One of my favourite things about consulting is the variety of work. It’s difficult to get bored when you are faced with new challenges almost every day and normally change projects several times a year (which normally means you change roles too). It’s a far cry from many jobs which involve the same duties week in, week out.
There are a few words below in bold which I will add to the Jargon buster in the near future. For now, the definitions are also in this post.
Warning: This is a long one!
You do what? Change roles at short notice.
Over the last six months, I’ve been involved in at least five disinct projects and to illustrate how varied our work can be as consultants, I’d like to describe what work I was doing and how I moved between projects. I hope you’ll find it interesting to see what a wide range of activities a graduate can be involved in as well as understanding some of the reasons that consultants have to move around.
Before I get into the detail it’s worth noting that this story is not always ‘typical’ but just a good example of variety. Just before I started moving projects frequently, I had been working on one client engagement for around a year. The length of projects and the ease with which you can transfer between them is highly dependent on the type of work your team is involved with. As an alternative example, consultants working on mergers and acquisitions can have projects that span just a month each.
Firstly, I’d like to describe a common process that occurs when switch projects – the handover. Six months ago, I was peparing to handover all the duties I had carried out on my then current client engagement. Various members of my team had each agreed to take a portion of these responsibilities and it was my job to ensure all the knowledge I had was accessible to them into the future. Only at this point do you realise quite how much of the knowledge you use day-to-day is stored in your head, even with the best intentions to document all your activities. This process can take up to two weeks or more for complex handovers and involves writing down all the vital knowledge to perform your role, as well as several meetings with your colleagues to describe this in more detail and answer their questions.
After a year on this engagement (a project undertaken with a client), moving onto something different was a welcome opportunity. In this case, I had been asked to support a manger in the team with a new project we were developing internally at the company. For me, this was a great opportunity to understand how my firm creates new propositions (an approach or technology that consultants bring together into a discreet package that can be sold to clients). It involved asking senior leaders in the firm for funding, developing a business case (a compelling reason to proceed with the proposition, including projected financials) and becoming very adept at communicating with technical language so our internal tech team could help set everything up for us. As an extra bonus, it was based at our office, rather than a far away client site.
After working on this internal project for around two months, some big changes had occurred in our team and the wider firm. Without going into detail, this meant that leadership of the team was shared between a new group of people and their priorities had changed – they were now focussed on delivering client engagements rather than creating new propositions. This meant that I had to move onto a client engagement as soon as the opportunity arose and luckily for me, a great opportunity promptly reared its head.
Due to my experience in data and analytics, I was asked to join an engagement for just two weeks to help the team analyse the results of their work and present it back to the client in a digestible format. This particular engagement presented a real challenge as I had to produce a fully functioning dashboard in just seven working days, and still faced all the usual learning curves like integrating with the team/client and navigating to the client site for the first time. I really enjoyed this short engagement.
When I returned to work at the beginning of 2017, I had been assigned to a new engagement that was yet to kick-off. This meant a few weeks on the bench (Not assigned to any project. I’ll be dedicating a post to the bench in the near future). I filled my time by delving back into my internal project, assisting managers with proposals (material we present to a client to convince them to choose us) and taking internal training courses. Eventually the new engagement kicked-off and I spent around a week working with the team to understand what we were doing and setting up the project.
Not long into this engagement, it became clear that the client was not ready to start the project and we did not need a full team from day one. Additionally, extra support was required on a different client engagement. I was asked to quickly switch roles and help a new team prepare for an intensive workshop they were running for their client. Unfortunately this involved a lot of manual document preparation and printing – not the most stimulating of tasks. Luckily, there was an element of intellectual challenge in order to plan and print the mass of documents in just three days and make sure they would help get the most value out of the workshop.
After this short stint of work, the new engagement team were keen to have me join the project on a permanent basis – they had a requirement for technical and analytic skills. This was unexpected but seemed like a better role for me overall, especially seeing as my other option was an engagement that still hadn’t started. I discussed the move with the two managers involved and they agreed.
So now, I’m working on my fifth (or so) project in the last six months and it looks like the volatility has ceased for now. It’s a large engagement with a key client of ours so it’s feasible I could be working here for up to a year again. I’ll keep you posted.