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  1. #1
    meinmeinmein! mmhmm's Avatar
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    Default management consulting

    @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.

    Quote Originally Posted by redcheerio
    Wow, that's awesome! From what I've read, McKinsey is one of the very best! Did you like it?
    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:

    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...)

    Time management:

    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.


    Lifestyle

    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.

    Personal life:

    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

    hahahhahaha

    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.
    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.

    (can you tell i'm running out of steam?
    i'm hungry)

    Also, any recommendations for case study prep, or advice in general?
    vault.com !
    for case studies: wetfeet.com does pretty good guides
    and read the newspaper

    and interviews. omg. that's a whole other post.

    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 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.

    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]


    alksdfjlksdjf!
    every normal man must be tempted, at times,
    to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag,
    and begin slitting throats.
    h.l. mencken

  2. #2
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    I'm a bit prejudiced about this type of jobs. I kinda believe that a good iron welder produces more added value and economic welfare than all the management consultants and generally all the non-practical consultants in the world.

    Also:

    but seriously you don't need to go back to school for econ... just read the newspaper you know? it's all pretty straightforward.
    Eeeehhhhh noooo. I don't think they teach it well in school either, but you need to sit down and think about it. Excepting some FT columns, many economics articles are terribly full of misinformed opinions.
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    i love skylights's Avatar
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    thank you for posting this, mmhmm. it's really interesting to read. i do not think management consulting would ever be a thing for me... i like my nights and weekends too much!

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    No moss growing on me Giggly's Avatar
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    Very informative. Thanks for the details. I was curious about a lot of that. You should write a tell-all book. lol

  5. #5
    Administrator highlander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    I'm a bit prejudiced about this type of jobs. I kinda believe that a good iron welder produces more added value and economic welfare than all the management consultants and generally all the non-practical consultants in the world.
    I understand what you are saying. I've been there. However, people who don't think consultants provide any value generally don't understand what they do or why clients bring them in.

    My experience has been in some ways similar and other ways a bit different than @mmhmm.

    I got into consulting after being in industry. I work in the risk management consulting area (perfect for an Enneagram 6) at a large firm. It's a lot of assessment, strategy, implementation, business process and technology integration work. I've been doing it for a long time. I have always avoided working weekends and do not expect others to work them either unless there is an important reason which does happen (e.g. system go live, proposal due on Monday). You're busting ass from Monday through Friday often working until 8 - 11PM. 55 - 65 hour weeks are common. I've worked 100 hours a week for weeks at a time (e.g., last April), though this isn't common. It is a tough lifestyle - that is for sure. There is a lot of travel, there is constant change, new problems to solve and opportunities to learn and grow every day. Some people are not cut out for it. They prefer to have less change, less pressure, less travel, do things they know how to do and have more stability in their life on a day to day basis. It can be hard to have a balanced life. People often do this to themselves though. You need to set boundaries and limits and while you don't want to be the person who says no, there are times when you have to ask that boss or client which thing is more important and properly and set expectations on what you can do and by when. You can also delegate or enlist others to help you. It's a key element of leadership. You are the only one who can take charge of your life and put as much balance as you can. Others cannot do this for you. You're surrounded by a lot of incredibly bright and talented people - achievers. So, there is a temptation to outwork everyone else to get ahead, which does work but can take a toll if you are not careful. The people who are most effective in the long run are the ones who can get things done efficiently and achieve a level of balance. It can be hard to be effective if you are failing in your personal life and it certainly does not lead to happiness. It might work when you are young but that becomes difficult to sustain.

    The review process is constant - you get feedback on your projects on a frequent basis. I never got "staffed" on projects much. I started leading things right away and developing business. I looked for something small, got it going and then staffed myself and others as it continued to grow. I also spent a lot of time leading and building practices. At this point, you might say I'm at the higher end of the food chain from a level perspective. Through my career, I've generally been between 50 - 90% client facing/billable. I've been on many long term, full time projects for extended periods. As you progress, there are three key metrics that matter - billable hours, managed revenue, and sales. Numbers are very important. Also, above all - you need to make the client happy and add value. If you develop a wonderful strategy that sits on a shelf, it is not perceived as high value. If they end up paying you a lot of money, aren't happy and you screw up the client relationship, there is hell to pay. You end up with large clients that you deliver lots of different types of projects to over a period of many years and the relationship is critical. You can have 9 successful projects and if you screw up the 10th one royally, then you impair the firms ability to continue to do work at the client which hurts your reputation at that client and often outside of that client as well. It directly translates into revenue. It also directly relates to those three metrics that you're measured by. So client satisfaction, value of delivery, quality of delivery and managing risk on projects are all very important. Client service is much more important than impressing people like me in meetings - though that is certainly important for you to progress. We're evaluating people based on results and success. Networking is important because it leads to opportunities. You develop project management and leadership skills quickly because you continue to progress and projects have constrained budget and time. You learn to do things fast. You learn to be unafraid to tackle new challenges. Clients most often bring you in because they need additional expertise, can't get things done fast enough, and need to fix an important problem that they can't do themselves. Verbal and written communication skills are very important as are problem solving skills and initiative. I don't know if you can hone initiative but you can those other things.

    At the outset, the money is OK - reasonably competitive but nothing special. As you progress though, it gets better and better and the growth in compensation is generally much higher than it is in industry. You won't make what a successful entrepreneur makes but you can do extremely well. Is it up or out? Yes, to a degree it is, but it doesn't have to be at all if your skills are in demand and you can sustain the required metrics.

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    Senior Member redcheerio's Avatar
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    @mmhmm and @highlander

    Thanks for your insight, greatly appreciated! I'm going to think about it, and I might come back later with questions.

    I'm thinking I might go for it, although I wouldn't look forward to the long hours, but I could handle it for a period of time. Highlander made a good point about managing deadlines and expectations, also, which would probably be expected of me since I'm not straight out of school. Setting limits is something I need to work on since I have a tendency to say yes too much, so maybe this would be good practice for that.

    @FDG, why do you hate it so much? Have you worked in mgmt consulting before? Did you end up with a bad boss or in an unhealthy situation? Did your company hire one and have a bad experience with them?

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    Senior Member redcheerio's Avatar
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    Question:
    Considering I have an engineering background but no business background, how much time would you recommend I spend practicing sample case studies, and how? What is the most efficient way to prepare?

    (I've read that they give you case studies in the interviews based on "frameworks" to test how you think about and solve problems, but I haven't learned the frameworks or anything like that yet.)

    Thanks!

  8. #8
    No moss growing on me Giggly's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences @highlander.

    I don't think MC is for me. My competitive drive is not naturally that strong (just being honest) and there are too many other things outside of work that I value to dedicate so much of my time to it. I doubt I'd be happy doing it.

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    Administrator highlander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redcheerio View Post
    Question:
    Considering I have an engineering background but no business background, how much time would you recommend I spend practicing sample case studies, and how? What is the most efficient way to prepare?

    (I've read that they give you case studies in the interviews based on "frameworks" to test how you think about and solve problems, but I haven't learned the frameworks or anything like that yet.)

    Thanks!
    I've never conducted a case study interview and don't know how to prepare for one. A lot of this is trial by fire once you get the job. You could read a book on management consulting. Writing skills are important and you get that through practice. The final thing which is the most important is that you can gain expertise in an area that is of emerging or hot demand. You can do this through self study, certain college degree programs possibly and best - getting real work experience in that area. Become an expert in something important.

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    Senior Member redcheerio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    I've never conducted a case study interview and don't know how to prepare for one. A lot of this is trial by fire once you get the job. You could read a book on management consulting. Writing skills are important and you get that through practice. The final thing which is the most important is that you can gain expertise in an area that is of emerging or hot demand. You can do this through self study, certain college degree programs possibly and best - getting real work experience in that area. Become an expert in something important.
    OK, thanks!

    I'm actually pretty good at and really like most of the required transferable skills that have been mentioned, including writing, which is why I'm excited about the idea. I'm not excited about working long hours, but usually do it in engineering anyway, except that I don't find much of my work in civil engineering to be challenging or interesting. So I'm hoping that the combination of engineering and MC experience could lead to something more interesting.

    I've already been working for over a decade, so I'll most likely learn what I can by reading, and go from there. It would likely be difficult to first get other new expertise in another job (other than civil engineering) before getting into MC. Although I am interested in nonprofits, so I suppose one option would be to first work for a nonprofit, then do MC and have nonprofit companies be one of my specialties....

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