@redcheerio and i were talking about mgmt consulting and my reply to her was so super long. prior to that had a short exchange with @Giggly about it so i thought i'd make a thread (without hitting enter after every 5 words) and perhaps get some more input?
i think @highlander is also in mgmt consulting focusing on the tech industriest? please correct me if i am wrong.
i was an analyst then an associate. it was definitely a good 'school' and i got out a lot of it. my thinking is very scattered so i really credit it for giving me these frameworks and systems i can use as a basis for future thinking. like the professional development is definitely unlike anything i've experienced before, both the formal training and the hands on learning you get while working in teams. i can't emphasize enough on the extreme focus on coaching and training--and oh my when you're up for review it's the most thorough and detailed scrunity i've ever gone through:
Originally Posted by redcheerio
even as a first jobber, i got to work on the biggest issues and had unprecedented access to people through all the levels. i got to work on a number of strategy engagement which can very interesting, but it's like i rarely get to see the implementation and results. however, some partners might try to put you on what you do best over and over but there are rotations in the work flow system and you will be forced to face projects that you are less good at.
however, you get high visibility in what you're doing..and the implications of that is how highly competitive is was (partners will list best/worst performers on each engagement [job/project]), i was doing 85+ hours a week ON AVERAGE, and depending on the project i'd be doing 100+ hours a week for MONTHS--essentially no weekends (it's client-firm-you... meaning you come last, and that ordering will never change.). but i had the energy to do so .. i was.. fresh out of school and in my early 20s.
Scope of work
i think the really cool thing about consulting is that there's no set day to day. every day is a new day. you're assigned to projects (you really need to make an effort to find out what's out there, and get on the right projects with a good strong team to make it long term), and the projects varies from cutting back office cost to coming up with a market entry strategy to setting up experiential services... i mean it can really be anything depending on the clients issues. (articulating the issue is a whole other post)
once the scope of work is defined, we spend a lot of time gathering data and understanding the data (i started off doing a lot of quantitative analysis legwork), then discuss potential solutions before creating concrete suggestions. and there's different ways to do this, but what i like most is what mckinsey calls 'collaborative problem solving' which means you're not so much lecturing the clients via presentations, but you're learning to solve problem and develop solutions with the client using their know-how. (again this up to debate, i'd say we're excellent in the business of business communications but business thinking itself--there's different camps on that whether it's really that good see next paragraph)
oh man, once you gather all the data and info, you spend a lot of time drawing good and meaningful charts--this kinda drove me crazy in the beginning, but once you start looking them as communication tools it makes sense (because clients don't necessarily speak the same "language" as consultants do).
the training you get here is really how to do business communication: how you disagree, introduce new concepts. so the content in these facts and figures are super important because you don't want them to be misunderstood AND you don't want them in the wrong hands, so you have to always document on a constant basis the status of the work. like it's having mini written contracts about what's been proposed, who proposed it and who didn't propose it--accountability stuff. they're like super glorified call reports or contact reports with a work in progress + next step mutation. the implications here kinda give you a snapshot at how work is approached, you're trained to distil your thoughts into powerpoint shows and to show analysis (a lot of times i feel it's so deeply rooted in only structure and doesn't allow any room for letting imagination to leap). if anything you learn and refine the skill of persuasion--efficacy in reporting--which is quite important in the real world, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the conclusions aren't at times superficial or even uninformed when operating a business (goes back to how not a lot of the people in-firm have that practical application experience.... rarely do juniors see implementation...)
the work load is like 1/3 of the time i'm in meetings with clients (need clients to be a consultant!), 1/3 - analysing never ending sheets of excel and fighting with powerpoint to make presentations, 1/3 doing internal meetings with project managers, partners, directors. the internals were definitely insightful for me when i first started out, but sometimes it feels like a circle jerk especially when you're tight on time (always establish desired actions/outcomes before you step into a meeting). but when done right it's quite good, you get together with the higher ups to kinda do an update what's going on with the client --critical discussions, frictions between senior managers, potential threats, competitors), it's a great way to develop depth in knowing the industry of the client.
At the firm:
the money is decent but the real big money doesn't really hit until yo make partner, and the benefits are good (i mean it just really depends what you're used to...if you've lived in a crack house all your life, then the benefits are damn good, but if you've have a comfortable upbrining then it's like okay, it matches, nothing really extraordinary, unless a 5 star hotel is extraordinary). but the lifestyle can be pretty awful.
and the review process is like fucking insanity [employs the up or out policy]. they don't give a shit how much clients love you or how much you're contributing, it's all about how well you are during meetings with partners. you're not evaluated on the revenues you generate, the senior partners/directors ratings are focused heavily on personal assesment.
i mean yes, you're working with super smart people --all highly theoretical and very academic but a lot have very little practical experience--AND often really lack leadership skills and the people skills, some of them are like... arrogant robots (their life doesn't exist beyond work)...and unbelievably homogenous (it kinda drove me crazy how we all talked the same, thought the same--though i think the calibre of people almost vary office to office and even more evident in differing regions and it's a very 'conform' culture, if you're too different then during the reviews... 'development needs' will be identified...teehee). i was there nearly ten years ago, and the decline in value place on employees especially in support because they're off-shoring a lot of it in order to cut costs (mckinsey was hailed as one of those uber supportive firms for their employees, especially when bowers was still around).
it's a very, very self starter kinda mentality, like you don't go to mckinsey and look for a mentor, nobody is going to ever hold your hand, but the good thing that comes out of that is you don't wait around for things to happen, you HAVE to make things happen.
omfg and if you're working for a perfectionist partners, there's an excessive focus on the 'make up and styling' i spent nights correcting typos on presentations. i think mckinsey singlehandedly used up my quota for capital letters and correct punctuation.
sersiously for about doing anything during the week, even if you're gonna squeeze in a midnight movie (hahaha you're in the office to 2am) i think working here really put an incredible strain on my personal relationships [i really needed to have people that's going to understand that my work is basically the master of my schedule and everything else has to adjust--and it's incredibly hard to find people like this...) (this is a long running issue, especially when you get higher up, i've yet to meet a top consultancy partner/director [mck,bain, bcg] that can have you know, "balanced fullfilled work and personal life".. it's like a unicorn), i personally had no life, but then again i was in that stage in my life where i thought i could forgo a lot of things in order to be so super focused and just wanted to kick some ass. fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.
i don't mind wading through all the ego and crap (which exists everywhere) it definitely gave me a good foundation... but i'm quite adamant about how it was a good foundation and springboard, but i think my accomplishments that i'm most proud of came after mckinsey.
hahahah i should just put:
pro: scope of work
con: your personal life gets in the way
they do love people from diverse backgrounds, my then boss graduated from medical school! and engineering is definitely huge in consulting/business because of the logic flow of how you guys think + quantitative abilities. it's the ability to learn and the intellectual capacity and character that the big consultancy firms looks for.
I thought I'd have to go back to school for it, but he was the one who let me know that they actually train people. So I started looking into it, and was excited to discover that they like people from diverse backgrounds, and engineering is one of their favored backgrounds.
(can you tell i'm running out of steam?
Also, any recommendations for case study prep, or advice in general?
for case studies: wetfeet.com does pretty good guides
and read the newspaper
and interviews. omg. that's a whole other post.
i never went to business school actually (though i'm doing executive MBA currently, but it's just for shits and giggles on the weekend). i actually graduated with a degree in literature! hahaha! but my quantitative skills are quite strong (i was originally enrolled in the school of engineering [mechanical] before i transferred to literature). i did my masters in public policy so i have a pretty good grasp on economics... but seriously you don't need to go back to school for econ... just read the newspaper you know? it's all pretty straightforward. i didn't really find out about management consulting, i knew about it growing up, i have a sibling that was an alum of bcg. and i just gravitated towards it.
So how about you? Did you start off studying business in school? How did you find out about mgmt consulting? Do you like what you do now?
i'm still in strategy, but it's focused, i do communications planning and brand development. it's something i enjoy because there's a lot of creativity that comes along with it. but i think most importantly, i'm in that one last meeting that consultants aren't in, the meeting where decisions are being made.
[tangent] one of the biggest difficulties i experience in my working life would be this very thing, how 'collaborative problem solving' --while it is a great ideal, is so very hard to implement once i left the firm. often times you'll be working with people that will suggest that one approach and one skill must take precedence, or that you have to overthrow the other just oversimplifies the issues to the point of "what the fuck are you thinking". it's viewing the world in all its variety and complexity through such a narrow lens of otherwise beneficial specialism. and above all, it just reveals vested interest.
i come across so many who opines that "[insert: structure, practice, assumption] is dead" and you know what, all they're doing is just selling a shiny new alternative.
rarely do you find people who can cope with the word 'and' and the ampersand, people that can accomodate themselves to complementary approaches, who can embrace complexity, diversity and even...*gasp* paradox [a whole other post on this too], and those really are the sort of people that's trying to make sense of the world and the business we're in. [/tangent]