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Advice on moving into a career in consultancy

 
#1 Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 09:52

ltong

Hi all,

I have so far been working on a Postdoc research and code development project for high performance computing systems for three years. This is my first "proper" full time job, before this I have been in full-time education.

I had a long time to think about things, and have decided that an academic career is not for me. However, I am deeply interested in the field of high performance massively parallel computation software developments, and wish to move on to a career path where I can apply the skill I have accumulated to various problems in various fields.

In total, I have 6 years of extensive experience in mathematical modelling and writing and optimising simulation software that runs on parallel computation platforms.

I have got a PhD in Physics and Astronomy, a Masters in Advanced Studies in Mathematics, and a first class degree in Mathematical Physics from three top UK universities. I do believe that my analytical and problem solving skills together with my experience in the area of code development and HPC should be valued by many consultancy companies.

However I am a little bit lost on how to maximise my chances in getting into a top consulting company that would use my skills. Should I apply as an expert intake, or should I enter the graduate schemes. Here is the dilemma:

For positions I have been looking so far for professional expert intake, there are very few that are actually related to my area of expertise, so I am not sure if my qualifications and work experiences can serve as an advantage. For graduate schemes, as someone has mentioned, they seemed to be only looking at fresh graduates from Universities.

I have sent out quite a number of applications but so far have not received any replies.

Any advice is much appreciated. And also do you know any consultancy companies that would value my particular set of skills in particular?

Many thanks!

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#2 RE: Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 10:02

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to ltong (#1)

Consider this: Many consultancies hire people who have backgrounds in Modern Languages, Geography, Fine Art and other similar fields. They then assign them to virtually any type of project.

Now consider this: You're looking for a company that will appreciate and utilise your massively in-depth analytical skills. That is, your "proper", "hard" skills.

Then, think about this: Just how much would it do your head in being lectured to by a 30-something check-lit Modern Languages graduate (who might happen to be your boss on the project) about the "correct" way to do percentages and the pie charts that she needs for her powerpoint slides?

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#3 RE: Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 10:16

ltong to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

Consider this: Many consultancies hire people who have backgrounds in Modern Languages, Geography, Fine Art and other similar fields. They then assign them to virtually any type of project.

Now consider this: You're looking for a company that will appreciate and utilise your massively in-depth analytical skills. That is, your "proper", "hard" skills.

Then, think about this: Just how much would it do your head in being lectured to by a 30-something check-lit Modern Languages graduate (who might happen to be your boss on the project) about the "correct" way to do percentages and the pie charts that she needs for her powerpoint slides?

Thank you very much to you reply.

Actually I don't really mind if say my boss on the project who has an art/humanities background starts to lecturing me about say a particular way of presenting data etc. I actually appreciate input from people from different background as me, as it often gives fresh perspective on things. The important thing to me is that the project is challenging and you are making progress.

Take the above as an example: If the client are people who would understand the ex-Modern Language graduate better, and appreciate more in their presentation style, (and most likely they will) then why shouldn't I change the presentation style accordingly?

But, are you saying that many consultancies wouldn't even consider me as a candidate because of my background, and thinks I am too nerdy?

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#4 RE: Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 10:26

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to ltong (#3)

No, not saying that you're too nerdy at all. Far from it, personally I love it when people have proper analytical skills.

What I'm saying is, you have mentioned that you would like challenging work. Believe me, as somebody who also has a quantitative background, the only think you will find "challenging" about being a junior consultant on most consultancy projects is stopping yourself from going insane when people who have zero analytical capabilities feel the need to "correct" your analysis. I'm thinking how best to describe it, because you really have to experience it. OK, here's an example. I once worked with one consultant who had a Fine Arts background. My background by the way is somewhat more similar to yours. Anyhow, she was my boss on the project. She publicly rollocked me because of "errors" in some tables of figures I had produced. So what was my error? I incorrectly concluded that 0.5 + 0.5 = 1.0. Because, of course, the answer is actually 0.10. I challenged her on this, and was basically told that I was DEFINITELY wrong and that I should take more care on my work in the future. I was, effectively, "forced" to change my figures. That's perhaps a more colourful example, but it's not far off of the sort of thing you might experience.

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#5 RE: Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 10:43

ltong to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#4)

Wow. Okay...

But the things is I really feel uncomfortable in the the life-style in academia now days, endless applying for grant money, that are getting harder and harder to get each year, and life is very unstable unless you are lucky enough to get a permanent fellowship or lectureship. And once you get a permanent position, the most of your time will be spent on more or less "sales", trying to secure more funding, and you spend less time on the actual research. And writing papers is like writing for the sake of writing.

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#6 RE: Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 10:58

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to ltong (#5)

But the things is I really feel uncomfortable in the the life-style in academia now days, endless applying for grant money, that are getting harder and harder to get each year, and life is very unstable unless you are lucky enough to get a permanent fellowship or lectureship. And once you get a permanent position, the most of your time will be spent on more or less "sales", trying to secure more funding, and you spend less time on the actual research. And writing papers is like writing for the sake of writing.

You might be amazed just how closely that paragraph describes consultancy too...

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#7 RE: Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 14:18

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#6)

BEP, you are so so right... Itong it does look like you may have a lonnng learning curve.

However, consultancy work is far better paid than being a lecturer although you will find the stress levels are very different.

BEP might joke about a lot, but I reckon as a Partner he deals with a lot of high pressure and unlike Universities, there's a ruthless culture to MCs. I liked this part (ie deadwood soon got booted) but others didn't.

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#8 RE: Advice on moving into a career in consultancy
14/03/2013 14:40

Mr Cool to ltong (#1)

Hi Itong,

Given your very specialist (and valuable) areas of specialism and interest, I'm not sure why you'd want to join a management consultancy; where these skills are likely to be used infrequently.

If I was good at, and passionate about, making tea, I wouldn't become a lawyer so that I could delight the entire practice with a fantastic Darjeeling once a day at 4pm. I'd get a job making tea all day.

With your academics and experience most hard core tech Dec firms would surely be interested in you.

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