Alister Shirazi’s ultimate goal in life is never to have to work for anyone again.
He believes that the technical skills he has acquired from his contract work will help him achieve this goal.
Shirazi, 34, is an independent contractor working as a project manager for a tech company.
Despite having a boss, he sees the opportunity (working as a contractor) as a way to learn new skills and build up his resume swiftly with some big names, which makes him more competitive.
According to CNBC, his current rate of pay is $60 per hour for a 40-hour workweek, which is just shy of $125,000 annually when combined with a 12-month contract.
This is why Shirazi perceives and believes contract work is an investment for his long-term career goals.
How to Get into Project Management
Following his degree in economics in college, Shirazi went on to earn an MBA and launch iPhone repair businesses in California and Brazil.
He sold his businesses a few years later so he could move to the states and save money.
With an 80,000-dollar starting salary, he accepted a job in business operations with a startup in the Bay Area, “which I thought was great, but is actually not enough after taxes to make it work.”
After being assigned a menial task he didn’t like, Shirazi, automated it with Python programming:
“I automated it using Python programming and didn’t tell anybody,” Shirazi said. “Eventually I told my boss and asked for something else to work on because I was getting bored.”
By taking free community college courses and low-cost online courses, Shirazi learned more about coding and data science. His technical skills eventually helped him transition into a project manager role within the business.
He didn’t see a pay raise in nearly two years. Co-workers encouraged him to advocate for a raise which led him to raise the issue of pay to his Boss.
“I made a whole presentation [to my boss] about my accomplishments and goals and said I wanted a raise within two weeks,” Shirazi stated.
The two weeks turned into months before Shirazi ended up earning $100,000, and then $120,000 with a bonus.
“From that point, I didn’t ever want to go backwards,” Shirazi said, “so I only looked for opportunities that would take me upwards in my career and salary.”
Finding a Job Within Four Days
Shirazi’s LinkedIn profile gained recruiters’ attention when he added more technical skills and project management experience.
Suddenly, tech companies he admired began to approach him.
He was hired as a project manager for $60 an hour by one company in July 2020.
Contract positions have some drawbacks he doesn’t like though.
He doesn’t qualify for the benefits of a full-time employee, such as medical coverage, retirement plan contributions, stock options, etc. usually, before interviews, the pay for contract jobs is often fixed, so there is no negotiating room.
His hourly rate is also cut by an agency that provides job leads for him.
Shirazi said the experience is similar to working with a recruiter: if you are liked, they will keep you at the top of their list and help you find new work once your contract ends.
Shirazi focuses now on the advantages of taking short-term contract jobs, including how they allow him easier access to large technology companies, which enables him to acquire new skills and networks.
“I’m happy that I have the opportunity to bounce around because it gives me a diverse skill set, and I can add it to my personal brand equity,” he stated.
He was able to land his current position because of his personal branding. His current job was offered to him after an informational interview on a Tuesday.
According to Shirazi, $125,000 after a recruiter’s cut is “enough” for now. According to him, his salary wouldn’t be adequate if he were forced to commute to an office.
“I think of it as using my salary to finance my dreams, which is to open other businesses,” he says. “I’m OK to get my money, learn and get out.”
‘Anybody Could Do This’
As someone who broke into the tech industry, Shirazi is open about his salary, “because I want people to know that anybody can do this.”
Good project managers are generalists in a number of ways, Shirazi said. In addition, “you have to be resourceful, a critical thinker, a planner, and a good communicator.”