I joined Strategy& with an aerospace engineering background and no real understanding of what management consulting is about. After six years with the firm I still can’t adequately describe what we do on a daily basis because it is so varied. Our projects can be anything from optimizing corporate cost to setting up world-class operations.
On my most recent project, I was assigned to work on the national program of a GCC country. My week begins on Sunday afternoon when I head to the airport to catch a flight. I am due at the client site by 9 am Monday morning so the Sunday journey gives me time to prepare for the week ahead. The rest of my team is either on my flight or on flights from their respective home cities. On the flight I send out emails to the partners and the team summing up where we are, what is in store for the week, and what needs to get done.
Monday at 9 am the working week begins. My colleagues and I usually gather at a team room at the client’s office. We start off with meetings with senior clients to agree on concrete actions to take and the direction and scope of the project. We then spend a lot of time gathering and understanding data, discussing potential solutions, and creating concrete suggestions. I like to use a collaborative problem-solving method, which includes solving problems and developing solutions jointly with the client, using their expertise and full understanding of the situation.
It’s not a typical for consultants to work longer than their client counterparts, as after-hours proves to be one of the most productive times of the day. So once the client has gone home, we spend the evening documenting our initial findings. We order dinner to the client site and continue to work on our tasks.
On Tuesday, my day starts a little bit earlier, at 7 am, because I have an update call with the partner in Dubai. We exchange project updates and discuss how to structure our analysis moving forward. We go over our open deliverables for the week, our strategy for completing those tasks, any potential risks that may result in a delay. This week we are starting a public–private partnership (PPP) assessment for initiatives set forth by the various ministries and government entities participating in the national program. Our task is to create a tool that enables the client to assess different initiatives and services for PPP opportunities. After we have gathered details from the client, we conduct a couple of interviews with experts in the privatization field to enhance the quality of our deliverable. Finally, we present our findings in meaningful charts — a painstaking yet important step nonetheless.
Wednesday we start our day at 8:30 am in the team room with the partner in charge, who flew in the previous night to work with us for the next two days. We brief the partner about today's meetings and project status and, most important, we review the first draft of the deck. We cut our working session short when the client calls for a meeting. Client meetings make up a very important part of day-to-day work, and you can expect at least one every day. During these meetings, we usually review deliverables or gather inputs. After our client meeting, we grab some tea or coffee to fuel up for the second half of the day, and spend the afternoon working on deliverables. After we’ve created more Excel and PowerPoint files than we’d like to admit, we go for a late project team dinner with the partner. This is a great opportunity to relax and get to know the partner we’re working with a little better.
I wake up Thursday at 7 am, feeling a bit tired but pumped for a project executive sponsor meeting. Thursday is also travel day, so after a hotel express checkout we meet with the partner to review the morning’s presentation, discuss the overall messaging, and agree on speaking roles. At the client office, we meet with the project executive sponsor. The partner and I present the content and the team jumps in with comments related to their sections of the presentation. The meeting goes well and the team is in great spirits post-presentation. Before catching a ride with my team members to the airport, I meet up with my client counterpart and talk about the details of the analysis, agree on a few follow ups, and go over the additional data he will send me early next week. Once at the airport, I head to the lounge for a pre-flight snack. There I tend to bump into colleagues staffed on other projects, and it gives us a chance to catch up.
It has been a long week at the client site, but the weekend is not yet here! Although Friday is our “office day,” there is much work to do. We use the time to prepare documents for the next week, conduct analyses, and also complete some of the admin stuff we don’t have time for during the week. For lunch, everyone meets up in the office social area where we sit down with our colleagues, get to learn about each other’s projects and travels, and other firm news. I tend to be very efficient on Fridays: I try to close my laptop by 7 pm, unless there is something urgent for Monday. I usually opt to leave early no matter what, even if it means I have to spend an hour or two on the weekend finishing, because on Fridays I like to join my friends for some sunset drinks or go home early.
Nothing in the day-to-day of a consultant is glamorous or amazing. It is pedantic and it is hard. But when you step back and realize what you’ve accomplished, the knowledge you put together, the relationships you’ve formed, what you’ve learned, and the assistance you’ve hopefully provided, you recognize the magnitude of your work.