Day in the Life of a Consulting Apprentice | Joe Shepherd

Degree Apprentice Consultant

How did I get into consulting?

Since finishing school in 2016 my journey to consulting was ‘unplanned’ to say the least. It started with an all too stereotypical gap year travelling through South-East Asia which was followed by a short stint at university and an assorted array of jobs from McDonald’s to Undertaking.

I applied for an apprenticeship because I wanted to study for a degree and have the opportunity to develop myself personally and professionally.

I was accepted onto Atkins’ Apprentice Consultancy Development Programme in January 2021 and started my first and current role shortly after, working as a project manager on a cyber security programme in the Defence Market.

I realised pretty quickly after joining Atkins, that the potential opportunities within the apprenticeship scheme were so much vaster than any amount of Wikipedia perusing could have prepared me for.

What does a day in my life look like?

I wish I could claim my day starts at 4am with a quick 10k and a kale shake, but it’s probably slightly more accurate to say my day begins at 9am with my team “stand-up” meetings. The stand-ups are a chance for my team and I to plan and assign our tasks, discuss our project’s progress, and any challenges we’re facing.

From then, my days can vary a lot. When I started on my project, I shadowed my project manager supporting them in all facets of their work, including scheduling, risk management, budgeting, and even writing business cases. I still spend a lot of my time shadowing and always end up learning something new.

My team is very supportive of my development and have helped me grow into my role. Recently they’ve given me the responsibility to manage an important aspect of our project; in my experience so far, I would say organisation and problem solving make up a significant portion of my project work. Another large part of my role involves speaking to people all across the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which led to one of my proudest achievements when I gave a presentation on my project to a room, of what felt like 300 people (but was probably closer to 40).

Although I know I’ve come a long way, I’m also conscious of how much more there is to learn. A great advantage of being an apprentice is that over the duration of the scheme, we are encouraged to take on different roles, in different markets with new responsibilities and challenges.

I’ve also been lucky enough to travel to client offices like the Army Headquarters and MOD main building in London; an experience I’m yet to get used to, but something I’m really looking forward to doing more of this year.

Alongside my client project, I’ve joined some of the many internal Atkins initiatives that young professionals can get involved in. I participate in the Reverse Mentoring scheme which gives junior staff a chance to help senior staff with their objectives. I also project managed a team in the Apprentice Challenge, a competition that tasks first-year apprentices with running a project independently from start to finish.

As part of my apprenticeship, I spend the equivalent of one day a week studying for my BSc (Hons) Project Management Degree, which I do by attending lectures, researching for, and writing my essay assignments. I can’t overstate the advantage of being able to immediately apply what I’m studying into my work; it’s something I notice and benefit from every day.

Should you consider an apprenticeship in consulting?

I can only speak to my own experience with any confidence (and even that’s a stretch), but I believe all kinds of personalities can enjoy and succeed in consulting. I would wholeheartedly recommend the apprentice route to anyone considering it as a career.