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Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?

 
#1 Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
25/06/2010 17:51

Dixie1969

As someone considering joining PA Consulting I've read with interest the comments on this forum about them - which in the main appear to be pretty negative. I'm a 41 year old female with a Pharmaceutical Industry background and would be an experienced hire - but not from a consulting background - interested in their Life Sciences, Project Management or Technology functions. A few questions:-

1) Can anyone be a bit more descriptive about why they believe they are so bad?

2) Does this apply to all areas including the functions I've listed above? Anyone had any direct experience of these functions?

3) Does anyone have any positive comments about PA Consulting that might encourage someone to join?

4) Any tips on getting into Consulting from this background?

5) As alternatives what about any views on Cambridge Consultants or Project Management specialists PIPC? Any other suggestions?

Thanks in advance

Dixie1969

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#2 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
25/06/2010 18:09

Ex-PA to Dixie1969 (#1)

Well - shall I start then?

1. I left PA a year ago and it wasn't looking too good then. I think things have gone downhill since then. A few key reasons:

a. Over-reliance on repeat sales of large gov't projects (e.g. ID cards) that are now dead, leading to declining revenues, which may or may not be offset by declining headcount

b. Lack of interesting projects, meaning that many ended up doing IT project management

c. Restrictive career progression that only rewards utilisation - i.e. if your practice partners don't sell, you're not getting promoted

d. Low rewards (even when bonus is taken into consideration)

I might have missed a few things out - I'm sure others on the forum will fill out details

2. I'm not sure about what it's like in the areas you mentioned - I can't help feeling that the good people would have been the first to leave. LS was pretty weak when I was there (not selling enough jobs), PM OK, Technology don't know.

3. Very few on this forum - might be worth reaching out to people still there via HR or personal contacts to get a more rounded view

4. Do an MBA? Focus your CV around what your ISPs are and apply to the relevant group of e.g. Deloitte, CG...

5. Don't know

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#3 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
25/06/2010 19:08

steer clear to Dixie1969 (#1)

1) Can anyone be a bit more descriptive about why they believe they are so bad?

- the lack of leadership

- the feeling of working in a rudderless ship

- half of the company is owned by the chairman and the rest is "employee owned" which actually means the partners own nearly all of the other shares. The hands on chairman should have moved on years ago with the result that the company is lacking in direction and employees wonder if the CEO and COO will ever be given the chance to really lead.

- an employee suggestions scheme that is operated on the basis that most reasonable suggestions are rejected

- complete lack of accountability by senior managers and inconsistent application of company policies

- the day to day grind of working very hard and seeing loads of great colleagues really hacked off by the company and knowing that you'd all be doing a lot better somewhere else

2) Does this apply to all areas including the functions I've listed above? Anyone had any direct experience of these functions?

Yes.

3) Does anyone have any positive comments about PA Consulting that might encourage someone to join?

The people are great but that doesn't really make up for the limited career progression, poor pay, abysmal holiday (23 days of which the company nominates 3 days) and a policy of never giving time off in lieu even if you've worked on a project that required excessively long hours over a long period.

4) Any tips on getting into Consulting from this background?

Try PwC - they have a strong and rapidly growing life science practice.

5) As alternatives what about any views on Cambridge Consultants or Project Management specialists PIPC? Any other suggestions?

PIPC don't do terribly exciting work but have a good culture.

For an "inside" view of PA look at Glassdoor.com - there are loads of employee reviews on there and pay scales etc.

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#4 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
25/06/2010 19:41

Dixie1969 to steer clear (#3)

Wow! Thanks for both of the quick responses, and the tips....Glassdoor.com was revealing !

Any other views out there?

Thanks in advance

Dixie1969

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#5 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
26/06/2010 18:01

ex-BOPper to Dixie1969 (#4)

To answer your questions directly:

1) Can anyone be a bit more descriptive about why they believe they are so bad?

Very poor quality partners, who are overly reliant on public sector work. Partner bonus is part deferred for 5 years, so there is no impetus for the cr@p ones to leave.

Bonuses are dishonest in terms of how they are constructed. A rating comes down from on high, upon which your bonus figure is calculated - before removing large deferred elements and of course, employers taxes. So the gross bonus figure of 100%, soon equates to well under 40% nett.

Cr@p training policy, 23 days hols, and an expense policy only Scrooge could dream up

A well deserved reputation in the marketplace as low calibre process mappers, with little private sector focus

2) Does this apply to all areas including the functions I've listed above? Anyone had any direct experience of these functions?

Yes

3) Does anyone have any positive comments about PA Consulting that might encourage someone to join?

The website is good - note the abscence of non-white and female faces though.

4) Any tips on getting into Consulting from this background?

Try one of the specialist firms, rather than a generalist like PA

5) As alternatives what about any views on Cambridge Consultants or Project Management specialists PIPC? Any other suggestions?

Not heard much about either of them

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#6 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
27/06/2010 10:48

j to ex-BOPper (#5)

Why is PA so bad?

I would agree with what the others have said.

Forget any warm glow from PA being employee owned. The share distribution is hugely distorted and the ethos of the company is very much biased as a result.

I was constantly frustrated with trying to get partners interested in new sales opportunities - and then when they did get interested they would descend on it like locusts, all wanting a share of the action, which hugely inflated the bid price.

A lot of people with influence have come up from the bottom, and got where they are by being model PA citizens. As a result experienced lateral hires struggle at PC, MC and Associate Partner level. The very things that should make them of value to PA are constantly disparaged and undervalued. This is reflected in the reward scheme as well.

There is a definite element of body shopping in PA, with the result that any expertise you do have will be under-exploited, and if you are on a project where you are an expert you will be lumbered with a team of generalists who will often know less than the client.

I must admit I was shocked going into PA, having previously worked for boutique consultancies, at how badly consultancy staff were treated.

Having said that there are good things about PA. For instance though they are often berated here for doing low level process work the truth is clients often appreciate their ability to turn theory into practice.

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#7 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
27/06/2010 22:07

Ex-PA to j (#6)

PA is a sinking ship - avoid like the plague.

The CEO wears chinos for crying out loud!

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#8 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
29/06/2010 23:15

Anon to deleted (#0)

..and has never worked for anyone other than PA apparently.

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#9 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
30/06/2010 20:48

PA Pro to Anon (#8)

To original poster - please ignore the few anti-PA posts above - clearly from those few who can't cut the mustard at PA. We have a very strong pipeline and frequently blow MBB out of the water. Please be analytical and look at the facts and not some posts from low performers who have been asked to move on from PA.

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#10 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 08:21

ex-BOPper to PA Pro (#9)

What a lot of nonsense! PA don't even compete in the same league as MBBs - set your sights a bit lower my good man, and then lower them again. All the MMB firms are growing rapidly. PA Consulting has lost over 1/3 of their staff since their height of public sector consulting glory - and things ain't getting better

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#11 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 10:09

Ex-PA to ex-BOPper (#10)

I'm sorry about lifting another PA thread to the top but the invitation to "be analytical" is, to me, a little symptomatic of the jargon that gets thrown around at PA without much content behind it - what kind of fact-based analysis would lead one to the conclusion that you should work for PA? Analysis of the number of positive and negative comments on here about PA? Or analysis of comments at glassdoor.com:

* McK satisfaction rating 3.9, 92% approval of CEO

* Bain satisfaction rating 4.3, 98% approval of CEO

* BCG satisfaction rating 3.9, 92% approval of CEO

* PA satisfaction rating 2.9, 35% approval of CEO

Or maybe you could just make assumptions - e.g. that the ex-PA people posting here a. were low performers; b. couldn't cut the mustard; and c. were asked to move on.

Given the invective that is usually (and in my opinion fairly) aimed at PA, this is a pretty tame thread. The number of people leaving is a fact, and at up to 30 a week, it alone indicate that all is not well at PA. That PA "frequently blow MBB out of the water" is an opinion, and one not backed up by the data mentioned above.

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#12 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 10:49

Insider to Ex-PA (#11)

What a load of rubbish. There are not 30 people leaving a week. Some of the whingers on here should go into politics the amount of spin they put on the actual facts.

Sites like this and Glassdoor have very small readership and of those an even smaller number bother to take part in surveys or post. PA people seem to have better things compared, for example, to the quantity of posts by other companies.

What I don't get is why the same old stuff is trotted out here time after time. Do people not actually have any desire to say anything different and new? It is very boring.

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#13 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 11:41

anon to deleted (#0)

35% approval of the CEO?? Is it as high as that?

What do you have to say to that Mr. Cheerleader?

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#14 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 12:44

Ex-PA to anon (#13)

Insider - note I said up to 30 leaving per week. Are you prepared to scotch the spin by quoting actual numbers of consulting staff currently at PA? And as an expert in "fact-based analysis", I am sure you'll have some numbers to back up your assertion on the readership size of sites. I'd have thought that they'd be very useful resources for prospective hires who want a less corporate appraisal of the company.

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#15 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 13:01

Insider to Ex-PA (#14)

Apologies, you are right. Even if only one person left this week that still fits in with your dramatic broadbrush statement.

This site would be massively helpful to people if it wasn't full of bitter ex employees (of all companies) and whingers. Anyone who posts anything positive about any company on here is immediately accused of being a corporate stooge or cheerleader. Just look at the post before your last one. Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

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#16 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 22:01

Anon to Insider (#15)

There is a reason for so many "bitter ex-employees" and it has nothing to do with their competence. But your apology is accepted insider - PA truly breaking new ground there!

Of course the place to get some "facts" about PA employee numbers would of course be the very well maintained Wikipedia entry...*ahem*.

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#17 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 22:16

PA no more to Insider (#15)

Insider,

If PA does produce so many bitter no hopers doesn't that reflect back on PA itself?

An interesting question to ask is how did those who "can't cut the mustard at PA" perform in their careers before and after PA.

I will admit to leaving under threat of a PIP. Here I am now a year or so on, working for a firm you would no doubt look down on, but on a package about 40% better than at PA. We are winning every bid I've put together, and when it comes to delivery my judgement was trusted from day one.

Oh yes, my PIP. The main claim was that I wasn't seen in 123 often enough on Friday afternoons. That might have been something to do with spending just about every Friday since afternoon since the month I joined PA flying back from Europe. Both my line manager and HR admitted in the pre-PIP meeting that they had made no effort to check the facts. Oh yes, and it was the second time I'd met my line manager in ten months.

Let me compare two superficially similar experiences.

In PA I was putting a bid together. As far as the client was concerned they wanted me to deliver it, rather than PA. My opinions on what the client wanted were continually discounted. The partner and account manager insisted we stay up until 4am to prepare 200 slides, with the presentation at 9am. Leaving the office at 4am the partner started to lecture me on work life balance.

Roll forward a year....

PA are no longer working with that client, primarily because I'm no longer with PA. The client rings me up to chat most weeks.

I'm leaving a bid meeting at midnight, and the account director is apologising profusely and honestly for having made the team work late, admitting it must be because he has messed up.

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#18 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
01/07/2010 23:43

Anon to PA no more (#17)

It strikes me that PA people reading this might feel a bit demoralised working for a firm which, at best, has had it's reputation significantly tarnished by a few ill informed ex/current employees.

I would therefore like to point out that, whilst I've not worked at PA, I have worked with three former employees. In passing comments, two of them spoke poorly of the firm and one quite fondly. Two out of three of them seemed pleasant and rather competent (interestingly the two who spoke poorly of the firm). (Also interestingly none had done any private sector work...but admittedly this is not a scientific study!)

In addition, the calibre of people at PA (at least in terms of personality) seems to be consistently praised even by the most outspoken critics of the firm.

Just thought that this point should be highlighted.

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#19 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
02/07/2010 09:24

Dixie1969 to Anon (#18)

As I was the OP for this thread, I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses.

Unfortunately it's impossible to distinguish feedback which reflects the real situation at PA from that which is from someone with an axe to grind or a vested interest to protect, so I think I'll apply and make my own mind up.

But thanks to your responses at least I will know the kind of questions to ask to confirm if the culture and working conditions are right for me.

Thanks again.

Dixie1969

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#20 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
02/07/2010 12:05

Escaped to Dixie1969 (#19)

To Dixie, you really should take the post by "PA no more", dated 1/7, seriously. It is stunningly accurate and reflects my own experience of the place. Particularly the point about successes before/after one's time at PA and the "pre-determined regardless of the facts" PIP.

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#21 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
02/07/2010 12:27

Forum Fan to Escaped (#20)

I don't think going to meet the partners will help. These guys are in the roles they are becuase they are silver tongued salesmen.

I have not been impressed by the PA people that I have met (very rarely) on client sites.

Lots of ex-poly grads, and very generalist, with very few deep professionals.

If you do meet them, ask the following:

Why has UK headcount fallen from 2000 in 2007 to 1200 today? Is this the general trajectory of the company?

Why did you open offices in Singapore, Australia and other locations only to close them 2 years later? What happened to the UK staff that transferred over? Did any of them get offered repatriation to the UK, or were they just left to fend for themselves overseas?

How do you plan to fill the hole in the business left by the cancellation of massive public sector contracts, such as ID cards?

What are your largest private sector clients? Are these growing?

Why have you consistently lost market share to competitors over each of the past five years?

Why did the young analyst and her direct partner get fired for losing "that" memory stick? Why did no-one on the board resign?

What has happened to the share price over the past two years?

You have moved from occupying all of 123 a few years ago, to now being squashed into a single floor. Do you plan to move out of the building and go to some place more fitting for PA - such as Doncaster?

Why did you handle the compulsory redundancies in 2008 so badly? Do you feel ashamed of that?

These might all sound a bit flippant, but there is a very strong reason why PA has such a bad reputation. You need to do your due diligence on them - otherwise it could be a HUGE career mistake.

I know - I didn't, and the two years I was stuck on crummy government jobs are two years that were completely wasted

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#22 Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
02/07/2010 13:50

Deeply Offended (Boo Hoo) to Forum Fan (#21)

Oi! There's nowt wrong with Doncaster. Please don't bring PA here :o)

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#23 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
02/07/2010 14:04

Ex-PA to Deeply Offended (Boo Hoo) (#22)

Dixie,

Apologies if this thread has degenerated a little, and I'd still strongly advise against applying to PA. However, if you do successfully apply I'd equally strongly suggest informally talking to 3-5 people who are currently in your prospective grade and practice. You're unlikely to get a completely honest picture of the company from your interviewers, and if the business is shrinking this will of course be important. It's also worth conisdering how strong a brand PA is, and whether this will help for your next move (if there is one).

Good luck in any case.

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#24 Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
02/07/2010 15:21

Deeply Offended (Boo Hoo) to Forum Fan (#21)

Oi! There's nowt wrong with Doncaster. Please don't bring PA here :o)

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#25 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
03/07/2010 19:14

Anon to Deeply Offended (Boo Hoo) (#24)

Dixie, as an obviously intelligent person you will make up your own mind and I can only talk of my own experience. So from the heart I will say, please do think very carefully! It took me some time to recover my health and well-being after PA. I won't go into details but thankfully I am now at a decent employer that couldn't be more different (and much more successful) than PA. As an influencer of consultancy purchase decisions now, I don't ever use or recommend them within my own organisation. I should imagine disaffected ex-employees in similar or greater positions of influence are voting with their feet too.

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#26 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
05/07/2010 13:28

Anon to Anon (#25)

Dixie - I have a different, positive view but don't see any point in trying to give it on here as it will be trashed by the whingers and I will be accused of being a propagandist.

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#27 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
05/07/2010 15:02

Forum Fan to Anon (#26)

What is there positive to say about PA? Now that consulting spend in the public sector will all but die, PA's future does not look good. This is why the few remaining decent staff are stampeding for the exit

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#28 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
05/07/2010 16:03

Anon to Forum Fan (#27)

Forum Fan, what stampede?

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#29 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
06/07/2010 10:30

anon to Dixie1969 (#1)

1) Can anyone be a bit more descriptive about why they believe they are so bad?

- I joined PA a a grad and was really impressed with them during the recruitment process

- Whilst there I got to work on some really interesting projects (public and private sector) mainly in the communications and media space

- There were a number of very competent and interesting to work for senior managers there at the time, I saw a number leave due to lack of recognition and progress - they were mainly held back and beaten down by the legacy partners

3) Does anyone have any positive comments about PA Consulting that might encourage someone to join?

- When I joined the traininng was pretty good in terms of initial stuff and ongoing,

- If you can get on the right projects you can learn a lot and when you leave move into an interesting role (see below)

- Not sure on the status of PA's pharma work but it wasn't great when I was there

I left PA after 2 years mainly due to the lack of promotion prospects even if you demonstrated high performance. I scored top marks on all my assigment reviews but was basically on the same career path timescales as everyone else with limited renumeration progression.

When I left and moved into industry I increased my salary by 30% and took on greater responsibility and accountability. Plus I got rid of all the PA c&ap including low amounts of holiday, being away from home all the time, rubbish bonus (after tax etc) and general internal politics nonsense.

That said the projects I undertook at PA got me the role I had, but its reputation is getting tarnished now so not sure if this would be the case now.

Overall I haven't looked back since, my career and reward has accelerated much faster than in PA and a number of other consultancies.

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#30 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
06/07/2010 15:47

exPAer to anon (#29)

PA get a lot of bashing on this forum and I'd say in the main the majority of it is unwarranted. I was at PA for a few years and found it to be a reasonable place to be. there are much better orgs out there tho

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#31 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
10/07/2010 20:52

ex-PA to exPAer (#30)

I quite enjoyed my time at PA but left some time ago as I sensed the company wasn't going anywhere. There are some good people at MC and Partner level but the Senior Parner group and management team is very poor and would struggle to get a job elsewhere.

I'd ask at interview what the attrition rate is and what % of work comes from the private sector. I'd also look closely at the package on offer - much lower industry standard.

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#32 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
12/07/2010 14:50

Tom to ex-PA (#31)

Also you really need to question where their growth is going to come from over the Next few years.

PA contracted massively even before their biggest public sector jobs, such as the ID card scheme, were trashed. How are they expecting to grow their private sector presence?

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#33 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
25/07/2010 10:28

Long-term PAer to Dixie1969 (#1)

Dixie,

I've been at PA 15 years. I recognise a lot of the points made by its critics - these are hard times and I do think the company is exposed to government too much. But the overwhelmingly negative flavour here doesn't reflect my overall experience - there is a balance of good and bad about PA.

I'm around the same age as you, and only had a few years in a grad trainee role before coming in, so maybe I don't know all the alternatives. I would agree that PA are cruel to people who don't get on well, and that some good people don't manage to get their feet under the table. That could be a risk in your position. I certainly got the impression that the people with the best argued negative reviews probably had that experience. I'd reflect that such people are quite understandably more likely to chip in than the reasonably contented. Also PA has gone from being a very employee welfare-focussed company to one that seems more (but not ludicrously) hard-nosed, which probably creates a sense of grievance.

On the other hand there are a lot of people who've done well out of long service at PA. I've been a consistent steady performer - there are definitely better and worse - and I think that over time I've been well treated. Work/life balance is OK once you get established (definitely not if you have poor stats and are working a bid). I live in London. I have youngish kids and haven't had to work away much). I'm a PC and I paid tax on £92k last year (I had above average performance). The deferment of bonus that someone was whinging about is a pain in the first three years, but in my case has turned into a six figure shareholding. I'm not saying thats awesome but I don't sense too many opportunities to improve at the moment.

You don't say why you are moving but a few people have asked me if coming to PA is a good idea in the recession - I generally ask if its really a good time for the individual to consider a move. If you are currently secure and OKish, you might be better sticking with what you know until a more propitious time. On the plus side PA are trying to refocus on private sector so pharma is likely to be a valued skill.

One final piece of advice - I obviously don't know you well enough to suggest what grade you would pitch for, but if you are in the PC/MC zone be aware that they are very different jobs. As a PC you will be rewarded for utilisation and operating skills. As an MC its much more selling-oriented. If I was not experienced in selling I wouldn't be too proud to start off as a PC. It feels a safer bet to get used to selling ones skills on a consultancy basis and grow into sales than jump in at the deep end.

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#34 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
28/07/2010 00:03

anon to Dixie1969 (#1)

Hi Dixie

I was with PA for about 6 years ("3" performer with bonus consistently above 45% and promoted a couple of time...just in case anyone thinks I am a disgruntled poor performer!) and had a lot of exposure to the most senior management.

I had a great 4 or so years at PA and was sad to leave, but the last 18-24 months were really not good. PA lost it's way in terms of how it treats people and behaved pretty poorly to some people who did not deserve it. It was not secret the redundancies were managed poorly by the partners involved in the decision-making.

I would agree with Long-term PAer that if you have no previous sales experience you should go in as a Principal Consultants rather than a Management Consultant.

On the plus side I met some friends for life and got good bonuses. I left PA at the beginning of the year and am much happier were I am, although I know it is early days.

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#35 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
28/07/2010 14:38

anon to anon (#34)

45% bonus and you is leaving?? yeah, right

What practice? My lot didn't pay anything above 20% for a 3 grade this year

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#36 RE: Why all the PA Consulting Group bashing?
28/07/2010 18:22

tw1t to anon (#35)

Booooooring !! PA Consulting are full of tw1ts

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