I graduated from Cambridge in 2005 and joined a commercial banking graduate scheme. After a couple of years I decided that banking was not for me and I started seeking a new challenge. To be honest I initially didn’t know much about consulting, but had heard from friends that it was interesting and that they enjoyed it.
I spent some time researching the different firms within the industry and decided I wanted to work at a small consultancy with overseas offices to allow me the opportunity to work abroad. I also decided that it would have to cover a range of sectors as I did not yet want to specialise.
I applied to the firms that broadly satisfied these criteria, and was pleasantly surprised at the approachability and relaxed nature of my interviewers. There is a certain level of mystery around consultancies and their application processes and I was initially anxious that it would put me off the industry.
In 2007 I joined OC&C as an Associate Consultant and haven’t looked back. What initially struck me, having only previously worked in large organisations, was the informal nature of the company. You get to know everyone very quickly, through socials, weekends away and overseas training courses, and it was refreshing to find out that everyone was so outgoing and down to earth.
There is also a strong sense that the company has your best interests at heart. Initiatives such as career breaks, secondments, overseas ambassadorships, optional unpaid leave and development budgets have helped ensure that staff satisfaction and retention are high. In October I am taking a month off to work for a charity in South America, with OC&C’s full blessing.
The most challenging aspect of consulting is certainly the nature of the work. As we are working for senior clients, usually at board level, we are expected to produce exceptional quality projects, and that has an inevitable effect on workload.
There are certainly times when I have had to work late into the night to hit an important deadline, though I have found that this is helped greatly by being surrounded by such motivated colleagues. Unlike many larger organisations, there is a high degree of flexibility of working hours, particularly during quieter periods.
A benefit of the industry is that our work is extremely varied.
An overview of my last three projects
Pro Bono Expansion Project for ‘StreetLeague’
Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be staffed on a project working with StreetLeague, a rapidly expanding UK charity that targets disadvantaged young people through a structured football and education programme. Our role was to help them plan and structure a rapid national roll-out to allow them to benefit as many people as possible over the next five years.
We worked closely with StreetLeague’s management team, as well as researching the UK charities market, in order to produce a detailed roll-out plan with enough flexibility to remain relevant over the coming years. Despite this being a very atypical project in terms of client size, it was surprising to see how similar the challenges faced were. Successful charities have to be run as businesses due to the extremely high level of competition for funding, and this allowed us to apply lessons that we had learnt in industry to the charitable sector.
As our clients are usually large multinationals, it was a great experience to work with a small organisation with such a rapid growth trajectory.
Proposition Development for a leading chain of UK gyms
It is always nice to work on projects that will have a visible and tangible impact on the client. I am currently working with a team of six redesigning the proposition of a major gym chain. The project is aiming to help improve the chain’s recruitment and retention of customers, and has offered us a vast amount of flexibility in terms of approach.
I always enjoy projects where there is more scope for creativity, and this project has allowed us to imagine what the perfect gym would look and feel like, and try and turn this vision into an implementable plan for the client. This has allowed me to spend a large proportion of time in gyms around the country, looking for best practice and weaknesses.
We have a strong relationship with this client – one of our Associate Partners went on secondment there for nine months last year – which has made the project considerably more enjoyable as we have been able to build up a very good understanding of their industry, market and business.
Pitch for work at a Premiership football club
When not on a project, a proportion of time is spent assisting with pitches for new project work. This is a good opportunity to work closely with the Partners of the firm and to gain an understanding of client’s specific needs and requirements.
Recently I spent a week putting together a pitch for the media arm of a Premiership football club. This was enjoyable as it offered great scope for creativity, and allowed me to learn more about cutting edge media channels, such as iPhone applications and social networking sites. The pace at which technology is currently moving is staggering and I’m glad that my job is helping me keep up with it!
What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?
I am constantly learning new skills, and feel that my horizons are always broadening.
Tell us about the most stressful experience on the job.
Working late for ‘difficult’ clients can be challenging, though it is extremely satisfying to pull through and win them over.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since graduation?
Challenge yourself, you should never think that something is beyond your capabilities until you have tried it.