Prospective consultants may be interested in knowing what daily life looks like. Here’s a perspective.
Our projects are typically 1-4 months in duration. The team size varies a bit. For a large team, there will be a part-time project director (a Vice President), a full time project manager (an Engagement Manager), and 2-4 consultants (associates or business analysts).
A small team will have a part-time project director, a part-time project manager, and one consultant. The project manager on a small project may be an Associate or a Senior Business Analyst (this is an excellent way to train young consultants).
Consultants usually work on one or two projects plus follow up requests from previous projects.
Most projects require travel outside the U.S. Our senior people usually travel the most, but even Business Analysts may travel within a few months. Examples:
- A week-long trip to Viet Nam for one of our Business Analysts together with senior consultants
- A two months deployment to South Africa for a team of four consultants
- Commuting to Bogota for over a two months period for one of our project leaders
A Day at the Office
A day at the office is seldom routine. But there are some patterns. We have an open work landscape with “pods” for four consultants each. We mix new and veteran consultants in each pod.
Projects start with data collection and structuring. This is often a massive undertaking and not the most exciting part of a project (also because most clients have no idea how large a task it is). There are two time-consuming tasks:
- Tagging the data and merging various data sources. This is done in Excel (or Stata for datasets over 1 million rows) and requires very advanced Excel skills. What works in a small spreadsheet does not work at all in large spreadsheets
- Checking the data and making sure everything adds up correctly along all dimensions
Moreover, we collect a lot of contextual information such as country risk assessments, competitor profiles, and consumer research. This is not all that time-consuming though.
The middle stage is to analyze the data. This is in many ways the most exciting part of the project. We go from structured datasets to managerial insights—what it all means. In this process, we work to verify or reject hypotheses. All team members participate in generating the hypotheses and the work is then divided so that team members can work on proving or disproving them.
The last stage is the crunch time when we build the deliverable. Deliverables are made in PowerPoint and all consultants make their own slides. A major part of this is the editing and proof reading. We want our slides to be understandable by the recipient (a common mistake by young consultants is to design the slides for themselves and not for the audience) and look perfect.
Much of the time is spent in front of the computer screen. There are also team meetings, client conference calls, trips to clients for presentations workshops or just to work together, and in-country market visits.
Over the course of a project, the team builds true camaraderie and when things get difficult—and they sure will—consultants will volunteer to help out.
Daily life is not all project work. Every Friday we hold a social event (Fermented Fridays) and we encourage team dinners. To take a break, people play ping pong in the office during the day. During travel, team dinners allow young consultants to get to know our veterans better. We also do sightseeing activities, such as going to Victoria Falls or Angkor Vat.