“One of the best parts of my job is working with smart people every day” – Ian, Partner, Deloitte
On Tuesday evening, we brought together a select group of Bright Network members to hear partners and consultants from IBM and Deloitte share their experiences of working in technology consulting, to find out just what opportunities a career here could spark. In the vaults of London’s Adam Street Club, we stripped everything back to basics to get the very best insights – no mics, no PowerPoint slides… just intelligent discussion and conversation.
After some drinks and informal networking to kick things off, Bright’s Founder James Uffindell sat down with Matt Candy, Executive Partner in Strategy & Transformation at IBM, and Ian McCaw, Associate Partner at Deloitte, to chair a panel discussion and Q&A session. Matt and Ian’s routes into consulting have been very different, with Matt starting as a graduate consultant at Pricewaterhouse (which became PwC, and was then acquired by IBM in 2002) and working his way up through the ranks, and Ian working at several smaller technology firms before setting up a boutique consultancy that was acquired by Deloitte in 2010 – thus giving us two equally interesting but varied insights into this sector.
To start with, they talked about what their work as consultants in technology involves on a day to day basis as well the bigger picture. The main issues they find their clients facing range from moving to cloud computing and systems, to improving analytics and data mining, so that businesses can get the most out of their data – former Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously said that every two days we create as much information as we did up to 2003, so there are huge opportunities here. Energy efficiency and cyber security are two other major areas of development in this sector – by 2020, for example, most households in the UK will use smart meter technology, collecting information about domestic energy usage to make this more efficient, and implementing this nationally is no small feat.
So… what is it that two Partners of global consulting firms love most about their work in technology? For both Matt and Ian, it’s all about the people – working with smart, driven people every day is stimulating and gives you the opportunity to learn a lot on the job. In consulting, you also get the buzz of winning pitches for and then working on big projects with high-profile, well respected and often international organisations, and the variety and flexibility that goes with it – Matt’s first project as a graduate in technology was in Barcelona, and both men have travelled the world to work on projects. That can be a downside, though, as travelling around a lot isn’t for everyone (and Heathrow at 5am can feel a pretty bleak place) – it’s of course up to an individual to work out what’s best for them in a job.
Both Ian and Matt also emphasised the importance of personality when looking for people who will stand out and be a great team fit in any area of consulting. When they’re interviewing people, they need to know if they will be able to work with you, put you in front of the clients who will be paying a lot of money for your services, and spend long projects with you as part of their team. Both men are from technical backgrounds, with Matt a Computer Science graduate and Ian working as a software engineer after graduation. While having a numerate background is useful, it’s by no means a requirement in this area of consulting, as technical skills are things you can learn on projects. The advice they give for anyone going to an interview is to show a genuine interest in technology and be quietly confident, keen to learn and get stuck in, but not come across as arrogant or in any way difficult to work with.
“In consulting, your network is your life blood” – Matt, Partner, IBM
After sharing their experiences, we brought out the wine and the whistle – key points of any Bright event – to start some speed networking sessions. To make sure our members got to chat to and make connections with a variety of consultants and partners from both firms, we did a few rounds of speed networking – moving everyone around the room to meet new people on a whistle blow every few minutes.
Building these relationships and connections is key to any business, and in a sector as people-driven and people-focused as consulting, the earlier you can get started, the better. The short-term benefit is that it could see your applications flagged up and fast-tracked by senior firm members, while in the longer term you will find that you’ve been building up a network of people whom you can ask for advice or with whom you can collaborate down the line.