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Disability and Consulting

#1 Disability and Consulting
25/08/2017 16:44


Hoping a few of you will be able to advise on a concern of mine.

I have a few concerns about my ability to manage my physical health while pursuing a management consulting career. Last year, I began to suffer from vestibular migraines. In short, when I miss out on sleep (I require 8 1/2 hours a night with a fairly regular pattern) I can go for days on end feeling dizzy, disoriented and cognitively impaired. This is often accompanied by pain. It's manageable, but if I don't continue to look after my health carefully, I risk making my condition significantly worse (think chronic pain).

I'm certainly not work-shy, and I'm used to putting in many hours on a daily basis and on weekends. My condition didn't stop me from leaving Oxford this year with a first-class science degree. Whilst there, there were weeks where I would put in 10< hours every day of the week. On the other hand, at university I had relatively more control over my schedule, and would work on weekends to ensure I could maintain a decent sleep pattern.

I have pretty much ruled out MBB firms because of their longer hours. A shame, because before the onset of this condition I think I would have stood a chance. I was wondering if the likes of Accenture, PwC, Deloitte etc. would be likely to accommodate this, and how realistic strategy consulting is as a career. At the moment, I'm keen on working at Accenture specifically.

For example, could I travel to a client location on a Sunday evening, and have the cost of accommodation for the Sunday evening covered by the firm, as opposed to getting up extremely early on a Monday morning? When projects are nearing deadlines, could I contribute additional hours on the weekends as opposed to staying in the office late into the evening?

Happy to receive completely honest answers. Would rather be told that this would be virtually impossible than to go into the job with a rose-tinted view and potentially make myself seriously ill.

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#2 RE: Disability and Consulting
25/08/2017 18:04

Tony Restell ( to DDAM (#1)

Really commend you for recognising the potential problem and trying to get input on it while you're at the stage you could still take a different path.

I'm not close enough to the individual firms to be able to comment on which ones might best accommodate your circumstances. But I would make a couple of observations as I feel you will be at a disadvantage specifically in a consulting career which you might not be in other fields:

1) late night working can be exacerbated by the cultures of some firms, where needing to put in the hours into the evening is just par for the course in working your way up. So you picking out some that it might be best to avoid is wise IMHO. That said, it's also driven by client needs. I'd find it hard to imagine working for a consultancy for the first few years of your career and not encountering situations where something's come up on the project that means everyone just has to muck in and work into the night. It just comes with the territory.

2) I know female friends who've returned to consulting to work for some of the firms who've been having a big drive to make their firms more welcoming places for Mothers returning to work to go back to. The reality is that they find themselves working a lot on internal consulting projects or on eg. public sector client work where client demands aren't as great. They aren't on anything like the same career trajectory as they would be if they could travel and work whatever hours were needed. So I'd caution that firms being willing to help accommodate your disability doesn't necessarily mean that it'll not impact your consulting career with them.

3) Is jet lag and / or trying to sleep on overnight flights an issue too? If either one is, that constrains the clients you could feasibly work with and so again will impact your consulting career.

I'm a massive fan of consulting careers as a great launch pad for your career, so I feel almost traitorous writing this. But I hope it's helpful counsel. If you decide to pursue consulting then you've indicated you'd like to do it with your eyes open. I hope this helps to a degree.

Good luck with whatever you should decide to pursue.

Rgds, Tony

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#3 RE: Disability and Consulting
27/08/2017 21:05

DtBunk to DDAM (#1)

My thoughts...

The specifics of the expenses are engagement specific, sometimes there's budget, sometimes there isn't. BUT, if this would materially influence your decision on whether to accept a job, I think you could have a very frank conversation with the hiring partner for a blanket consideration.

I think the bigger issues are as follows...

At the junior grades, I've always sensed you are at the mercy of your seniors, you just don't have a clear line of sight on outcomes and timelines and so invariably you get caught holding the can, working late and sometimes weekends to make up for poor planning.

There is the client angle, you can get the curve-ball at 3pm on a Thursday, which means unexpected hours. There is a general tendency to please and so again you could find yourself train beering as you shuffle between powerpoint decks and masses of emails, interspersed with handfuls of dry roasted peanuts and double checking your screen protector is actually on your laptop.

If Consulting interests you, you must go for it, with no illusions, the hours can be long however the more important piece is the unpredictability. Firms are generally good at giving you time to recover from serious spells of heavy work, but that means you have to grind out the hours when push comes to shove.

You will have good projects and bad, if you ensure you recognise the importance of your health as you go, you can always re-think at a later time, you will never know if it was feasible or not, unless you try.

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#4 RE: Disability and Consulting
28/08/2017 15:43

detoilet Consultant to DDAM (#1)


I think Tony may well have given you the answer. Having worked in consulting 20+ years and currently as a contractor more recently i find i'm often one of the last to go and it's 5.30-6.00 pm. Government in various forms would offer most of what you need.

There are bits to avoid, in the main i'd say IT project management and IT implementations etc. However, being the change person running workshops with clinicians / users / managers / social workers etc etc will find you more often than not getting away at 1630 😄 apologies to all my change management colleagues. Also running change projects rather than IT projects in government as these again deal with the practitioners who typically value their time over hanging around in the office.

Avoid doing bids at all cost, these will find you working 20 hour days for about a week whilst everyone is frantically pulling a bid together at the last minute. Bid work would be a killer for you.


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#5 RE: Disability and Consulting
29/11/2017 12:20

Lld to DDAM (#1)

This post is so sad to read!

The Big 4 are doing a lot of work to try to recruit people with disabilities, and whilst consulting is a hard route if you have a disability like you describe, it isn't impossible - I'm living proof! From the replies you received it is clear that the efforts around disability perhaps aren't hitting home internally, as people don't seem to have awareness of the huge amount of support that is available for a disability like yours, or the legislation around it. The insights are useful but they don't seem to be from a disability perspective, where legislation gives you the power to be assertive in saying no with good reason, even if you are at a junior level.

Yes, adjustments such as going on a Sunday evening are paid for by the company, as well as any other reasonable adjustments. If you can't do long hours, but your mind is brilliant, these companies would be stupid not to try to accommodate you. So many people work long hours but don't bring anything amazing to the table, so it's about what you can do in the hours you can work. Bear in mind it is easier for big companies like the Big 4 to make reasonable adjustments, and they are doing a lot of work to be recognised for how well they accommodate and retain people with disabilities, so it matters to them as well as you.

I would agree with the assessment that Bid work is probably not where you want to place yourself due to the unpredictability of the long hours (I made this mistake), but there is definitely other work you will be able to do in Consulting with the full support of the company.

This post is now very old and you may have moved in a different direction now, but I feel the response was a bit skewed by answers from people who appear (I could be wrong) not to have faced this particular challenge and therefore don't know that it's not as simple as doing the careers they have done and adding a disability on top. It will shape your career, but it won't limit it. I know you asked for honesty, but I think what you really need is to talk to somebody who has been there!

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#6 RE: Disability and Consulting
30/11/2017 12:52

Tony Restell ( to Lld (#5)

Really appreciate you taking the time to share your first-hand experiences of this. You are absolutely right that this is far more informative than any impressions I or anyone else could share having not lived consulting through your eyes. It's uplifting to hear of consultancies going the extra mile to make themselves fully inclusive - and I hope your contribution inspires many others to pursue a career direction that they might otherwise have questioned. Thank you. Tony

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