The year was 2009! The undergraduate adventure ended and I was officially out in the market for a job. Consulting did not come up as an option. I chose to go into financial services. I assumed this would give me a worldview across multiple industries while also giving me a holistic perspective on the world economy. It didn’t disappoint me. From my first placement into global markets (treasury) to moving into corporate and investment banking before taking a role in business planning and analysis – the journey filled me with learnings on how businesses work and deep insights into managing returns versus risks.
Fast forward to 2013, together with Zahed and Ivdad (my business school batchmates, ex-bankers like me, and most importantly, long-term friends), LightCastle was born as a management consulting firm. From there to 2022, the journey was filled with ups and downs. We learned on the job what it means to be a consultant. Though there are base skills we could migrate from our previous roles, there were a few critical items we learned the hard way.
Here are three things that I personally found particularly useful.
As a consultant, you work with clients from different industries and domains (like the public, development, or private sector). You work with different concepts, business models, and emerging technologies. Your experiences across all this help you spot trends, make conclusions, pose important questions, and helps connect the dots. However, this also means you need to read constantly, have a steep learning curve, and process information fast. Additionally, you need to have an eye for detail and spot any discrepancies.
Your clients are in the industry often longer than you and being market insiders would be domain experts. Active listening, picking up thoughts in real-time, and having more “uptime” during meetings help. By deep listening and asking clear questions you would be able to understand the issues at hand. However, that is not enough whatever thesis or solutions you come up with – you would also need to communicate that effectively and since the chances are these would be difficult topics to tackle not only logic but good emotional intelligence is necessary. Overall, always remember to be professional throughout the process. That doesn’t mean you can’t wine and dine with your client and stakeholders but remember work is work. The highest form of professionalism will only get the job done.
As a consultant, I have to sit in a wide variety of meetings across different industries and domains. For example, just last week I sat on a meeting with a technology team and had to cut through the “techno-babble” to understand what really happened. Similarly, you have to keep abreast of the latest changes and be aware of recent advancements. Hence you need a wide variety of knowledge and expertise to function. However, at the same time, there should be domains you are really an expert in, industries that you really understand, and business models that you can really go deep into. In short, a wide range of skill sets and knowledge with a few in-depth segments where you excel.
Being a consultant is fun and exciting. Yes sometimes the work hours are a bit demanding, and the neural learning load can be tough but at the same time, you enjoy a high degree of autonomy, flexibility, and a career with long-lasting personal growth.
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