I’m not talking about becoming one of those contractors who are billed out by their companies as “consultants” but are really just serial hired hands. I’m referring to a true consultant role, where you are paid to bring expertise, give advice, and drive technical change.
Go into business for yourself, as an independent consultant. But running your own business involves a whole bunch of other skills like sales and networking. This post is mainly focused on how consulting helps you become a better engineer, so I won’t spend much time on the independent option.
Work for a consulting firm in a senior-ish role. Depending on your specific flavor of experience, you may find a role like this easier to obtain in a giant corporation like Deloitte or Accenture, a boutique specialist shop like Trek10 (where I used to work) or somewhere in between. In any case, the “staff consultant” option gives you the engineering experience of consulting but removes the challenge of filling your own sales pipeline.
Work for a tech company in a customer-facing technical role: say, as a post-sales engineer or solutions architect. This option may have more behind-the-scenes continuity than the other two, but is fundamentally the same skillset.