As for the other things:
- To be recognized as a guru, pitching in to solve tough problems at work; staying on top of emerging trends, tools and technologies and maybe even looking for some writing opportunities to get yourself published will start you on this path. You should also actively seek to participate as a speaker or presenter at technical conferences and so forth. It's a matter of getting your name out there, then working to obtain necessary recognition.
- In order to start a company of your own, you will absolutely need some business training. I assume you're a true geek, with some kind of academic background in computer science, engineering or IT. You'll want to supplement this training with additional training on the business side, perhaps even to the tune of obtaining an MBA. It's essential to understand finance, accounting, management issues and business operations if you want to go the entrepreneurial route.
- Considering your career and business advancement as a consultant, read as much as you can about consulting work and talk to people who are successful consultants in order to learn as much as you can to get ready for this reinvention of yourself. Gather sufficient funds together to cover essential expenses for six to 12 months before striking out on your own. Take at least a year or two to develop strong working relationships with your employer and other potential clients or customers so you will have some guaranteed work lined up before launching into your consulting career.
I hope I've managed to address the core of the issues you raised. It would be easy to write a raft of books to answer your questions in detail. But a lot of this stuff you need to figure out for yourself, because that kind of learning is what makes you effective as an entrepreneur or consultant.
Good luck with your future career moves.
This was first published in November 2002