4 areas to consider when planning your career in consulting

Nadun Muthukumarana, Partner at Deloitte and MCA Board Member.

A brief history of me

I studied maths at school and computer science at university. Even though I didn’t start my 23 year long career as a consultant, it didn’t take long before I found my true calling as a consultant 16 years ago. During this time, I have worked in many industries private and public; for clients big and small and local and global; travelled the world and experienced many cultures; been in teams and been managed, then went on to have created and led new teams; helped client businesses whilst managing our own [consulting business] as one; witnessed many revolutions from the dot com, SOA, cloud, social, digital  to big data now – all of which have made mine a vibrant and a fulfilling career.

Why I love consulting

Consulting is one of the few industries that lets you contribute and be part of the transformation of institutions that are household names that drive national and global economies and communities. I love the opportunity you get as a consultant to help many different clients throughout your career. I take pride in sharing my stories with young consultants who I hope are inspired by them. Consulting is also unique where the discipline of critical thinking combined with curious ingenuity can drive equal or sometimes better value compared to what deep subject matter expertise alone can provide. I believe individuals who are attracted to consulting share a common passion for these attributes.  The other reason why I like consulting is that you are part of a high energy, creative community. At Deloitte, we operate as a family where we look after one another as if they were our own. I believe this makes work more enjoyable and delivers better outcomes for our clients.

The future is bright

There is a popular saying that the past is not necessarily an indicator for the future. I believe my career experiences have helped me to anticipate future trends and allowed me to guide young consultants. My career journey may not act as a direct guide as I believe the dynamics of the consulting industry of the future will be different to when I first started out in consulting. But, some truths such as relationship building, creativity, integrity and good work ethics will remain timeless.

So, here are four areas that you should consider when planning your career:

  1. Talent, one size doesn’t fit all – In the past, despite various competency areas, most consulting firms largely had one, all-encompassing career model for everyone and sourced talent from a fixed pool. Due to the explosion of demand in some areas (e.g. digital, analytics & cyber) and the resulting shortage of skills supplied through traditional channels, the industry is changing the way it’s sourcing and growing its talent pool. People with vocational skills complementing the traditional graduate intakes are reflective of our industry modernising.  This has driven the creation of various career models to accommodate the diverse set of specialisms now prominent in consulting which ranges from advisory, delivery to engineering. Therefore, it is important that you understand the career paths available to you within your firm and in the industry, and that you set out on the right path.
  2. Have a Plan –. I think it helps immensely to plan your career in 3-5 year blocks. Try and describe the skills that you want to develop as each year , e.g. communication, relationships, planning, execution If you can identify your passion for a competency and/or an industry early on, all the better, but not essential if you can’t. Having a plan is also a useful way to self-measure your progress, beyond the annual metrics consultants usually have, and be confident that you are getting there.
  3. Celebrate Diversity – I believe, now more than ever, that we are much more appreciative of the benefits of having diverse teams. Diversity may come in the form of skill types, gender, experience, ethnicity, culture and many more, all of which will drive new thinking and innovation. Our clients are going through similar changes and therefore, our teams must reflect similar characteristics. At Deloitte we are proud to be highly diverse in many ways, but we always strive to improve even more. What aspect about you talks to diversity? Do you truly understand the benefits of diversity and celebrate it?
  4. Give back – The modern businesses carry a much stronger sense of social responsibility. The millennials generation demonstrates a greater level of passion towards social collaboration and fairness, sustainability and the environment. I believe young consultants seamlessly fuse these values into their professional lives as they do with their private. I am a strong believer in each generation giving something back to the next which makes the world go around. I also think this growing sentiment will result in firms having much more prominent and integrated capabilities that give back to society as business as usual.

I hope you find this a useful perspective. Above all, stay passionate, curious and with a positive open mind and you will have a fulfilling career in consulting.

This article was written as part of the Young MCA Update.