FAQS: STRAIGHT ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

Working at Ferguson

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As a Ferguson employee you can choose assignments for yourself. We also invest in our employees, involving them in a market-leading training program that keeps technical skills abreast of where IT is headed, expands individual skill sets, and rounds out career capabilities with important "soft skills" such as project management, time management, and communications.

At Ferguson, IT isn’t a support function for our business – it IS our business. By contrast, if you’re a full-time employee in a corporate IT department, your professional development is determined more by the dictates of that organization than by your individual career objectives.

In the corporate environment IT staff members must focus first and foremost on the employer’s priorities, which may be built around specific applications or systems and the business knowledge the organization has developed around them. That kind of situation can lead to getting trapped in the efficiencies of a particular kind of expertise with little or no opportunity for change. It becomes the same thing year after year in a work pattern that mires IT specialists in outdated skills with limited industry experience. Without investment in your skill set, you fall behind, especially in a discipline that changes as quickly as IT. When a new project does come along to replace the system that has reached the end of its shelf life, your opportunities to participate are limited because your skill set probably grew stale along with the old technology. Moreover, should you lose your job in an expense-reducing staff cutback, your opportunities will be limited to your present skill set because new employers aren’t likely to make an investment in you before you demonstrate value to them.

Today’s fast-paced work environment defines experience as multiple skills, adaptability, and competence on many fronts rather than familiarity gained by doing the same thing on the same system many times over. In the demanding IT field, in which outcomes determine whether and how long relationships endure, the most reliable way to protect yourself from unemployment is to keep your skills on the leading edge through training and diversification of capabilities – the hallmarks of the Ferguson employee.

Candidates must have advanced to expert-level skills in their core capabilities, a college degree, and at least five years of experience with excellent business references. IT professionals who expect to join the Ferguson team must submit complete and accurate résumés and handle themselves well in face-to-face interviews. Our thorough hiring process is an important contributor to our reputation for providing outstanding service to our clients, and our stringent review process is aimed at focusing on the top talent in the IT market.

Success as an IT consultant involves more than an attractive résumé and technical skills. We insist on face-to-face interviews because we want to be able to assess not only your IT capabilities but also your communications skills, how you interact with potential colleagues, and your ability to handle pressure situations. It’s not just about our getting to know you so that we can provide clients the best fit with their project needs. It’s also a fundamental opportunity to get to know Ferguson and the people with whom you will be building your career.

Our broad range of application development services extends from project design through implementation and support. We provide specific expertise in enterprise-level architecture and application development, project management, business analysis, QA testing, web design and helpdesk support for major organizations in both the commercial and public sectors.

Because of economic challenges and the highly competitive global market, clients are forced to accomplish more with less, which means they often require “hybrid” IT roles with broader job descriptions. They are looking for proven ability to adapt to the changing needs, philosophies, and management styles of the 21st century economy. We understand the increasing pressure on our clients to effectively manage contract labor services and achieve greater efficiencies.

Among the roles we staff are:

  • Business Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • Java Developer / Java Architect
  • .NET Developer (C#, ASP.NET, VB.NET)
  • .NET Architect
  • C++ Developer
  • VB Developer
  • COBOL Programmer/Analyst
  • Data Analyst
  • Business Objects Developer
  • Middleware Developer
  • WebSphere Developer/Administrator
  • WebLogic Developer
  • SAP Programmer/Analyst
  • SAP Analyst/Configurator
  • Web Designer
  • System Administrator
  • Network Analyst
  • Helpdesk Analyst
  • QA Tester (Manual and Automated)
  • Technical Writer
  • Six Sigma Business Process Analyst
  • Database Developer (PL/SQL, SQL, Access)
  • Data Warehouse
  • Database Administrator (Oracle, SQL Server, DB2)
  • Database Architect (Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, MS Access)

Our employees accrue a $2,000 training allowance each year. We attract the kind of people who want to invest in sustained employability, and we’ll work with you to help you do that, even increasing your training allowance if necessary. While the training must be related to your professional career track, you can select courses that enhance skills such as communication or time management in addition to technical training. Besides providing training reimbursement, Ferguson offers in-house classes and focus groups on new technologies and other trends in our profession.

On occasion they do, and we don’t stand in the way of clients who want to hire our employees. But it is not our business model to function as a placement firm. If your primary goal is to be placed on assignment for the possibility of converting to a permanent position with the client, Ferguson is not a good fit for you. We hire individuals who want to be part of our team. We are looking for people who are passionate about their IT careers; who appreciate the opportunities that Ferguson will give them to develop, improve, and maximize clients’ IT systems; who look for ways to enhance their marketable experience, and who enjoy taking responsibility for staying ahead of the curve in a field that changes rapidly.

Ferguson employs H-1B workers under certain circumstances. The worker must possess a highly marketable skill set so that there is strong potential for long-term employment. We require a relatively long-term initial assignment to justify the investment in USCIS filing fees and legal expenses related to hiring H-1B holders. We look for employees who are able to commit to an assignment and demonstrate flexibility with regard to the start date so that our clients don’t have to build waiting periods for visa approval into their project schedules. Generally candidates have to be available within three weeks of the offer date.

H-1B workers should feel comfortable putting their trust in Ferguson’s meticulous process and track record of 100% approval of H-1B visa transfers. We work closely with visa holders and our immigration attorney so that the approach we take offers the best likelihood of success and minimizes risk. On a case-by-case basis we will consider sponsoring employees seeking permanent residency.

Working in the Solutions Group

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Our aim in each IT assignment is to provide the best match in people, technologies, and methodologies for our clients. We also believe in providing employees with opportunities to work on varied projects so that they are continually learning and expanding their capabilities. Depending on your skills and the project flow, you may be moving from one turnkey project to the next, have a long-term assignment at a client site, or transition between these two client-service approaches during your career at Ferguson.

The employees whom we assign to Solutions Group projects not only have exceptional capabilities in their areas of expertise but also are easy to work with, are comfortable collaborating with clients and colleagues, are highly motivated, and have a track record with Ferguson that demonstrates exceptional performance and dependability.

Regardless of whether you are assigned to the Solutions Group or staff augmentation, you are a Ferguson employee, covered by our competitive pay, market-leading funded-training program, comprehensive insurance benefits, and paid time off. The most visible difference is that our staff augmentation employees work at the client’s site while members of the Solutions Group work at our headquarters in Chesterfield, Missouri, in western metropolitan St. Louis. Another more subtle but important distinction reflects the nature of the Solutions Group’s projects. Staff augmentation assignments reflect the working environment in which they take place and can change with respect to changing business requirements and deliverables. The Solutions Group must stay focused on delivering a defined end product on time and on budget, which mandates rigorous self-motivation and accountability for meeting the goals of each project benchmark.

The Ferguson Consulting executive who managed the proposal process and took the lead in winning the business serves as the engagement manager and continues to manage the client relationship while the project is under way. Each project also is assigned a project manager and a designated technical lead or solution architect, depending on the scope of the effort. Those managers work with team members on a daily basis to keep the project on track.

At any given time, you may be assigned to more than one project. If so, we will clearly define your role and responsibilities in each project, how your assignment fits into the overall team structure, and how the teams work together.

Our intention is for employees to transition seamlessly from project to project with little or no down time. If there is a gap, we may assign members of the Solutions Group to internal office projects, which sometimes include pro bono and charity projects that provide learning experiences or opportunities to work on emerging technologies. As a salaried Ferguson employee, you continue to receive your paycheck during these between-project periods, if they occur.

Our Solutions Group employees work at our headquarters in Chesterfield, Missouri. Flextime can be an option depending on the project and the employee’s track record working with us. If we grant that privilege, we expect that not only will you deliver on the project milestones but also that we can count on you to keep us informed about when and where you are working and to be available for work-related communications.

The Solutions Group works as salaried employees on fixed-price projects that generally are awarded through competitive bidding. Our bid reflects our best judgment of the amount of time required to perform the defined task, based on a work week of 40 hours of productive, project-related effort. The bid also takes into consideration the pay structure appropriate for the experience and skill levels of the IT professionals assigned to the project work. If the project deadline or other circumstances point to overtime being necessary, we write that into the budget and pay team members accordingly.

From time to time, when face-to-face meetings are an important component of successful project completion, business travel is part of the assignment. Those trips must be approved in advance by the project manager and the engagement manager responsible for the overall client relationship. When employees travel on behalf of the company, we reimburse business-related expenditures within the guidelines of our travel policy. Our work with clients is most likely to involve day trips, which typically occur at specific times during the project such as kick-off, delivery, or major milestones along the way. These meetings may involve travel by the whole team or functional trips for specific team members.

Our policy for all salaried employees in the Solutions Group is to use vacation and holiday time in the year in which it applies. We expect employees to plan their paid time off and give us advance notice of their vacation schedules so that we can manage project plans accordingly. Just as we take our employees’ scheduling preferences under consideration in planning projects, we expect our staff members to take project deadlines into account and avoid taking time off when that would interfere with achieving the project goals. Taking paid time off is part of a healthy attitude to work. We want our staff members to take the time off that they have earned, but we emphasize planning for it ahead of time.

Working in Staff Augmentation

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The corporate culture at Ferguson values teamwork and relationships, and we actively pursue a variety of communications channels to support that climate. One of the most important contributors to staying connected with Ferguson is our employees’ regular interactions with their operations managers. During the first month of a project and once a month thereafter, employees and these staff members meet in person or by phone to go over applicable best practices, the individual’s progress, project milestones, client requirements, and any potential risks to meeting project expectations. The substance of these discussions is shared with the Ferguson account manager responsible for that particular client as another check to make sure that client needs are being met. Besides paying detailed attention to project progress, the conversations between our employees and their operations managers cover training opportunities and other job-related topics. We encourage our employees to take at least two training classes per year. We believe that this regular coaching, mentoring, and career guidance benefits our employees and helps maximize success at each client site.

Our employees are required to provide weekly progress reports that include target dates and deliverables. These reports are the basis of our relationships with our employees because our operations managers use them to better understand the employee’s assignment and to focus attention on the work being done as well as topics to address through the company’s training agenda and staff communications.

We make two other communications channels readily accessible to all employees. One is an e-mail bulletin circulated every Friday afternoon to keep everyone current on events and company news. The other is the Ferguson Web site, which we update regularly. We also stay in touch through individual and team lunch meetings and discussion groups. We recognize our employees’ service anniversaries every year. We take advantage of opportunities to celebrate our team members’ efforts and acknowledge their contributions to our clients’ success.

We market your core capabilities, and we leverage your secondary skills wherever possible. We market employees who have a track record with Ferguson before new hires who have comparable skill sets. Our operations managers regularly work with our marketing representatives to match new assignments with suitable consultants, and we help our employees develop new skills to take advantage of opportunities on the horizon. We begin marketing you for your next job four to six weeks before your current assignment ends, starting with meetings between you and the sales and operations managers. You will then receive at least one written communication per week regarding your status. We never submit your résumé without your permission. When you are re-marketed, we reassess your wage rate in light of market conditions.

Because we select our employees carefully, it is not unusual for them to stay on a client site for successive projects over a period of years. The length of staff augmentation assignments generally has varied from one to five years. However, a substantial portion of our employees have been at their client sites for more than five years on successive projects.

When our employees are assigned to sites where they are subject to local earnings taxes, such as those who work in but don’t live in the city of St. Louis, Ferguson covers these costs on the employee’s behalf. We also cover the cost of job-related parking fees and facilitate the reimbursement of any client-required travel expenses by invoicing the client and reimbursing you directly. As a Ferguson employee, you have control over which assignments you accept.

Clients can choose among plenty of candidates, and the most cooperative professionals will be the first choice, all other things being equal. In this kind of environment we are more likely to see positive employment results when we can convey the candidate’s willingness to interview in person and relocate if an offer is made. Moreover, clients and Ferguson alike have had the unfortunate experience of matching skills with positions only to have the commuting employee resign as soon as a position opens up back home. To avoid the accompanying disruption in their business, clients increasingly insist on relocation. Candidates who choose not to do so move to the bottom of the prospect list. Ferguson respects our clients’ perspective and makes their preference part of our hiring decision.

Out-of-town candidates who are offered face-to-face interviews on the basis of the initial screening by phone are responsible for their own travel to St. Louis. After an offer has been made and accepted and the candidate has started the new assignment, Ferguson will reimburse some of the costs associated with the face-to-face interview.

FCI may, at its discretion, provide pay to marketable salaried field employees for idle time between assignments. The duration of any bench time will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Bench pay is intended to be a bridge between assignments. It is not severance pay nor is it intended to cover gaps in employment for employees with narrow or unmarketable skill sets. Ferguson does not create demand in the market for any specific skill set. Ferguson’s business is predicated on supplying technical resources (our employees) to fill our client/market demands. Therefore Ferguson strongly encourages all employees utilize their education/ training allowance to augment their ongoing technical professional training on an annual basis.

Ferguson’s clients prefer that we not discuss their bill rates to Ferguson with our employees as it inevitably seems to lead to inappropriate conversations between consultants, causing disruption at the client site. Ferguson proactively manages bill rates on an annual basis at a minimum, and also when an employee changes assignments. Factors we consider when assessing bill rate appropriateness are general market and economic conditions, as well as your track record for meeting project milestones and taking advantage of training opportunities. While annual increases were once considered to be the norm, that is no longer the case. Our clients require a business justification for any increase being requested, and our Operations Managers prepare these justifications with your input. When an increase is granted, we will advise you immediately of the effect on your compensation. Ferguson was the first, or one of the first, companies in town to disclose bill rates in the early 1990s – so this is a significant change for our organization. However, the change is the result of a basic lack of discretion in the consulting industry and our hands are tied. Most of our clients now have a stipulation in their master agreements regarding nondisclosure of rates.

The IT Job Market

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Ferguson continues to have more demand from our client base for skilled professional IT resources than we can fill. This has been the situation for the nearly two decades that we have been in business, and this is what we expect to continue in the future. Even when there is widespread economic uncertainty, organizations take on new projects. They may need to scramble to satisfy emerging customer opportunities, leverage new technologies such as the cloud or tablets and smartphones, or decide to implement or upgrade productivity-oriented processes. And, of course, while they invest in changes, they still have to continue to operate mission-critical systems and technologies. Because practically every corporate function and a growing number of public sector activities depend on or benefit from IT applications, various economic indicators point to accelerated and growing demand for skilled IT professionals.

It’s up to you to first decide how important it is to you to build a career and what kind of career you want it to be. Then, you need to put together a plan. Undoubtedly, you will evaluate your existing skills and accomplishments as compared to others in your field. Along the way you will consider whether working as a professional consultant at a company like Ferguson or taking a corporate position is the better route to follow on your career path. If your goal is to arrive somewhere in middle management, then working for a large corporation might be the best approach. If your goal is to stay technical, work with new systems and technologies, and learn about different businesses, then working as a consultant is probably a better route. And, we think we do it as well or better than our competition. Our employees will tell you that they like to work with smart, motivated, talented people – which is the core of the Ferguson culture and what we look for in our clients. We focus on maximizing effectiveness and minimizing distraction for our employees in order to meet the clients’ IT needs. Ferguson nurtures our employees and creates an environment in which motivated people work hard, expand their skills, and celebrate their client team’s successes while staying on a path true to their career goals. We reinforce our employees’ professional growth with a market-leading training program that not only keeps our staff at the technical forefront of IT development, but also enhances relevant skills in project management as well as the soft skills necessary for client interaction.

This is a good place to work because of our people and the interesting IT work in which we are engaged. In making career decisions, you will consider not only what kind of technical and business experience you want to pursue, but also what kind of firm you want to work for. If you have IT experience and are committed to working in this field, then you should get to know Ferguson.

Managers understandably do not like to lose valued employees. Turnover slows progress on a project, adversely affects co-workers’ attitudes, and adds to the workload of the remaining team. Under such circumstances, you may well receive an offer of higher pay or better perks to stay, but an unexpected pay increase or promotion may affect management’s subsequent decisions about your career with the company. Once you have let it be known that you are considering a career change, colleagues and bosses are likely to re-evaluate their perceptions of your loyalty and dependability. Even when a counter offer is made and accepted, employees often find that working relationships have changed, not necessarily for the better.

Whether and when to change employers are among the most important decisions you face. It is up to you to weigh your options, think about the long-term impact of your decision on you and your family, and decide how much control you want to have over your own career. If you are considering becoming an employee at a firm like Ferguson, stay focused on why this career path attracted your attention in the first place. You can expect greater ability to control your own career, a faster pace of new challenges, exposure to new industries, and opportunities to apply your passion for making technology work. If you are considering joining Ferguson, we urge you to act in the most professional manner as you make the transition. That is how we have built and maintain our reputation, and that is the behavior we look for in our employees.

WHAT OUR EMPLOYEES ARE SAYING

I have confidence in Ferguson’s management and their values. I have always felt treated as a person, not a number.

— Ferguson employee since 2005

Ferguson has always been proactive about lining up my next assignment and getting me the best rate possible.

— Ferguson employee since 2000

Ferguson's management and staff take a sincere interest in the careers of their consultants. They understand the industry like no other firm I have worked for.

— Ferguson employee since 2008

Ferguson works hard laying the groundwork so that it’s easy for the consultant to succeed on the assignment.

— A Ferguson employee since 1994

In the Solutions Group we operate from an ‘end product with certainty’ perspective. It can be challenging to guarantee total satisfaction to our client, but it’s immensely rewarding to deliver on that promise.

— Solutions Group employee