About Management Consulting

Describing what I do for work is always very difficult, unless I’m talking to someone who either WAS a management consultant or someone who has HIRED a management consultant.   “I help companies solve problems” is really too vague.   But that’s what I do.   Corporations sometimes do not have the resources to put against problems/projects in their organization, or sometimes seek unbiased opinions/recommendations, or sometimes they know the answer but they hire you because they want YOU to deliver the bad news to management….   The job is demanding, unpredictable, and can be crushing.   There are different “flavors” of management consulting.   I’ve worked at several.   I’ve worked as a strategy consulting “generalist” where I could have a high-tech client one day and a major bank the next.    There are also different types of functions – strategy, operations, technology, change management…. the list goes on and on.   Almost anyone these days can call themselves a “consultant”.   More so now given the high unemployment rate… I’m seeing a lot of “independent consultants” out there these days.

I’ve been in the profession for 10+ years.   Your experience various significantly depending upon the role you take on and the type of company you are with.   However, there are some fundamental traits that are absolutely required for the type of work I do — problem solving and communication skills.   Junior staff typically build models and scour for research.   Team Leaders / project managers typically set up the approach to the work and organize a team to answer the key questions/objectives of the project.   Building presentations that tell a compelling story is important at any level.  As you progress you are expected to sell engagements.  I have found that selling follow-on work is always easier than selling new work to new clients.   The best compliment a consultant can get is repeat business from a client.

The below passage sums up what it’s like when you first start the profession:

“A Day in the LifeIt’s 8 a.m. and you’re airborne, off to visit a new client, a large medical center. Your project is to develop a plan for improving the center’s supply chain, with heavy emphasis oncontinuity—ensuring that immediately after a natural disaster or terrorist attack, supplies will keep coming. On the plane, you review notes that the project leader gave you about the client: its background, needs, wants, and financial resources. You then call up a database of your firm’s info on supply-chain management. When you first meet with the client, you’re pedaling hard: As a 20-something with no experience in the client’s business, you’re trying to seem as confident, knowledgeable, and open-minded as possible. You meet with people all day, returning to your hotel at 7 p.m. You start cranking out a piece of the proposal and work until 11, because the client is expecting something in the morning.”
Source:  Best Careers 2009, US News.com

There is absolutely no way I could be able to do this job if I were at a more junior-level.   Since I am at a more senior level, I can get more involved in the selling and oversight of projects — so that means less physical hours required.   Why am I still in this profession even though I now have children (particularly FOUR children!)?

  • I thrive on project-based work.
  • I enjoy the people I work with.
  • I’m always learning.  I’m always stretching my skillset.
  • I like tackling problems.
  • I like dialogue with clients and negotiation with them to get a point across or to sell a point of view.
  • I like being viewed as an advisor.
  • I like being a mentor to junior staff.
  • I like that people know that I’m dependable and that I’ll get the work done.
  • I like that I am at a level where I can enjoy considerable flexibility.
  • The travel still excites me, but has become a logistical challenge over the years.
  • I like interviewing executives and coupling that with other research to identify root-cause issues and then figure out what to do about it.
  • I really enjoy giving presentations…. but ONLY if I believe in what it is that I am talking about.
  • I can be passionate about my work but I am often more passionate about making my client and our firm look successful.
  • This is an amazing profession that directly relates to transitions and personal growth… business problems change – business problems are often unique; you are always dealing with a different cast of characters.  You need to stay on your toes and you need to learn from past experiences.

Children, of course, have complicated my job.  However my company has continuously reiterated to me that I am valuable and that there could always be “hybrid” options available to me should I need to consider them.   They do not want to lose me and that makes me feel great.   But the intensity of the job, coupled with the intensity of my home life, does take a toll.

But, I’m here for now —- crazed one day, slow the next.   I never exactly know what my day will look like.

Thanks for listening – comments/ thoughts appreciated –

-Mama K


  1. What are the “hybrid” options? Actually, the question to ask yourself is what would be a hybrid option that might work for you? What would you want to try?

    • Mama J –
      I’m thinking about contract consulting OR consulting on a severely reduced schedule — say 10 AM to 3 or 4 PM. Working from home and essentially taking a 50% cut in pay. But this terrifies me. I might start with taking one day off (preferrably Wednesdays to break up the week) and then maybe over time moving to the reduced hour workload if they let me. I’ve been at my firm now for over 7 years so I have some leeway with them – they know what I can do and how I can deliver value. I’ll keep you posted. Can’t wait for you to get here.

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