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Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate

 
#1 Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
30/03/2007 22:37

Farmer

Hi - after some open and honest advice...

I've been offered a Senior Consultant role at BAH Strategy in London. I was hoping to enter as an Associate but have been told that I should move up from Senior Consultant to Associate in 12 months.

Just wondered if anyone knew the typical day-to-day tasks of a Senior Consultant compared with an Associate. Have a feeling I may end up with a lot of the 'grunt' work...

I have 5 years consulting experience with a top Tech Consulting firm and a BSc / MSc (but no MBA). Is Senior Consultant the right level for me? Will I get bored and frustrated with the level of tasks?

Any advice would be really appreciated as I need to make a decision very soon.

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#2 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
31/03/2007 10:14

The Top Consultant to Farmer (#1)

been there, done that.

you'll probably end up being a skivvy and not having the status you desire. there is literally a gulf between the status of an associate and that of a senior consultant. one has an MBA, is experienced, gets paid a lot etc... the other is just at the point where they are expected to leave BAH and trek off to the USA to do their MBA (an 'old' graduate if you like). it's the 'ideal' point for an 'up or out' decision to be made - not a good place to be.

12 months sounds optimistic by the way, unless you're at level SC2 or SC3

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#3 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
01/04/2007 10:54

Farmer to The Top Consultant (#2)

Thanks for the information.

I've been told that the Senior Consultant level offered is the highest just before Associate. Does this make any difference in the scope and responsibilities of tasks that i'll be exposed to?

Also, is there any real chance to negotiate a slightly higher salary in my position? Or should I expect to 'take it or leave it' with the offer?

Would BAH sponsor me to complete an MBA? How long would I need to be at the organisation before I could pursue something like this?

Thanks

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#4 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
01/04/2007 15:32

The Top Consultant to Farmer (#3)

Your work will be similar to that of an associate, but your status within the organisation will be very, very different. Think of it being like the difference between a doctor and a senior nurse. The associates are typically top MBAs, whereas the senior consultant is usually a graduate with a few years under his belt. In practice however 90% of the work is the same whether an A1 or a SC2 in my opinion - i.e. churning out powerpoint slides all day long, trawling the internet for statistics from 1992, hardly ever meeting actual clients, being unable to sleep at night because of looming appraisals and 'up or out' policies, staying in the office until 2am even when you've finished all your work and it's a glorious summer evening outside, being summoned to meetings at 7pm on a friday night, being phoned up by angry senior associates on a sunday afternoon and not having any time to actually 'switch off', fretting out when you're 'on the beach' for more than a month, etc.

You may be able to negotiate an extra £500 on your sign-on bonus, but that's about it. They almost certainly won't budge on the salary itself.

MBA sponsorship is common in BAH and at your level you would be ripe for it. Personally I think it's a waste of time and you're just setting yourself up for a high-stress lifestyle in the future by doing it (esp as you would be committed to returning to BAH for a few years afterwards), but in response to your question itself - yes, they would probably sponsor you.

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#5 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
01/04/2007 19:02

Farmer to The Top Consultant (#4)

Thanks for your continued insights - really valuable stuff!

I'm coming in as an experienced hire from ACN (from within their IT Strategy practice). So I have not been offered any sign-on bonus (just the standard experienced hire package for SC)

I'm interested in your take on the hours. As i'm working within the IT Strategy space at the moment, I'm used to the pressures of consulting (i.e. typical 12 hour days and some weekends). However, I normally find there are peaks and dips around the project lifecycle but there is always 'light at the end of the tunnel' - will the experience be similar or more intense at BAH?

Finally, would you recommend sticking on my current career path at ACN or take the risk at BAH? I can see pros and cons from both but am still confused as to what decision to make.

Thanks!

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#6 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
02/04/2007 08:49

The Top Consultant to Farmer (#5)

The experience will be more intense at BAH. I was once on a project where there were ACN guys around, and used to long for the hours they worked.

Yes there are peaks and troughs like ACN, but possibly a lot more 'extreme'. When you're 'on the beach', expect to spend a fair old time literally pretending to look busy. Now this might sound like fun, but it gets tiresome very quickly - particularly when you're worried about job security and fretting about your next 'pressure cooker' assignment. And don't expect to go home early when you're 'on the beach' - do this and you might as well start clearing out your desk already.

Many people leave because of the hours. It simply isn't compatible with retaining one's sanity in the long run in my opinion.

Also remember that at SC level you won't be aligned to a specific practice, so you could end up spending the majority of your time non-IT work (which may or may not be a good thing depending on what you want).

What have you been offered by BAH and what are you on at the moment? Also give me a detailed breakdown of your hours and travel etc for the past 12 months and I'll try to give you what I think is a fair assessment re: lifestyle comparison. Also, how old are you?

One +ve for BAH is that it's a great name to have on the CV - if you can hack that experience, it shows that you can hack anything.

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#7 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
02/04/2007 21:59

Farmer to The Top Consultant (#6)

In the past 12 months, I've been on 3 projects. 3 financial services and 1 retail. The hours have been on average 12 hour days which increase to around 14 within the last months of each project (near go-live) with around average 8 hours over the weekends during this period. The travel has been mainly north of the UK (i live in the south) with one assignment on the continent. I do find that Friday's tend to be more relaxed.

In terms of the salary, i've been offered 54 (with 15% bonus) and am on 52 (no bonus) at the moment. Do you think there is any room for negotiation here? I've been informed that it's difficult pushing for any more without being prepared to stick to your guns and walking away if necessary.

Thanks.

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#8 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
02/04/2007 22:01

Farmer to Farmer (#7)

Forget to mention, i'm 28.

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#9 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 09:10

The Top Consultant to Farmer (#8)

OK, you're doing very well financially for your age... well done. My advice is this:

1. Assuming you're happy with the hours you're currently working and you don't see yourself making a career at this company (where are you now by the way?), take the BAH offer. Just be prepared to continue working very hard and having a fair old amount of insecurity - success at BAH is very much a lottery in my opinion. Expect to leave BAH after 2 years, either by choice or not. In fairness to them, BAH do let you stay at decent hotels and have interesting assignments. But it's a pressure cooker environment.

2. Even better than taking the BAH offer, maybe take this opportunity to reassess your life goals. Do you want to be a corporate slave for the rest of your life (all those extra hours for a measly £10K more???), or at your age should you be thinking about settling down a little into something that won't leave you wondering where the best years of your life went when you're 40?

I know you're ambitious, but my sincere advice is to choose life. Get a stable job with an OK income and reasonable hours, go out with friends, kick a football around in the evenings, take walks around the park, don't be working at the weekends... that kind of thing. You can still earn a decent wage without working silly hours. Unless of course you really do enjoy the work in its own right!! However I also know that these things are easier said than done...

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#10 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 09:56

bingobango to The Top Consultant (#9)

Pass me the sick bag!

Those are the considerations you make ahead of turning 35. This guys been working for 6 or 7 years, probably has another 30 ahead of him, and you're advising slowing down?

Rubbish. Take one big leap, stick at it for 3 to 5 years and then consider retiring to the farm, or industry as we call it.

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#11 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 10:43

The Top Consultant to bingobango (#10)

Agreed! While he's at it, why not keep his current job AND join BAH!! That way he'll get even more income and gain experience even faster!! I'm sure they can come to some flexible working arrangement where he works 4am-4pm in one job Monday to Saturday and 4pm-3am in the other job Tuesday to Sunday!

p.s. Does "Take one big leap, stick at it for 3 to 5 years and then consider retiring to the farm, or industry as we call it" mean that you're suggesting he starts 'slowing down' around 3 years from now? If so, there's not a whole lot of difference in the timeframes we're proposing.

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#12 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 10:49

A Mars A Day... to The Top Consultant (#11)

Could try starting slow and then speeding up, so by the time he retires he'll drop dead from overwork at exactly the most appropriate moment, just as he gets his gold watch (whats the best gold watch to give a retiring consultant by the way?).

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#13 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 11:24

anon to A Mars A Day... (#12)

It all depends upon how far along the contour delineation road map he is......

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#14 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 12:05

mac to anon (#13)

Before this descends into the usual petty squabbling, I'll agree with TTC.

Apologies if it's preachy, but you're in the prime of your life, both physically and mentally. You have the freedom and opportunity to do whatever you want.

Why would you choose to work nights and weekends? Weekends hunched over a laptop seem such a waste of a promising life.

Use your weekends to go seeing friends and family, climbing, kite-surfing, racing cars, seeing Europe (or just go for a walk in the park or spend an afternoon in a beer garden).

And....relax.

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#15 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 12:59

anon to deleted (#0)

As ever, this is a fairly pointless argument. Some people want to work hard, get their kicks from seeing how much they can achieve and add to the world through their work, then use their retirement (if at all) to relax. Their work is their vocation.

Other people value things in their personal lives, make their most meaningful achievements through their family and like a more relaxed pace of life.

And of course there are shades of perspective in between these two points.

It's a pointless task trying to persuade someone on this forum to make a major shift in their point of view. You will always end up sounding "preachy" because you are ultimately proselytising with your personal values rather than making a rational argument.

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#16 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 13:05

anon to Farmer (#1)

Senior Consultant is a good position to get if you want to be at the top of the analyst ladder and capitalise on those particular consulting skills. If you want to start at the bottom of the ladder as a project manager then you need an Associate position where you can start building those particular consulting skills.

Odds are, to make it to Associate at BAH you'll need an MBA anyway. Unless you can get a clear promise for MBA funding from the firm (unlikely without having proven yourself first for a couple of years), or unless you really need another year's earnings behind you, you might be best off getting your MBA now.

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#17 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 13:11

The Top Consultant to anon (#16)

"Odds are, to make it to Associate at BAH you'll need an MBA anyway."

Very good point. Basically SC is a 'leaving point' within the firm, not an 'entry point'. The two main entry points are: a) Consultant, and b) Associate. I'd advise that you get in writing from BAH whether they intend to sponsor you to do an MBA, send you off on a secondment, or promote you to associate at the end of your tenure as an SC. If they don't commit to anything, I'd assume it means the worst.

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#18 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 13:14

Farmer to anon (#16)

Thanks everyone for your input and advice...some interesting perspectives to contemplate :-)

I think BAH will be my 'means to the end' - so i'll probably jump off the 'escalator' at some point after a few years and buy that farm!

Cheers!

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#19 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 15:45

Spyros to The Top Consultant (#6)

A very interesting thread indeed, although as "anon" said a discussion on the "life vs work" issue never gets anywhere, because simply different people want different things. However, I do believe that a very common aim is to make some really decent cash, without having to give up everything else. Sure, you 'll have to make sacrifices but to a reasonable level.

For me, there are other options which you can pursue if you don't like the endless pressure and hours that comes with working for the top-tier players. Consider smaller niche concultancies, where your skills are so valued that you won't have to put in all that face time for your seniors. If you are good and perform well, you'll still earn a lot plus you'll probably be promoted much quicker. Moreover, you get to work on projects you really like since it's probably what you've studied in uni and you are really good at it. Some people want to work for an MBBB or Goldman just for the status of it, only to discover later that on the the life vs work balance, they missed out with that move. On the other hand, who can blame them, it's a bit like football, who wouldn't want to play for Man U. or Barcelona?

In terms of the money, consider this. A consultant, like Farmer, who has progressed so well so far, must surely have picked up knowledge and skills which can be used to earn good money with some personal investments, e.g. currency trading or the stockmarket. The former especially involves much less risk, since currencies, unlike some stocks, do not burst like bubbles and can't really drop to zero. I speak from experience, as a couple of my mates gave up MBBB offers to stick with their firms (small niche consultancies) and used all that extra time to have a good life and become really good private investors.

What I'm trying to say is that becoming a great consulant with a top MBA and all that, is probably a secure way to lots of money, social recognition, a Porche etc. BUT, clever and hard-working people like this should be open to other possibilities as well, like for example, forming or joining a new concultancy, creating a business plan for a new venture or become really good in investing your hard-earned money. You might find that it could be more worthwhile, than simply working all those hours for someone else, even if it's the best company in the world.

Just some thoughts.

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#20 RE: Booz Allen - Senior Consultant vs Associate
03/04/2007 16:28

Play for Barcelona to Spyros (#19)

You got everything right till you used a football-related example... can't really say anything about M.U.... but Barcelona! c'mon argh!

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