Monday, March 16, 2009

Fresh Meat

So I have just rolled off a lightning engagement of 3 weeks – fair bit of work, but the client was happy, my job manager was happy, and when the partners paid attention, they were happy. It got me thinking as to how the consulting role differs between levels – how is a grad’s job different from a case manager?, and so on throughout the levels. So here it is, the Consultant Insider’s guide to consulting levels. I will separate them into different posts as it might get a bit long.

For the purposes of this outline, I will use the following terminology – its not common across firms, so I have constructed an amalgam. Consultant will refer to wet behind the ears undergraduate hires. Senior Consultants are the promoted version of these – usually two years in. For MBA hires, or promoted SCs, I am going to use the term Associate. After this, the next stop is Engagement Manager, Principal then Partner. Ok – onto what they actually do. 


As mentioned above, this bright eyed individual will come in straight from an undergrad degree. After a rigourous screening process (it really is – I participated in one last night – but more on that in another post), these kids are typically very smart, highly motivated, and after having gone through the interview process, actually have a decent personality – the really nerdy back room types get knocked back in an interview.

So what do we get these eager beavers to do? Well, when staffed, the ultimate first job a consultant does is baselining. This is essentially simple excel data cleansing and modeling, to give the rest of the team a good data source from which to prove and disprove their hypotheses. This is a relatively thankless job. You will be blamed for every error in the client’s data, team mates will bother you for updates before you are ready, and then blame you when the interim versions change. Stick with it though – a good baseline is an absolute necessity on most consulting projects. It also gives you a good appreciation for the basics of excel and possibly excel’s most important function – Pivot Tables. For an explanation – see this post by the Consultant Ninja.

That isn’t the only thing we ask newbies to do of course. New consultants start the long road to death by PowerPoint by getting successively larger sections of decks to create. When you start, we won’t ask to write many ages by yourself, but you have to learn fast. Interviews with competitors or client staff are another popular task – we might get you to come along to take notes, or more likely conduct them yourself. There may be more advanced modeling too, but I will expand on that in my Senior Consultant post.

Ultimately however, your job as a consultant is twofold – make your job manager’s life easy (give him or her some leverage), and when the odd senior person deigns to notice you, speak up and get noticed. New consultants have to be on senior peoples’ radars, else staffing becomes difficult.

Does anyone have any other thoughts on the job of a newly minted grad consultant?

I will post later on SCs.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds about right. If the work does happen to be good, which after a while it does, the credit is taken by the Engagement Manager. Basically as a junior person, a lot depends on what manager you end up working with in your first few projects. I've had vastly different experiences with different managers. Oh yeah and as a junior be prepared to take a lot of abuse and back breaking reviews. Don't take it personally though, because 1) it happens to everyone - you are not the only one and 2) you wont survive if you do.