed speaking with you. I think your perspective is one that is really helpful for folks to understand and think more about. Thank you for giving me some of your time.

Tamika Fields: Thank you so much, Sarah. Thank everyone for listening. All the companies or organizations, keep an open in mind to all the human beings who believe in technology, who believe in science, who believe in communication. Stay curious, be proactive, and just be representative of what you uniquely bring to the table in every collaboration.

Sarah Nicastro: I love it. You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn and Twitter, @thefutureoffs. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.