I joined Strategy& in 2009 as an associate in the digital business and technology practice. Last year, I earned my MBA as a firm-sponsored student at Chicago Booth, where I concentrated in analytic finance and accounting. Today, my practice area has expanded to include investments and real estate. Because every Strategy& project brings with it new clients, colleagues, locations, and responsibilities, there is not a typical week in the life of a consultant. To give you a glimpse into this lifestyle, I’ll share some highlights from a week during my last project, which is fairly representative of our projects.
On a 12-week project to develop the e-commerce strategy for one our clients in Doha, Qatar, I was leading the e-markets stream, which included identifying the relevant e-market models for our client, developing the associated business and operating models, and assessing the business case for implementation. This project was exemplary in mixing strategy with execution, as we not only drove the e-commerce agenda, but we also engaged in partnership discussions and business development for our client at the same time.
Working weeks in most countries in the Middle East start on Sunday and end on Thursday. I preferred to work Sundays from my home office in Dubai, and cover the rest of the week from the client site to maximize overlap with Beirut-based consultants, who have Saturdays and Sundays as their weekend.
So, on Sunday morning, I packed my carry-on and headed to the Strategy& office in DIFC, Dubai. I grabbed a quick breakfast in the office kitchen and then closed out outstanding emails from the weekend, updated the week’s plan and activities, and sent out calendar invites for upcoming client, vendor, and team meetings. I also reviewed a new version of the e-commerce business model that one of my team members had updated, and sent it back with annotations for discussion. Given our hectic travel schedules, I always grab lunch on office days with office colleagues and friends working on other projects, to catch up on their news and project updates. After lunch, I sent out a few networking emails for business development activities on behalf of our client, met with a technology vendor who was pitching an e-commerce solution for consideration by our client, then sat down with one of the office partners to discuss firm, practice, and personal updates. I headed to the airport at 8 PM to catch the evening flight, and took advantage of the downtime in the cab to call my parents in Lebanon – consultants’ schedules are sometimes so busy that the only time we can call family and friends is during taxi rides to and from client sites and airports. I arrived at the hotel in Doha by midnight and got a good night’s rest in preparation for Monday.
When we were in the client’s office, we typically followed the client’s schedule, which meant working from 9 AM until 3 PM on-site; we then spent the rest of the day either at our Doha office or back at the hotel business facilities. I met with the team on Monday morning at 8:15 in the hotel for breakfast, and caught up on their weekend updates. We were at the client site by 9 AM, and I began by aligning with the project manager on the week’s activities, following up with the client on missing data, and reviewing outstanding deliverables with my team. We ordered sandwiches for a quick lunch at the client site, and then at 3 PM we returned to the hotel. Before starting our afternoon work session at the hotel, I always insisted on a one-hour break for the team to pursue their personal interests. I used the time to go to the gym, something I do wherever I go. During the rest of the day, I finalized with the team the updates for the e-commerce business plan deliverable, reviewed it with the project manager, and had it ready by 1 AM for presentation to the client the next day.
Tuesdays on this project were always different from any other working days. First, we had the weekly operative team meeting, during which we shared with our client counterparts major updates to the project and did content review for deliverables. On this occasion, we presented the e-commerce business plan during the meeting, responded to clarifications, and captured the client’s feedback for further updates. On Tuesdays we also had our weekly Project Closed Loop (PCL), where team members shared updates on their respective streams, as well as professional development needs. After the PCL we usually did something relaxing or fun as a team, whether that be a nice dinner outside the hotel, paintball competitions, or beach football and volley. On this particular week, we headed to the jazz bar in our hotel.
On Wednesday, I brainstormed with the team about the next phase of the project, which was the development of an operating model for our client that would support its potential e-commerce products. I also had an update call with my mentee, had a feedback session with project seniors, and conducted business development calls, among other activities.
On Thursday, I wrapped up any outstanding tasks for the week, discussed with the project manager and team members our next steps, and took the flight back to Dubai to be on time for office social drinks that evening.
This dynamic, ever-evolving environment is what makes the job interesting for me, as there’s always an opportunity to learn something new and grow professionally and personally.