The Life as a Consultant series continues. The guest today is a senior consultant from Celerant Consulting – an operations-focused consulting firm.
Disclaimer: I did not personally conduct this interview. Both the questions and answers were sent to me by a kind reader. I found the content to be insightful and thorough, so enjoy!
I’ve bolded parts that are helpful for consulting applicants, and have additional comments in gray paragraph boxes at the end of each question
What do you do?
Celerant is a virtual company, in that we don’t have regional offices. Our consultants live anywhere in North America that they wish and the project sites become their office. Typically I will fly out Monday morning and return on Friday evening every week of a project which tend to last anywhere from 4-12 months at a time. Upon arrival on Monday morning I go directly to the client site where it is expected I will begin work no later than after lunch that day.
My typical day (averages 12 hours long) is spent facilitating a client team through identification and development of solutions. Another large portion of my time is spent helping this team explain the value of our solutions to key stakeholders in the organization. I’m working with people from the ground floor up to top management in order to fully implement sustainable change in the organization. Implementing change includes helping them to see the value of change and how it will benefit everyone in the long run, and getting the key people to feel so good about new ways that they are carrying out their business that they would never want to go back to the old.
The value we offer our clients first and foremost is that of an outsider with experience in their field with ideas and alternative solutions to the way that work is currently being done. We are change agents. It is our job to help stretch the clients thinking of what is possible and drive them to implement new or improved systems and processes which will in turn streamline the workflow and rationalize the work being done by those people in certain functions and decision making roles. Typically we take a hard look at things like:
- Identifying & picking up ‘quick wins’ (financial and cultural improvements that can happen within minimal effort or approval) that can gain momentum for the client & the project
- Reviewing how the client manages its inventories, organizes & executes activities across departments, and responds to market demands.
- How effectively the client is forecasting, planning, executing and reporting the work that is taking place
- Realigning the roles, responsibilities, and structure within the organization in alignment with the value chain for the company
What sets Celerant apart from other consultancies is that we are an Implementation and Operational Strategy consultancy. We are on the ground with the people doing the work and achieving cost savings & process optimization which link directly to the bottom line. Also, as a result of the program that we come in offering and the typical project duration we pride ourselves on our ability to deliver sustainable behavior change to our clients which will assure a culture of continuous improvement has been institutionalized.
Read my post on a day in consulting and additional thoughts on consulting travel. Celerant is focused on operations work – intense, daily client interaction with folks up and down the org chart is typical
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What steps have you taken to get to where you are today?
This was my first job after graduating from college. It was through much conversation with professors, friends, and career services that I identified the field of Management Consulting as the field I wanted to enter. I realized up front the rigor of the job (travel, lifestyle, etc) but was enticed by the opportunity to see the inner workings of many different companies and learn first hand the ‘Don’t and Don’ts’ of business so that one day my company won’t make the same mistakes.
I entered Celerant at the consultant level and was promoted 1.5 years later to the title of Senior Consultant. With the promotion I have taken on much more responsibility and expectations for output and thought leadership. I have spent time in many different areas of our company learning about offerings such as Asset Management, Supply Chain, and most recently Organizational Effectiveness. I see the experience of diversifying experience in the first few years as a ‘Must Do’, for it helps ones marketability as well as helping you avoid becoming pigeon holed when looking for future jobs in that industry or if you were to change industries altogether.
Consulting affords a broad business education, but you can’t take it for granted. Strive to learn a diverse set of skills to keep options open. More on consulting skills here
What qualities do you and your company/organization find most attractive when hiring?
Years of experience in related industries and/or consulting are a big plus when applying. But I think the following characteristics about a candidate are also very appealing to Celerant:
- Experience facilitating, coaching, and driving groups to solutions and outputs
- A “whatever it takes” mentality
- Self Confidence
- The ability to present and speak with confidence about ones convictions and ideals
- Not just an understanding of the problems that companies face or the solutions to improve their current situation, but the ability to take the client from the old to the new (Facilitation)
- Creativity to solving problems and the ability to communicate with others
What sort of academic and professional experiences would be helpful in landing a job in your field?
I think that the following were all very important in preparing me to land a job in the consulting field:
- My focus on Management & Organizational Behavior “Why do people act and behave like they do in given situations?” or “What do good organizations do?”
- Experiences in coaching and leading in many different arenas in and out of college. I spent 4 years coaching basketball, took on many leadership positions within volunteer organizations, and was forced to develop & implement solutions within all of those experiences
- Ability to understand at a high level those buttons that impact the bottom line and financial viability of a company
- Utilize your professors/mentors/friends in industry as advisors that you keep in touch with. I have continued to keep my 2 college advisors as well as some close friends (both peers and from my parents generation) abreast of my endeavors, thoughts, concerns, and new ideas on given basis. People you have a connection with are receptive to listening and want to offer advice.
Having had no prior “long term” industry experience when entering this job it was these past experiences that helped me to relate, adapt, and find solutions to problems I encountered along the way.
Where would you recommend that people interested in this occupation begin to look?
- Use the college and grad school alumni network – Call, e-mail, take them out to lunch
- Use the network of family and friends you have – they know you the best as far as your credibility, although you may need to show them that you are definitely ready and qualified to enter the industry you are looking at
- Go knocking on doors & find ways to talk to people in companies you are interested in
- Have a mantra/story that you are always talking about. Not just a clear picture of what you want to do, but why and how excited you are about finding an opportunity. It is amazing how powerful it is when one keeps their goal in mind at all turns, and how opportunities begin to present themselves
What are your future professional plans?
I will own my own business someday soon down the road. Risky? Yes, but I’m very clear that I want to be the one ultimately accountable for my success and that of my company.
I also look forward to working in executive development one day coaching CEO’s and top level management teams through transitions, tough decisions, and new opportunities.
I’m very excited to return to coaching at some time in the future and work developing and mentoring young people through athletics.
Lastly, I hope to one day be able to be a sounding board and Angel investor for young people and the business ideas and plans that they want to get off the ground.
I think that I will need to be a CEO in order to coach CEOs (credibility). To that point I believe that getting my MBA will be critical as well.
Entrepreneurship and venture capital are two attractive consulting exit options
Any last words of wisdom?
- Keep your goal in mind at all times. Let it emanate from you in all you do.
- Take every opportunity to learn and increase your frame of reference
- Do what you like, define success for yourself (don’t let others) and become comfortable with the reality of what it will take to achieve that success. If you are doing something you don’t like, it will be clear to everyone you work with.
Are you a current consultant or someone who recruited successfully? Interested in being interviewed? Please get in touch to be featured in the Life as a Consultant series.