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BCG Europe Associate’s success in year 1

Elijah is a BCG associate based in Europe. He is a graduate of a European university where he finished first in his class. He is one of the youngest clients we have and was accepted into Deloitte S&O, McKinsey, Bain and Roland Berger during his graduate recruitment. He was a client of the case coaching program before joining the consultants program. He has been at BCG for over 13 months.

Why did you seek additional help for your consulting career?

I was not predicting any problems in my consulting career. I expected it to be tough with a steep learning curve and some knocks, but manageable at the end. I joined the program to manage the upside of my career.

I enjoyed the Firmsconsulting case coaching program and believe the advice was unique. Exactly what I was told would happen, happened. I was told in my mid-point feedback that I would do very well at BCG, struggle to get into McKinsey and Bain, but get there, and land Roland Berger and Deloitte S&O if I could demonstrate better competency on my teamwork skills. That is what happened.

I thought that if Firmsconsulting guided me so well through the program, and knew some of the partners in my office, I could use them to maximize my career. I did not want to struggle nor did I want to take the average amount of time to achieve my goals. I wanted to break the sound barrier! I felt this could be achieved via this unique program.

I had good chemistry with my coach and we had a nice friendship. I trusted him and relied on him to the point of vacation planning! Building that type of trust takes time and I did not want to squander it. It was my competitive advantage and I still take the time to nurture our relationship.

Michael works crazy hours. He is always online and you can almost always get him on Skype. Therefore I swapped our relationship. I started offering to help him, which is the advice he gave me to build strong mentoring relationship at BCG. The most important thing is to invest in the relationship. Which I do – every day in every way!

For example, my strategy has been to help Firmsconsulting by assisting on many of the initiatives the firms has on the go. I wanted to give back to the community. I was involved way back in January 2012 when the first session planning was done and Michael mapped out the exciting changes they were planning. I was super keen to be asked for my contributions in January 2013 and even more excited by the huge amount of progress made. I cannot wait for the changes to come out!

What was your strategy for using the program?

I had a good strategy! We would plan out my week during the weekend and touch-base any time during the week if I needed to speak. The main part for me was splitting the advice into two parts. I always wanted to know what I should do to be a good consultant AND how I could shoot the lights out. I would push Michael for ideas on how to complete the work better and better.

Although I was pushy at times, I think my coach kept me in check if I lost focus of things. I would usually try to create these perfect and complicated slides and I was told to stick to the big picture. I was forced to go back and understand why the slide was being prepared and how it would support the overall message. This taught me an important lesson that the quality of the message is more important than the amount of information on the slide. That was a struggle for me because better usually meant more and more, and for Michael it meant less and less, but the little information on the slide must be perfectly aligned to the purpose of the slide.

How did the program help you, if at all?

I talk about less and less content being more and more quality and I can provide some good examples of that.

On my first financial modelling engagement I was like the energizer bunny – all excited about building my slides to show my analyses and findings. I put together a 54 slide deck and was talking through my work with Michael. He stopped me after slide 3 and wanted to know why I was generating a 54 slide deck for the client. I did not have a good answer and said something along the lines of needing to show them my calculations and all the work I did so they could understand the final recommendation.

I am still stunned by the stupidity of that answer.

Michael made me split the presentation into two parts. The first part was just 7 slides consisting of my recommendations, the reasons for my recommendation and the implications for the business. The rest was the detail. It was very interesting to see how much better my updates with clients and the team improved when I forced attention on the findings – those 7 slides. This idea of less is more helped with my communication, ability to generate an impact with clients and reduced my workload – do not underestimate the benefit of less work.

It is humongous in consulting.

Younger consultants did the opposite. They tried to cram in as many slides as possible and with as much details on the slides as possible. I can now see how poorly that reflects on them and how confusing it is to clients.

Do you recall any memorable moments?

When I found a good mentor within BCG, I wanted to know how to thank him for his support. I wanted to take him for lunch etc. Michael told me my mentor was likely talking about me to other partners. Therefore, my performance was partly affecting the credibility of the partner. The best thing I could do to thank him was to live up to his expectations and do an exceptional job on the engagement.

This would vindicate my mentor’s decision to place me on the study. I probably would not have come to that conclusion myself but it made sense to me. The time my mentor allocated to me started increasing as my performance improved.

To quote Michael:

“Partners can like any consultant. Good or bad. Yet, they will only invest time and mentor someone who can rise to the top. You need to realize, you don’t pick mentors, they pick you and you need to give them enough merit-based decisions to select you and keep the relationship going.”

Would you like anything changed in the program?

It would be nice if there was some way for me to anonymously meet and talk to other clients in the program. There is no “support group” for management consultants and it would be very nice to listen to others stories and experiences in building one’s career. I would especially want to listen to the experiences of Firmsconsulting’s other consulting clients. The rest of the program is very good.

We have published the most useful client feedback. Our commitment to confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the identity of our clients and other confidential information, and we may alter details to prevent such disclosure. Some client feedback may be lightly edited for grammar, spelling or prose, though we never alter or remove any information. Clients in our consultants coaching program are forbidden from sharing sensitive client data with us.

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