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Professional reflections – My first year of consulting at the Firm

April 22, 2013 1 comment

On May 8, I would have clocked in a full 365 days as a member of the Firm (what is internally referred to as 1+0 in the firm). And it has got me thinking of how my journey has been thus far… so over the next couple of weeks, I will share my reflections from within.

What started out as a dream job has turned into finding my true passion… a calling which combines
(1) working with the best minds to solve some of the complex organizational problems,
(2) pushing for professional excellence with independence respected by others,
(3) realizing the profound ability to connect deeply with clients, and
(4) adding a sense of meaning to my life and those of others around me.

As consultants, there is definitely a strong sense of responsibility to the organizations we serve and also the stakeholders within (employees from the front line to the C-suite, shareholders, customers, suppliers, and regulators included). Few lessons I have learned in the course of solving some challenging topics has been:
1. Do not lose sight of the “human element” in consulting work. This human element approach gets me to a fundamental principle: We should not view a human as an economic unit and then endeavor to find the most economically viable solution viewing all problems from the angle of the economic effect and cost. And the basic premise of “unlimited wants, limited resources” has to be corrected since most of the informed people in the world have realized by now that the resources are ample enough to completely satisfy the basic needs of all.
2. Respect for clients and colleagues. We often take this for granted but it is important to time and again acknowledge the roles each one brings to solving a problem, and their contributions. It is not to discount the fact that some people are difficult to work with but the positive side of that experience is the opportunity you get to master your people skills. Needless to say, there are more people who have been great colleagues/ clients than not so it absolutely is essential to be able to acknowledge their good support/ work and say a simple “Thank you!” every so often.
3. Be aware of your long-term goals and continuously calibrate to stay on track. This is one place where everyone can easily chart their own path independently and with much ease. When I reconnect with peers who joined the firm at the same time, I am yet to find someone who’s had exactly the same path as I did and yet everyone’s reasonably comfortable with the way their path has turned out to be. Speaking for myself, I was fortunate to have found the right mentors and managers that allowed me to decide where I placed my next step on this career ladder.
4. More tenure means more problem solving. Some people have a notion of consulting that as one gets tenured, the farther away one moves from the actual problem solving. That definitely doesn’t seem to be the case at McKinsey. Every client study I have been on, the leadership (Partners and Directors) have been as actively engaged and have provided immense value to problem solving with their continuous insights. Often times, the Director on the study would have had more knowledge about the client organization than the client leaders themselves given their long relationship in serving a particular client.
5. Know your strengths and also your development needs. In the past I would have been hesitant at sharing my “development needs” (aka weaknesses) but at the firm, I have found it so easy to be vocal about that so that people around me can provide me opportunities to better myself on those dimensions. At the same time, it has helped highlighting my strengths (I admit, it’s hard to talk about your strengths while controlling the brag buttons) to be able to help bring those to life in client engagements.
6. Prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize. There is so much you can do at the firm that is beyond the humanly possible limits. As I initially learned the hard way in business school, the firm experience thus far has given me lessons in ‘Prioritization 201’ through which I have found it easy to prioritize what I do at the firm based on two broad dimensions – alignment with my passion, and contribution to my career goals.
7. Manage your time and have control over it. Might sound odd but given my habit of trying to stay punctual (in my world, it means always before time) and the multitasking I end up doing (sometimes of my own choosing), I find it very important to not only manage my time well but also control my time. This is something I observed in a few partners at the firm who come out as being in total control of their time and priorities. One tactical implementation of this principle (sounds silly) is to always schedule one-on-one meetings with colleagues/ clients/ friends as you calling them since you don’t end up waiting for them to call you otherwise.