Kiran Arora is a Managing Consultant at Capgemini Consulting, with seven years of experience working with clients to develop and deliver their strategies and transform their organisations.
I am part of Capgemini Consulting’s Strategy and Transformation practice, where I lead teams to deliver projects that range from high-profile strategic studies through to the implementation of new, large-scale initiatives. For the last 18 months, in addition to my day job working with clients, I have also been managing the Consultant Development Community (CDC) – Capgemini Consulting’s graduate programme – that I was part of when I joined the company in 2003.
I picked consulting as a career as, first and foremost, I was after variety. The thought of having a job in which I knew where I’d be and what I’d be doing every working day just didn’t appeal. Consulting projects would mean I’d be working in different places with different people and doing really different things all of the time. I knew it would be challenging and rewarding and I was also looking forward to picking up some broad business skills. (Not that I was really sure what those skills would be if I’m honest).
My consulting career didn’t get off to the best of starts. I finished my Maths degree at Oxford in 2001. In addition to studying for my exams, I’d also been rowing for the university in my final year, which had left little time for job hunting. By the time I’d finished my degree, the market had entered a downturn and many firms simply weren’t recruiting. So, I took the opportunity to broaden my horizons by travelling around the world for a few months, before securing a job for the following year at a small IT consultancy.
Sadly, this wasn’t meant to be, as nine months later, with the market still weak, I was made redundant. It was a terrible shock to me at the time, but I can look back now and see what valuable lessons I learnt from it and how much stronger and more focused the experience made me. I decided that, whilst consulting was still for me, I would look more to the management side of things and I joined the CDC in 2003.
The CDC kicked off with an intensive two-week training course in London, followed by a week at the fantastic Capgemini University near Paris, where we were introduced to all of the core consulting skills we’d need to be successful. What a start! (We still follow that same format today).
After that, it was straight out onto projects and delivering. My first project was as part of an internal Capgemini team – the Strategic Research Group – that produces tailored research both for external clients and to support Capgemini’s business development. It was like nothing I had ever done before and the learning curve was incredibly steep, but I was really well supported and the skills I picked up there have served me exceptionally well ever since.
After that I moved onto a research project at a client before experiencing some large scale transformation programmes at different clients and I even had a stint living in Paris, which was superb. My strategic research experience made it clear to me where I wanted to focus my career, so after graduating from the CDC I joined the Strategy and Transformation Practice.
Since then, the variety and challenges have kept on coming, not least when I took on the management of the CDC in 2009, giving me the opportunity to support and develop the new talent in the business, which has been a real privilege. This year I have also undertaken a global role in which I am developing a strategy for our own global public sector consulting business that will determine the countries we focus on and the key offers that we take to market. I am also developing a network of all of our public sector consultants, that will enable us to share knowledge and generate new business across the country borders.
In general, the training opportunities I have had have been fantastic, not only helping me to develop some of the great hard skills needed to be a consultant (such as analysis and project management) but also lots of softer skills that are useful in life as much as at work. I completely underestimated the personal development I would undergo here. I have learnt to look at myself much more – my own strengths and weakness and development opportunities – and what I have learnt about understanding and working with others has been immensely valuable.
A lot of this has come through some excellent formal training courses, but so much comes from keeping your eyes and ears open on the job, learning from others and trying it for yourself.
Is consultancy for you?
So, yes, it’s hard work and yes, the hours can be long and yes, you are often away from home. But it’s not constant and there is still plenty of time for your personal life. I get to the gym, meet friends for drinks and dinners, and spend weekends chilling in my garden. Is it worth it? Without a doubt. All those things I was looking for – the variety, the challenge, the rewards, the skills and personal development – they all turned out to be here and have continued to be here, even as I have progressed up through the organisation. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.