Having studied a relatively broad degree, I couldn’t contemplate starting a job which had a narrow focus. I mused over several careers from the Civil Service to Marketing, but decided that strategy consultancy offered a unique blend of variety and high-level exposure. As I learnt more about the job itself, I was even more convinced – strategy consultancy offered an intellectually stimulating, challenging and supportive environment with some of the best opportunities for personal development.
For me, choosing the right firm came down to where I felt most comfortable. The people at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) were welcoming, friendly and smart. I am happy to say that eighteen months on, I know I made the right decision.
The last year and a half has been a whirlwind. I have made some great friends throughout the office, met many inspiring people and learnt a huge amount. Since I joined, I have worked on over ten different cases ranging from a department strategy for a retailer to a technology transformation for a telecommunications company to a project with the Commercial team of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.
Eight months into my time at BCG, I worked on a strategy project for a retail banking product. Here’s a look at one week near the beginning of the case.
The day starts with our weekly ‘case team meeting’. In a team of six, this time is really valuable – it gives us a chance to catch up on what everyone else within the team is doing and how that is helping push the project along. Today I am presenting a piece of work I did last week – forecasting the profitability of the UK credit card market to 2012. I am presenting to the client tomorrow, so today is a good dry run. The meeting goes well – my team ask some probing questions and we have a good discussion on the reasoning behind some of the assumptions. They suggest some minor changes.
I spend this afternoon improving the profitability forecast and updating the model that sits behind it. I built this model in Excel – a programme which I hadn’t even used before coming to BCG. Luckily we have regular training sessions and there are always plenty of experienced (and patient) Excel users to lend a hand. The collegiate and non-competitive atmosphere is one of the strongest features of BCG, and makes it a fantastic environment in which to learn and grow.
Today we start the day at the client site. At BCG we believe that it is important to work collaboratively alongside clients because it is the best way to make sure our joint work has maximum impact. This is one of the reasons BCG places more emphasis than many on good inter-personal and team-working skills. Having sense-checked the analysis yesterday with the team, I feel very confident presenting the profit pool analysis to the client. The client team is happy with the analysis, which is great news. We have a dialogue around next steps on this piece. After the meeting, I stay at the client to discuss some of these suggestions with individuals. We have lunch together and then I head back to the office to catch up with my project manager.
In the afternoon I have a debrief meeting with my manager, make the discussed changes and look at the next steps.
With the profit pool analysis in good shape now, I move on to look at another aspect of the external market – competitors. I build up my research from various different resources – the internet, the BCG knowledge group and experts at the client and within BCG. The BCG knowledge group is a worldwide team dedicated to different practice areas and through them we have access to a wide range of services which provide market research, analyst reports and press articles.
The designated Financial Services Knowledge Group member in London helps me navigate through all the available resources and I build up a good, in depth picture of the competitors. I also get in touch with the Knowledge Group in New York to gain an understanding of the American market.
I begin to pull together some graphs which show the market shares of various different competitors, but I am still lacking certain aspects of the competitors’ strategies. I decide to arrange some meetings with the client for tomorrow, but I find out from one of my team members that there is another team who have been working on similar competitor benchmarking. I spend the rest of the afternoon talking to BCG experts within the office. Despite claiming to not know very much, they know a lot more than me and I frantically scribble as they talk.
I start the day at the client. I have arranged a few informal one-to-one’s with the client to help me better understand the competitive environment. The meetings I have go really well and I am very pleased. The research I did yesterday in the office meant that I could ask specific questions and sound knowledgeable about the credit card market – perfect!
I spend the rest of the day combining this knowledge with what I already have and creating some slides. Due to the strategic nature of the work we do at BCG it is essential to be able to deliver the key messages quickly and compellingly, both verbally, and on slides. Towards the end of the day, I discuss these with my manager and he gives me some good suggestions of how to progress. I agree to complete them tomorrow, as I am heading out for an evening with all the other Associates in the office – we’re going bowling in South-East London, which is great fun. I think the last time I went bowling was for a friend’s 16th birthday and it would appear my technique hasn’t improved since then.
On Friday morning I have a training session. Every month we are required to attend at least one training session out of a choice of several. These training sessions develop the different skills needed to be a consultant and are run by both internal and external leaders.
Today I have a presentation skills training session which is given by an external trainer. We have been asked to prepare two short presentations: one on work and one on something that we are passionate about. The session is really fun – there are six of us and we are each filmed as we do our presentations. Afterwards we get a chance to watch the video and receive feedback from our colleagues. I get very useful feedback with some great ideas for improvement plus a video to keep!
Straight after training is ‘Office Friday’. This is a monthly event where the whole office gets to catch up on what’s going on – from BCG’s performance to exciting cases that we are working on to our environmental policy. Following Office Friday is a mad rush to the lounge, where we enjoy the buffet lunch and plan the evening’s entertainment for a few friends leaving to do an MBA, and another for a secondment at Save the Children. After I finalise and sense-check the week’s output we head out to sample the local bars around the new Marylebone office