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Paving out a future career...

 
#1 Paving out a future career...
11/03/2013 11:19

OC

Hey everyone,

I apologise in advance, this is going to be a bit of an essay, but I really want everyone to understand my thoughts. Thank you for reading.

I've been stalking around these forums quite a lot, and would really appreciate some advice on my ambitions. I am currently a 20 year old undergraduate at the University of Manchester studying for an integrated Masters in Mathematics (MMath), expected to graduate next summer with a minimum of a 2.1 - for those who are unaware, it's basically a 4 year course, where I end up with only a UG Masters degree which comes with a classification (hence the "integrated" tag - I chose to do this over a BSc as its funded by Student Finance, gave me an extra year to figure out my future and is widely regarded as strong as a "standard" Masters degree).

I have read a lot of negativity on here based on consultancy, and I can see why. I am quite level headed, I understand the life style of a consultant isn't the most glamorous at times. Constant travelling, can have the worst work/life balance around, potentially long hours, a lot to live up to, however I'm willing to take that on. Now first of all, I do not in any form aspire to work for MBB. One, I'm willing to accept even graduating with a first wouldn't be enough. Two, they seem to really work their consultants to the ground (understandable, given their fees) and I am the type of guy who'd rather take happiness and more time with those I care about over money.

I bet that last sentence rang alarm bells, and some of you are already beginning to hack at your keyboard. There IS a reason why I am looking into consultancy - my passion for technology. I am truly passionate about technology. This is the only sector of consultancy that interests me. So far, I have self-taught myself web based coding, HTML, CSS, ASP, ASP.NET (in progress) & JavaScript on the side since the age of 14. I work closely with a small limited company (charity registered as well) and produce professional websites for them (currently in the midst of re-designing one of their older sites). I have worked during my studies in Apple retail stores (amongst a few other big irrelevant names: UNI QLO, Selfridges), as well as currently working in Vodafone retail stores. I have seen quite a lot how technology is influencing the world, and it's given me a love for the idea of technology consultancy. I want to work in project teams building unique solutions for clients, and I feel consultancy is where I can be on the front line.

For these purposes, I've labelled Accenture and Deloitte as my main "dream" firms to work for, as they seem to have the nearest proximity to my aspirations, and also I would want to relocate internationally and while I accept its difficult with any firm, these two give me a good chance. I have no doubt that if I manage to get work in one of them, I'll be doing the standard Analyst jobs of dealing with the boring crap etc, but I'm willing to work up. Now although it may seem like I'm quite set on my future path, I do have some major concerns. Firstly, I have a partner and we're very serious about each other. She'll be graduating this summer and will be taking up her dream career in Child Nursing (also currently a University of Manchester student). Serious to an extent that although my family are based in London, I'll be primarily looking for a Manchester based office, as we currently live together here. To be honest, if we already had our careers established and were on stable financial grounds we'd probably be engaged by this stage.

Anyway, I have no doubt our professions will put some strain on our relationship. As a nurse, she'll be required to work weekend/night shifts, and I can imagine I may have times when I'm forced to stay in a hotel overnight in a client area, although I'd rather travel back and forth. One thing we dislike strongly is spending nights apart, but I have spoken to her my career choice and she's willing to put up with the idea of me not always being around.

Now my questions come into light,

  • I've read so much on here recently about "industry" moves, what kind of industry moves are popular for (possible) consultants like me who are based in technology? I would want a plan in place for an industry move for the future as a safety net.
  • In terms of technology, which areas are best to "specialize" in during your career for an easier exit move? My Mathematical background does give me some advantage in the finance sector I'd imagine, although not much against Business/Economic graduates.
  • Finally, do you think I'm going down the right path with technology consultancy, or do you feel there is a better career option for me? One of the reasons I've also chosen consultancy is the start-up salary is ideal for getting stable finances from the off, which is why I'd later in life be happy to take a pay-cut (if necessary) to move into industry.

Please also feel free to criticise (not too harshly please lol) any parts of what I've told you (minus personal) or areas you think I'd need to look out.

Thanks again for reading.

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#2 RE: Paving out a future career...
11/03/2013 11:38

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to OC (#1)

Hello OC, welcome to the forum.

It sounds like you really are very level headed and are going into this with your eyes open.

I am just about to go into a meeting with a glamourous public sector client that wishes to contest our fee rates, so can't write much right now, but here is something for you to consider.

A lot of IT companies call themselves "management consultants". Management consultancy is NOT the same as programming. If you're more interested in software development and the like, your pool of potential employers is much wider and the work life balance could be way, waaayyyyyyy better than it would be if you were working for a "pure" management consultancy, so to speak.

Technology consultancy is a great career path. Just follow your interests and the rest will work itself out...

Also, don't be afraid to set down boundaries with employers about the hours you're prepared to work. If you don't value your own time, nobody else will...

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#3 RE: Paving out a future career...
11/03/2013 11:49

Camster to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

Hello OC, welcome to the forum.

A lot of IT companies call themselves "management consultants". Management consultancy is NOT the same as programming.

Well said. Management consulting is not solutions consulting or even technology consulting.

I think you might enjoy working with a startup.

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#4 RE: Paving out a future career...
11/03/2013 14:57

a07 to Camster (#3)

Hi OC

I too worked in retail (for a couple of years after university) before getting into consulting and all the confidence/people skills you develop are invaluable.

In terms of tech consulting there are so many different firms out there with a variety of service offerings so research is important esp at the grad stage. A lot of these have technical streams so programmers do work for them however wages compared to actual client facing consultants can suffer.

Saying that some Consultant do come across to the more business facing technology consulting disciplines such as business analysis, or even going down the architect route where money is better.

Lots to consider if you think consulting is the path for you, Accenture and Deloitte are of course big names which would look great on your CV but if work life balance is important you could always try a systems integrator e.g. Atos or a smaller boutique consulting firm.

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#5 RE: Paving out a future career...
11/03/2013 16:18

Mr Cool to OC (#1)

  • I've read so much on here recently about "industry" moves, what kind of industry moves are popular for (possible) consultants like me who are based in technology? I would want a plan in place for an industry move for the future as a safety net.
  • In terms of technology, which areas are best to "specialize" in during your career for an easier exit move? My Mathematical background does give me some advantage in the finance sector I'd imagine, although not much against Business/Economic graduates.
  • Finally, do you think I'm going down the right path with technology consultancy, or do you feel there is a better career option for me? One of the reasons I've also chosen consultancy is the start-up salary is ideal for getting stable finances from the off, which is why I'd later in life be happy to take a pay-cut (if necessary) to move into industry.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Question 1 and Question 2 remind me of when I'm half-watching "Strictly Come Dancing" while feeding my two daughters and thinking to myself - "I'd love to go on that show and be taught to dance by a slinky, twenty year old who goes around in just slightly more than a bikini"

Sadly, in order to get on the show, I'd first have to have a successful career as a world class sportsman or actor, probably then spend a few years with an agent getting me minor TV spots, the spend a year dropping hints to the shows production team, all of which would take 10 years, JUST TO GET ON A DANCE SHOW.

Why on earth are you thinking of getting into consultancy just to think about the exit options, just to get to work in technology, which is what you really want to do in the first place!

Dude - you sound like a nice, hard working sensible guy. Ditch any idea of working for a consultancy and get yourself a job with a proper IT dev company where you can go home every night, and if you want to, work a few hours in the evening at home while chatting to the missus.

Consultancies don't give two hoots about tech and you'll always be a second class citizen behind the movers and the scmoozers. Go join a tech company where people will share your passion.

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#6 RE: Paving out a future career...
11/03/2013 16:21

Mr Cool to Mr Cool (#5)

Hmmm. Anton du Bec. I like it!!

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#7 RE: Paving out a future career...
11/03/2013 17:43

alexandermeerkat to OC (#1)

If you can code and have maths look for a job at a startup / fast growing tech or digital advertising company. Much better prospects than technology consulting ...

Or if you only care about money get a job in the city/ with a hedge fund or one of hte companies that supplies them working in IT.

Check out Silicon Milk Roundabout for starters.

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#8 RE: Paving out a future career...
12/03/2013 13:45

OC to Mr Cool (#5)

First of all, thanks to everyone for responding so far. All comments have been really useful.

Why on earth are you thinking of getting into consultancy just to think about the exit options, just to get to work in technology, which is what you really want to do in the first place!

Dude - you sound like a nice, hard working sensible guy. Ditch any idea of working for a consultancy and get yourself a job with a proper IT dev company where you can go home every night, and if you want to, work a few hours in the evening at home while chatting to the missus.

The reason I want to go into consultancy (technology) is because I love the idea of working with big corporate clients and coming up with technology solutions and ways to streamline their businesses. Also I'd love to be proactive with the implementation stage. That's why Accenture in particular really interest me, I think I may suit into the way they work with clients when technology-aligned. I'm only thinking of exit options as eventually I would probably want to leave the field and go into a more stable job.

That said, I really hadn't thought of IT dev companies directly to be honest, what examples are available out there? It may be a sector to look into, however I feel like I may lack the client facing experience, which is one of the big reasons why I want to go into consultancy, although I'd probably find just as much joy working in teams on project software. Part of me just fears the career in a IT dev company being very hard to progress, and limited?

A lot of IT companies call themselves "management consultants". Management consultancy is NOT the same as programming. If you're more interested in software development and the like, your pool of potential employers is much wider and the work life balance could be way, waaayyyyyyy better than it would be if you were working for a "pure" management consultancy, so to speak.

Although I have self-taught myself a lot of code, I fear I may be overshadowed by those doing a computer science degree etc who have been exposed to way more software implementation than I have, but a good work/life balance does suit me.

In terms of tech consulting there are so many different firms out there with a variety of service offerings so research is important esp at the grad stage. A lot of these have technical streams so programmers do work for them however wages compared to actual client facing consultants can suffer.

This is another big fear of mine. I feel like I'd lose out quite a lot by programming as well...

If you can code and have maths look for a job at a startup / fast growing tech or digital advertising company. Much better prospects than technology consulting ...

All these are opening my eyes a lot, so I guess the questions I have now are..

  • Who are examples of fast growing tech/digital advertising companies where my "skill set" would help (if anyone knows of any, it'd be so appreciated!)?
  • For what I want, which is client facing work as I do love interaction with clients, would tech consultancy

    still be a better option, even with the work/life balance?

A big part for me as well is salary. I'm not looking to earn top of the range money, but I feel like I can earn quite a good, comfortable living. That's another reason why technology consultancy really interests me, good money. In software implementation/development, would salary be drastically lower?

Thanks again guys!

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#9 RE: Paving out a future career...
12/03/2013 15:34

alexandermeerkat to OC (#8)

http://siliconmilkroundabout.com/

It sounds like you might actually enjoy IT consulting though ...

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#10 RE: Paving out a future career...
12/03/2013 16:29

Mr Cool to OC (#8)

My advice for ALL graduates that want to maximise their earnings. Starting salary is a red herring. Speed of progression is what its all about.

When I graduated (Waaaayyyyyyy back in 1989!) I got the princely sum of 13K which was very average for a grad in those days. Top consultancies were offering 18K (andersen etc), but by joining a firm that had loads of growth in the UK, I doubled my salary inside 3 years, then was headhunted away by a competitor who offered me a further 30% increase. I stayed 18 months and then joined a consultancy as an exp hire on 45K (about 5.5 years out of uni). I was on 100K before I was thirty.

The truth is that you're more likely to progress at a firm that has growth potential and does work that you ENJOY.

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#11 RE: Paving out a future career...
12/03/2013 17:10

abc123 to Mr Cool (#10)

I can offer my experience as something to at least bare in mind. I also graduated thinking technology consulting was my calling, due to the variety of the work, the bright colleagues, and the glossiness of Accenture's brand presence.

Unfortunately post-Chicago the reality of tech consulting was a huge systems integration project, as part of an enormous consulting team who were all banished to the basement to work 50 hours a week.

I thought tech consulting would be far more glamorous than testing insurance policy data moving between various legacy systems. Be warned.

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#12 RE: Paving out a future career...
12/03/2013 17:37

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to abc123 (#11)

At least you got out after doing only 50 hours a week. I once worked for a company where you could clock up 50 hours before you even got to Thursday. It was also full of Americans (I like Americans btw, it's just these people I'm talking about here) who were such blatant liars that they even used to tell everyone they were from Dorset (yeah right, as if we couldn't tell the unbelievably obvious difference between the accents not to mention their teeth and everything else about them). Glad I'm out of that place.

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#13 RE: Paving out a future career...
12/03/2013 18:27

Matrix to Mr Cool (#10)

@Mr Coolio, while you're on the topic where do you think fast growth in consulting is these days in the UK/Europe?

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#14 RE: Paving out a future career...
13/03/2013 08:46

Anon MCs to Matrix (#13)

Tony might be able to help out on this one?

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#15 RE: Paving out a future career...
13/03/2013 12:56

Mr Cool to Matrix (#13)

Niche firms probably offer the greatest career growth opps generally. Don't see any huge growth opps in big4

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#16 RE: Paving out a future career...
13/03/2013 12:56

Mr Cool to Matrix (#13)

Niche firms probably offer the greatest career growth opps generally. Don't see any huge growth opps in big4

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