Career interview with: Robert Knight
Role: Management Consultant
Company: A.T. Kearney
Transition: Corporate Law to Management Consulting
What does your typical day at work look like?
I advise senior leadership teams on strategic and operational improvement opportunities in their business. Typically, there are three key aspects to my job:
Data Collection: I collect information about the organisation, the industry and the problem. This typically involves engaging the client internally, interviewing market leaders externally, and working with subject matter experts within the firm.
Data Analysis: I review, synthesise and analyse information I've collected to develop insights and identify trends. On a day-to-day basis, this means building financial, statistical and trend modelling, benchmarking information against historical or industry information, and testing/validating the results with the business.
Recommendation: Using the results of my data collection and analysis, I prepare recommendations and business plans, and present these to the client's leadership team. Following a recommendation, we are sometimes asked to build a roadmap to implementation and begin mobilising teams to carry out recommendations.
What are the best parts of your role?
What I love about my role is being given access to the same treasure of knowledge and resources as Australia's top CEOs, and being expected to rise up to the same exhilarating challenges.
What are the most challenging/difficult parts of your role?
What is most challenging about my role is the tenacity and endurance that is required to work in professional services. The hours are long and the work is challenging, and this can make work life balance difficult
How is success measured in your role?
In my role, success is assessed on across three key metrics:
Core consulting skills: At the core of my role is the ability to collect and analyse information. The ability to interpret data and develop new / interesting insights is key. The ability to do this relies on being able to effectively manipulate data into digestible formats (using excel or powerpoint), as well as structure and synthesise arguments based on incomplete data is critical.
Client engagmeent skills: As a professional service, the ability o engage clients effectively is also a key measure of success. Being able to communicate with clients at the appropriate level (both up and down), convince stakeholders of the value of your recommendations and align people internally to help you drive towards an outcome is critical to success.
Leadership skills: As part of an A.T. Kearney team, an Associate must also be able to provide guidance to junior associates and analysts, as well as provide support and clarity of thought to project managers and partners. Being able to lead a team and manage expectations differentiates good and bad associates.
What advice would you give to people trying to get a job in your company or field of work?
The great thing about consulting is that consulting firms hire diversely! There is no 'typical' background. Top consulting firms hire scientists, lawyers, engineers, commerce students and arts students to name a few.
What makes a candidate stand-out is a demonstration of leadership skills and a natural sense of curiosity. This could be through leading a club or team, chancing your hand at a start-up or showing an interest in multiple fields and disciplines etc. Beyond this, internships with a strategy or operations edge are valuable, and an MBA is required to be hired at the Associate level.
My personal story is that I was a lawyer of 3 years, left to do an MBA at a good school, and applied for Associate consulting roles from there. My client engagement skills from law were identified as transferrable skills, my interviewers loved hearing about my interests as a musician, and my leadership skills in advising start-ups helped me secure a job.
What kinds of roles do people in your field of work go on to do after they move on, either if they stay in the industry or leave the industry?
In consulting, people typically end up following 1 of 2 routes. In the first instance, management consultants become career advisors. This could mean progressing through the firm to become a Partner that continues to advise clients on projects at a senior executive level, or sitting on corporate boards as directors to provide strategic advice and guidance.
In the second instance, management consultants leave the firm to move client-side. This could mean becoming an integral member or leader of a businesses' strategy and ops team, or it could mean joining the operations arm of a PE or venture capital firm.
The exit opportunities for management consultants are highly diverse, and this is one of the biggest draw cards applicants seeking to join the industry.
Before joining consulting, I had been an Associate at a corporate law firm for 3 years. I had studied International Studies / Law at University.
Why did you transition from law to consulting?
I transitioned from law to consulting because I was not happy in my job. I loved being an advisor, but I found what I was advising on (mostly loan contracts) to be dry. I loved being a part of transformative projects, but I wanted to understand (and be a part of) the big picture strategic thinking, and not just the formalise the deal once the decisions had been made. I saw management consulting as an opportunity to preserve the advisory side of my job, while being right at the coal face of the decision-making process. I made the transition primarily through 3 actions:
- Work alignment: In my role as a lawyer, I tried to align myself with opportunities that would give me the most exposure to business. For example, I joined the M&A and Banking practices (which gave me a view into what was happening in the business world), and I invested time in growing the firm's advisory business for startups (who were open to receiving strategic advice alongside legal services).
2. MBA: I applied for business school and obtained an MBA. This gave me the opportunity to reinvent how people perceived me. That is, I wasn't just a lawyer with a law degree, but a potential business person with an MBA.
3. Networking: I networked with friends, colleagues and acquaintences who were already consultants to understand what they did, what hiring opportunities were available and take on any advice they had about applying for their particular firm. This was critical during the interview process in demonstrating my seriousness about the job.