I joined Monitor in September 2005 after graduating from the University of Sheffield with a degree in History. I chose Monitor because it promised an individual, interesting and challenging career path, something it has given me tenfold.
I have been based in the London office for the last four years and progressed from a Case Team Member to Case Team Leader. Whilst at the firm I have worked in a range of industries – pharmaceuticals and life sciences, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), automotives and publishing – and across some of Monitor’s key areas of methodology focus – corporate strategy, marketing strategy, and organisational design.
Over the past year I have focused on marketing strategy for FMCG companies. Choosing an industry or methodology focus is not something that Monitor requires, however based on my interests and skills I wanted to invest in, it made sense for me to do so.
Although predominantly based in London, I have worked across four continents and engaged with clients from the marketing director to brand managers, whilst addressing what I believe is an interesting business problem – how can these organisations grow? All of these people provided me with unique and interesting perspectives.
Building solutions for them that they really believed in and providing value to their organisations has been incredibly rewarding. I find myself asking ‘what has changed?’ in the four years since I walked through the company’s doors. What strikes me most about my career progression is that the opportunities and support given have been obviously tailored to my individual needs, rather than projecting a firm-wide definition of success.
It sounds like a cliché, but I can honestly say that I have met some of the smartest, most interesting, authentic and fun people while at Monitor. Consulting can be a tough job, but the ability of my fellow consultants to empathise and spare the time to give advice means that I have a great sense of camaraderie with them.
My favourite case experience
I spent six months working for a global FMCG company in South Africa. When I got the call from allocations that there was an opportunity in Johannesburg, I was initially a little reluctant about being away from London. However, after discussing it with my professional development adviser and my peers, I realised that there were few places that could offer me such a unique and exciting experience. And flying back to London once a month was a great way to collect air miles!
The project was bought by the South Africa General Manager. Although they were a market leader, new entrants and a changing economic environment meant that he wanted us on board to help identify long-term strategic growth opportunities in the marketplace. Our main day to day client was the marketing director, who was sceptical that we would be able to provide any real value to their organisation.
As the project leader, my main challenge was to demonstrate to him that we were not going to provide a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but enable him and his team to become much more effective in driving market share growth.
Despite his initial thoughts, as we worked with the marketing director’s team he began to see the impact this work could have and felt ownership over the strategy. As a result, although the project was only meant to last three months, we were asked to stay and help them implement the work. It was a genuinely different approach to how they had previously thought about competing in the marketplace.
We worked with ten teams of people from across the business to ensure our specific brand and sales choices were the best way to execute the strategy. As a consultant you are used to working hard and thinking of a smart answer to a difficult business problem. Helping people from varying backgrounds and levels of experience to understand and believe in a strategy (especially when it can make their day to day job much more challenging and complicated) was a completely different experience for me.
On my last day at the client site I had two conversations that summed up my experience. The first was with a brand manager, who asked my opinion of her brand plan before she presented it to her boss. The fact she saw me as a valuable adviser, who understood her business and her challenges beyond the work we were doing, spoke about the relationship we had built over time.
The second was with the marketing director – he told me that our ability to pursue the right answer whilst considering the implications to the business meant that the work would live on.
From a professional perspective I realised early on that no matter how good I thought our work was, if the client did not approve, it would not have the right impact.
Personally, I learned how to work with people from different cultures, in a city that initially felt very alien. The people I met and the places I went to made this life – not just work – experience. Also my ability to pick out a good Pinotage from the wine list has definitely come in handy since being back in London!