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90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.

 
#1 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
13/10/2008 20:14

erik

Hello,

As I keep reading these posts about how one is to work extremely long hours, I get the feeling that people are somewhat 'okay' with it and able to manage their personal lives.

So what exactly does 90 hours per week mean? Is it just on paper, or are they actually expect one to 'be there' for 90 hours?

I'm thinking about getting married some time after I graduate; honestly, it's quite unimaginable to spend 90 freaking hours on work. No family life until you're 27-28?

Moving on. I don't plan to permanently live in London (that is if I'm about to) and I'm afraid I've developed a cartoonish understanding of how 'exit opts' work.

From what I gather - Roland Berger is a top tier consultancy in Europe; let's imagine I'm on board. We will need around four years of working in London to buy a flat back home (without taking a huge credit). So how to go about 'making a move'? How does it generally work?

Also, what other names can add to your CV in Europe? DC? KPMG? Perhaps relatively small-sized niche firms (like construction or telecoms)?

Thanks

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#2 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 06:53

SamMan to erik (#1)

I guess it depends on why you want to do the 90 hours/week. Is it for the $$$? For me it is! In regards to personal life, I guess you need to give in somethings to achieve other things and some of these "things" are mutually exclusive unfortunately.

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#3 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 08:30

Cynic to SamMan (#2)

The problem is, erik, that in any high-flying MC firm, you'll be working with highly ambitious, competitive, ruthless yet insecure over-achievers. Yes, the lot of them.

This, combined with extremely dominant, egotistical Partners who have a chip on their shoulder even though they have 'made it' in a financial sense only, leads to a sort of 'abuser-abusee' relationship in which the gophers such as yourself are the 'abusees'.

So, how does one manage one's personal life in such a situation? Well typically it's done through a combination of Hotmail (or whatever free web-based e-mail service your company hasn't blocked) and short but frequent phone calls home (i.e. whenever you manage to escape from your desk for 45 seconds). Yes, you will lose a lot of friends in the process - if you hardly ever see them, it's inevitable!

I personally look back on the experience wondering why on earth I ever used to spend 80+ hours per week ordering take-aways to the office at 11pm at night with a bunch of metrosexual foreigners I neither particularly liked nor would keep in contact with after the project ended. I used to fantasise about being one of the admin staff, earning a not-dissimilar salary yet having the joy of working with normal colleagues with whom I could identify and shared a common view of the world, not to mention getting to leave the office and actually enjoy living life in the evenings.

Regarding exit options, it rarely works the way you described. Sure a top-tier MC looks good on your CV, but quite frankly if you're planning to move back home in Scunthorpe or wherever it is after 4 years or so, any decent firm will probably be looking for more experienced folk anyway (and I mean 15+ years of experience). And besides, after a while you lay down roots in London, you get used to the salary, you feel like you "can't" just leave and go back to where you came from. Ask anyone who's done it, they'll pretty much confirm what I'm saying.

So what to make of all this? Well, take it as you will. But, if you seriously want to have a true work-life balance (by your definition, not the firm's), then I personally think you would do well to avoid the supposed glamour of the high-flying, jet-set, 80+ hours metropolitan city slicker lifestyle, and think long and hard about going into something which isn't destined to be a 'crash and burn out' affair from the very outset.

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#4 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 09:31

Anon to Cynic (#3)

"ordering take-aways to the office at 11pm at night with a bunch of metrosexual foreigners I neither particularly liked nor would keep in contact with after the project ended."

How odd. I agreed with pretty much everything else Cynic wrote, but this was surprisingly silly.

You English, your sense of humour, it is so amusing. Us foreigners, how can we eeeever understand it? At least we are well-dressed.

Erik - fly nu medan du fortfarande kan.

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#5 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 09:58

Cynic to Anon (#4)

Just for the record, I've got no issues with foreigners, but I really didn't enjoy investing huge amounts of time in building relationships with people who had nothing in common with me and who would b*gger off to the other side of Europe, never to be seen again by myself, once the project was over. I'm sure they probably felt a similar way about me.

Erik - Jag håller med Anon, ta hans råd!

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#6 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 10:15

anon to Cynic (#5)

the thing about workng 90 hrs a week is you need to decide if it benefits you in the long run. If you think that by working your butt off for, say two years, then moving on is a good investment (i.e. jumps you up the career ladder) then do it, otherwise don't.

Remember, in the 'old days' you would do 2 years national service, which I assume would be 2 years hard graft, so think of the first two years of your career as 'national service', just do it, work your butt off and move on. But only if you will think it will benefit you.

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#7 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 19:44

anon to anon (#6)

I think that all the above post are from people who have never worked for a decent MC firm. They really want to but for some reason they were rejected and they feel bad about it.

There may be occasions in which you work 80+ hours a week (even though they are very very very rare), let's say that on average you will work 65hours.. And it is an average, so there are days in which you will be home for dinner.

The real problem with top MC firms is not the amount of hours (which, in any case, are well below 90) but travelling. For example, I am working on a project where on average I spend 12 hours a day in front of my laptop.. Problem is, it is in another country and Mon-Fri I sleep in a hotel!

So, the problem of work life balance still remains, but it is not exclusively due to long hours.. Travelling is a bigger issue..

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#8 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 20:37

erik to anon (#7)

I guess I just want a mobile/flexible job in terms of working in London for a couple of years and then move back home in order to start a 'proper' family. With children that is.

I thought that MC is a reliable path; and people would 'want' me on board with a solid name under my belt.

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#9 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 22:11

Cynic to erik (#8)

In response to anon's comments, it depends what you call a "decent MC firm", but I have worked for two of the most well known strategy houses (names beginning with either M or B), and the experience was the same at both. Friends tell me the experience is the same in other firms, too.

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#10 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
14/10/2008 23:43

erik to Cynic (#9)

Why would you leave M for B (or vv) and MB altogether?

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#11 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
15/10/2008 08:50

Cynic to erik (#10)

Leaving M/B altogether was a no-brainer for me. It was down to:

- Long hours

- Excessive travel

- Not exactly amazing pay (banker hours for middle-manager salary)

- Working with clients who earned more than me yet always went home at 5.30pm (or earlier)

- Egotistical partners

- Aggressive partner wannabes (the ones who were a grade down)

- Endless cycles of pointless edits to any of my work (this wasn't just me, it happened to everyone)

- Working on Sundays

- Too much pressure to perform and deliver (I can take pressure, but some of these guys really needed to chill out a little)

- Brutal feedback during appraisals (and I mean the sort that makes people cry - thankfully I'm pretty thick-skinned so could take it)

- Job insecurity (what kind of a-hole company implements an up or out policy anyway!)

- Hardly ever being home (and when I was home, spending all my time doing chores and catching up on sleep)

- Friday night meetings to plan out our work for the weekend

- Colleagues who, despite being academically brilliant, hadn't the slightest ability to judge a situation properly or respond accordingly (they usually got out of tricky spots through hard grunt work and over-delivery)

- Wandering the corridors of client sites at 1.00am in the morning

- Fantasising about being admin staff

- Eating junk at my laptop every day whilst I work

- Constantly being 'reactive' due to an inability of colleagues to plan ahead (I think this goes hand in hand with the 'we work around the client's hours' mentality)

- Constantly having to listen to people relaying on stories about "the client" as if it were some mythical beast and the fountain of all truths

- Taking my laptop and mobile phone on holiday and feeling nervous every morning when I checked my e-mail

- Developing irritable bowel syndrome

- Being sent to the other side of the world at a moment's notice

- Actually looking forward to going to the toilet every now and then (for me, it was like a mini-holiday during which I could escape from it all)

- Having to play politics with staffing managers and the like

- Being chained to my laptop

- Working waaayyyy harder than could be reasonably expected for what I was being paid

- Being appraised based on factors over which I had limited control only (e.g. utilisation rates)

- A general imbalance between what I was putting in and what I was taking out from the firm

I moved from one M/B to the other because I thought perhaps in the first firm I had just been unlucky. Turned out that it's the norm in this sector.

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#12 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
15/10/2008 11:05

Ex-Capgrad to Cynic (#11)

Nice list and outpouring of emotions Cynic.

That list is what definitely makes me not attracted to the MBBBs. But to be straight-forward I don't think I will qualify anyway because I tend to love a life where I play very, very hard, deliver quality work when I have to work and try to be myself (which is jovial and down-to-earth, instead of always portraying some facade of aloofness and academic superiority).

The following from your list would be what could lead to me doing a Columbine in my MBBB office if I worked there:

- Aggressive partner wannabes (the ones who were a grade down)

- Brutal feedback during appraisals (and I mean the sort that makes people cry - thankfully I'm pretty thick-skinned so could take it)

- Constantly having to listen to people relaying on stories about "the client" as if it were some mythical beast and the fountain of all truths

- Taking my laptop and mobile phone on holiday and feeling nervous every morning when I checked my e-mail

- Friday night meetings to plan out our work for the weekend

- Friday night meetings to plan out our work for the weekend

- Friday night meetings to plan out our work for the weekend

- Friday night meetings to plan out our work for the weekend

- Friday night meetings to plan out our work for the weekend

As you can see, the last one would be the catalyst to push me over the edge.

I am happy I went for Capgem instead, the extra 10-15% more in pay is not worth the sale of my sanity and my life. And it is surprising the supposedly intelligence elite of MBBB don't usually realise this.

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#13 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
15/10/2008 11:38

erik to Ex-Capgrad (#12)

I would image that one is to have a wider window in terms of jumping to the private sector?

The list sounds completely insane to me, there's got to be something.

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#14 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
15/10/2008 12:06

looking back to erik (#13)

Having been on both sides of the fence (2 years of top-tier, "dropping down" to 6 years of mid-market) I think it's truly amazing how much of their own bull MBBB employees swallow. It's not fun, there were days when my brain literally could hardly function as I was so tired yet I was still expected to work 20 hours or more with all the down sides pointed out above. Here's the catch though, very often the work is not that much more interesting than any other company with better hours (though not necessarily better politics) will offer. Sure, the 10% of "shaping" the project was stimulating, the 90% of analysis, slide-making, endless meetings and even more endless edits was soul destroying though.

I'm glad I work for a company I can now take ownership of my own stuff, manage people in a decent way and do the sort of work I want. I could earn more money, but I do better than most people in this country doing a job I actually want to get up in the morning for and I get to see my family too.

I won't knock MBBB as they are good companies, if you can hack it for a while then good luck to you. It won't necessarily open as many doors for you as they promise, but it will get you to appreciate what it is you really want from your next job. Just be careful not to lose all your friends and family relationships in the process.

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#15 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
15/10/2008 15:33

Anon to looking back (#14)

Thanks Cynic, that was an entertaining read.

As for decent consulting firms - I worked at the top of the second tier, so not at MBBB, but pretty selective. I know people from all the MBBB firms and increasingly doubt there are any decent consulting firms.

Erik, I'm not sure I would have landed my current job, which I like, if I hadn't done this first. Actually, I think I could have if I had done a PhD, which in retrospect would have been a great deal more interesting than consulting.

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#16 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
15/10/2008 22:35

Mr. P to Cynic (#11)

Cynic,

I have over 5 years of industry consulting experience. I'm planning to join top MBB just to get myself familiarize with problem solving process and to gain some insights on various industry - to broaden my skills.

Would you advice me to join MBB? Alternatively privately email me. Perhaps you could assist me in decision making

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#17 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
15/10/2008 22:36

Mr. P to Mr. P (#16)

Cynic, my email: samprc@hotmail.com

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#18 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 05:09

SamMan to Cynic (#11)

"- Actually looking forward to going to the toilet every now and then (for me, it was like a mini-holiday during which I could escape from it all) "

This alone tells me the extent of pressure you went through.... But in spite of reading this I still want to go there and make money. Am I crazy?! Somebody stop me please!!!

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#19 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 12:27

anon to SamMan (#18)

You're crazy if you're going to do it for money yes. most consultants don't even earn 6 figures until senior levels and work way to hard for it even then.

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#20 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 12:58

hmm to anon (#19)

Yeah but neither will bankers anymore....

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#21 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 14:28

erik to anon (#19)

Sweet Lord, what else to do it for?

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#22 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 14:35

hmm to erik (#21)

Only real reason is to learn a lot very quickly, which you wouldn't do in a 'normal' industry role. But then, you won't specialise for a long time either.

I can't wait to leave this sh!t though.

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#23 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 14:49

Cynic to hmm (#22)

Part of my problem is that I haven't really got a clear idea about what I want to do post-consulting. Right now I work for a consulting firm I'm relatively happy with, but it's still pretty cr*p and the pay is terrible (that's the price you pay for staying out of the pressure cooker I guess). What to do next, guys? Any ideas?

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#24 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 14:56

Cynic to Cynic (#23)

Sector, type of consultancy, interests etc would all help here Cynic

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#25 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 15:16

Cynic to Cynic (#24)

Current position is:

- Public sector

- IT audit type stuff

Re the above points: Yeah yeah, I know! But I actually chose this path and I'm actually far happier with it than the MBBB environment. Yeah, really.

Background is:

- Physics degree

- 4 years in top strat firms doing all sorts of 'high level' nonsense in all sorts of industries

- Techy by heart, manager by experience

Interests are:

- IT management type stuff (50% techy, 50% business) - I know this isn't everybody's cup of tea, but I'm OK with it

- Short hours (at least I'm being honest)

- A half decent salary

- Low stress

- Interacting with human beings as opposed to lumps of flesh in suits and ties (and working for a company whose chef 'makes the food with love' doesn't quite cut it for me)

- Routine work preferable (I actually kinda like doing the same thing over and over again and becoming a master of it, within reason, rather than fumbling my way through something new all the time).

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#26 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 15:18

Cynic to Cynic (#25)

Add to that experience another 10 years doing the current public sector IT audit stuff by the way.

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#27 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 15:46

nonny to Cynic (#26)

Really - IT audit? That is what I am doing lots of just now and have to say I couldn't imagine a duller more mind-numbing job. I'm desperately trying to get out of it. Surely nobody enjoys this?

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#28 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 16:00

Cynic to nonny (#27)

Thankfully the IT audit work I'm doing is at a highish level, so it's not the really really in-depth kind of stuff that can drive anyone insane. I don't mind it too much, but yeah, it can get kind of tedious after a while. I'd like to stay doing something similar in content (i.e. IT management), but in more of an industry role. Being an IT Manager is a big no-no because I've seen first hand how badly these guys get treated and I definitely don't want to end up down that avenue. Any ideas?

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#29 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 21:18

anon to Cynic (#11)

To provide a bit of balance to Cynic’s experience, I work at Bain at the moment and have to say that much of what he describes does not match with what I have experienced or what I’ve seen for the people I work with. Don’t know if things have changed, if MBB are more different than they seem, or if Cynic was just unlucky, but:

- Hours are long by not excessively so – I average 55-60 hours a week (normally home by 8-8.30), and have only worked more than 70 hours in a week in over 2 years with Bain. Definitely nowhere near 90. Although also a lot more than 35…

- I’ve worked probably four or five weekends (and even then only a half day) – and have never experienced (of even heard of) people meeting on a Friday night to plan the weekend’s work

- The vast majority of work is in and around London. I have spent a handful of days outside the M25 – particularly at the more junior levels (below manager) there are plenty of people who are keen to go on travel cases so if you don’t want to travel you rarely have to

- Great experience, especially if you want to do PE – if you want to go into industry you normally have to go into a strat role and work your way across which can be difficult

- All the partners I’ve worked with have been decent and approachable – there are stories about a few idiots, but the majority seem fine

- And the feedback I’ve received has always been constructive and delivered in a sensitive way

- Agreed, pay is not great – better than other consultancies, but nothing compared to PE/banking

- And making edit after edit to pretty much any piece of work is the norm –you often would be hard pushed to see a difference between the first and last versions

- Yes you eat junk, spend most of your life in front of your laptop, do everything and anything the client wants - but it's a client-facing industry, what else do you expect?

Overall, not as good as some make out, but definitely not as bad as Cynic’s experience -I worked at a big consultancy before Bain and enjoy my work and my life much more now

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#30 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 21:40

anon to anon (#29)

Have you been at Bain long?

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#31 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
16/10/2008 23:22

SamMan to anon (#30)

And more importantly, what is the $PAY$ like?

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#32 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
17/10/2008 20:50

anon to SamMan (#31)

I agree with the above description about Bain. I work for Bain Italy and I joined the firm one year ago as a consultant.

In Italy we tend to work a little more than elsewhere, but it is very rare to work for more than 70 hours. Again, it really depends on the project. A 4 week DD implies IB hours. A 3 months strategic plan means that you are home at 8 with no weekend work.

AC and Consultant are all friendly. Managers and partners are quite good. Sure, that are some stories about idiots, but I think this is the norm..

Work is great and very interesting. It is demanding though, especially in Italy where a lot of travelling is required.

Pay is well below IB but.. things will change since super bonuses are likely to disappear for most of the bankers. That said, the salary is well above the median and it is good. Standard contract for a consultant is 60k plus end of the year bonus (6-10k).

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#33 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
20/10/2008 17:16

Dolometi to anon (#32)

Anon, do you have a private email that I could use to contact you about Bain Italy?

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#34 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
21/10/2008 11:09

Don't take yourself so seriously to SamMan (#2)

How much of your 90-hour week is taken up with posting comments on web forums?

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#35 RE: 90 hours per week? Sirs, a bunch of questions.
21/10/2008 11:54

anon to Don't take yourself so seriously (#34)

About 1 hour. Leaving 89 hours for work.

Also, I multi-task and post comments on here whilst I'm thinking about work or getting on with other stuff at the same time.

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