From entry to exit, KPMG Management Consultant Dr. Dhaval Sheth discusses how to work your way through the management consulting career path.
In a truly global setting, we have witnessed monumental changes in the job market, especially since the past decade and a half. Some of the hottest jobs of the past have lost their sheen and newer concepts of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have led a massive transformation. In all of this, management consulting as an industry is unperturbed in its territory.
A Career in Management Consultancy
A Management Consultant is someone who advises top tier organizations in the private and public sector to solve their organizational problems. Overall, the job entails proposing best possible strategies to execute the business/policy mandates for clients. The clients for a management consulting firm are C-suite leaders of Fortune 500 companies, senior bureaucrats in public service and international funding organizations.
Having had an experience of 18+ years in implementation of large projects in the sectors of Ports, SEZs, Housing, Sanitation and MSME, today I’d like to share an in-depth discussion about the Management Consulting career path.
Currently, I am a Technical Director at KPMG. I lead a large team engaged in delivery of projects for the firm. I am closely involved in practice level strategy, network building and new business development for KPMG. Prior to this, I was involved in Infrastructure Finance, Port Marketing and Operations, SEZ and Investment promotion.
Management Consulting Career Path
Of course, management consulting earns the tag of being a glam career due to facets. These include frequent air travel, stay at plush hotels, greater salary earning opportunities as you climb the ladder. The mainstay of glamour involved in this career stems from working with top notch executives in large firms. That gives you an edge of being associated with the who’s who of corporate world/public sector.
We can categorize consulting companies into the following sub-types in the Indian and global context:
- Strategy Consulting
- Technology Consulting
- Operations Consulting
- Financial Advisory Consulting
- Risk & Compliance Consulting
- Government Sector Consulting
Management consulting is often the first step that leads an individual towards extraordinary paths. Being a part of transformative journeys, solving critical challenges, redefining solutions is at the core of a Management Consultant. This career choice is truly rewarding in a consulting firm and even beyond it. Now, let us ow find out the intricacies of this superlative field of management consulting.
Starting a Career in Management Consultancy
Consulting largely has 3 entry points i.e. after getting your undergraduate degree, after completing a graduate program, as a shift from industry and joining as a senior industry/public service hire.
In a consulting setup, you can start as an Analyst or an Associate Consultant and gradually move up the ladder reaching the heights of being a Director, Partner or a Senior Principal in a top tier consulting firm. Furthermore, Management Consultants get the opportunity to work beyond their firm. Large companies usually handpick many star consultants to take the CEO’s corner office, while some soar to become Directors on the boards of various organizations.
Where to Begin Your Career in Management Consulting?
Now, let’s look at a few of the top management consultancy firms in the world.
McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bain & Company, KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Strategy&, Accenture and AT Kearney are the world’s top Management Consulting firms.
While McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bain & Company, Strategy& are focused on Management Consulting at the Core, The Big 4 companies have Audit and Tax related service offering with their Advisory arm catering to Management Consulting related opportunities.
AT Kearney keenly focuses on strategy and operational consulting while Accenture provides digital, technology and strategy consulting.
Fresher Profile: What is Expected at Entry Level?
Management Consultants at the Undergraduate level typically have degrees like:
- Bachelor of Engineering (B.Tech/B.E)
- Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com)
- Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA)
- Bachelor’s in Business Management (BBM).
Such freshers are inducted as Analysts/Associate Consultants.
For freshers with post graduate qualifications, candidates with Master’s in Business Administration (MBA/MMS), Chartered Accounts (CA) and Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) are on-boarded as Consultants.
As a management consultant, you will be expected to have a meritorious academic record combined with analytical skills, interpersonal skills and ability to work hard under tight deadlines. Moreover, being involved in extracurricular activities, community programs, sports, fine arts, etc. will add a few brownie points to your candidature as well.
Moving Up the Ladder in Management Consulting Career Path
As you start at the band of an Associate or an Analyst after freshly graduating from college, a career in consulting can give you a head start with a salary range of INR 8 to 10 Lakhs. However, this also depends on the pedigree of your MBA institute and skills.
At the other end of the spectrum, consulting firm reward their Senior Partners and Principals handsomely with 5m to salary running in 7 figures, bonuses, and incentives and sometimes with a share in the profits pool of the firm.
Let’s look at how your role changes over time in the management consulting career path.
Job Responsibilities: Freshers vs. Senior Consultant
As a fresh Analyst, your tasks will include information gathering, analysis of data, crunching numbers in excel sheets and creation of PowerPoint slides. All these activities are linked to the deliverable being developed for the end client. At this level, you will have a low involvement in client relationship management and will be supporting the consulting team.
As a senior level consultant with 10 to 15 years of experience, you will work on high level strategy making. You’ll also be meeting top clients and closing large business deals, leading large teams, driving firm level initiatives, attending key events and leveraging strong business networks for the firm.
Travel: Freshers vs. Senior Consultant
Management consulting is a career which involves a lot of travel. Work typically takes place in clients’ offices, which may be in different cities, or in different parts of your city. As a fresher you can expect travel to the assigned client location on a frequent basis. It also depends if the client is located within your city limits or is located away from base location. For the senior folks, the travel increases by way of having more frequent but shorter trips to multiple clients, plants, manufacturing units, government offices, etc.
Criteria for Promotions
All consulting firms have a stringent policy for promotions. These promotions are dependent on factors such as project delivery in assigned engagements, ability to identify business development opportunities, readiness to take up next level roles to lead projects and own P&L, depth of relationship with clients.
Career Path after Management Consulting
Management Consultants at a senior level would have worked with a diverse set of clients thereby acquiring a wide array of skills, knowledge, business acumen and a strong network. This enables them to be ready for roles outside consulting firms should they decide to exit the Management Consulting career path.
Many clients themselves offer senior roles to the consultants. Then, many others go on to head large companies, take up corporate strategy roles. Consultants also have options to move base to a Venture Capital or a Private Equity fund. The Government also offers senior positions to consultants, enabling them to contribute towards nation building.
Some of the notable consulting exits in a global context:
- Indra Nooyi, Ex-CEO of Pepsico – Ex- BCG
- Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet Inc – Ex-McKinsey & Co.
- Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube – Ex- BCG
- Lael Brainard, Member, US Federal Reserve Board – Ex-McKinsey & Co.
- Amber Dubey, Joint Secretary Ministry of Civil Aviation, India – Ex-KPMG
Things to Love and Hate about this Career
The aspects I love about consulting are the opportunity to work with senior executives, witnessing strong and tangible impacts of consulting engagements, multiple chances to learn and progress at a frantic pace, working with brightest and the sharpest minds in the industry, travelling to multiple places and feeling constantly challenged to one’s limits redefining myself as an individual.
Although, there are very few things to hate about this career. Pressure and constant stress can affect consultants who are not ready yet for the big role.
Personally, I joined the consulting industry at a senior level. However I have seen many enthusiasts in my team working hard to proving their worth by implementing their dynamic ideas and converting them into reality. The ultimate feeling of achievement in the management consulting career path is when the ideas we implement become successful and then a norm. The feeling of “I/we did it!!” is all that can bring a never-ending hunger for more.
Parameters for Success in this Field
- Outstanding Communication and Relationship building skills
- Ability to multi-task projects, responsibilities
- Having attention to detail and problem-solving skills
- Developing strong sectoral/domain/vertical expertise
- Ability to adapt to an ever-evolving client/firm landscape
- Strong business development skills
Management consulting includes a broad range of activities and different firms in the business define these activities differently. Consulting entails diverse mix of sub-activities. These include providing information to clients in an expected manner, diagnosing the issues faced by the client, solving client’s problems.
It also involves making recommendations based on deep expertise and understanding of the issues. At an advanced stage it also crystallizes into actual implementation of large projects, hand holding clients by building consensus and commitment. Thus, consulting is much beyond the realm of just being an advisory role.
All in all, there is no dearth of opportunities for you in the Management Consulting career path. As a job, it will necessitate you to share ideas, elucidate concepts, and present findings on a regular basis. You will work on teams you have just met but will need to get along quickly to showcase a unified project team to the client. You will have to manage your time efficiently and smartly. The role may be overwhelming, but it will constantly challenge you to excel and deliver better performances. But all of this collectively will lead you to be thorough professional who is ready to take up tough assignments and deliver impeccably on them.
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Dr. Dhaval J. Sheth works as a Technical Director with KPMG, Mumbai with 17+ years of experience. Originally from Vadodara, Gujarat, he studied at M.S. University of Baroda, Vadodara, graduating as the youngest Ph.D. at MSU.