Karan: How is working for a boutique consulting firm different from working for larger consulting firms?
Bryan: My expectations from choosing to work with a boutique firm was primarily based on exposure and greater decision making in the firm strategy. In addition to this, I wanted to manage client relationships end-to-end where I was responsible for client delivery as well has developing relationships between my firm and the client. Today I am working on three projects with a major multinational technology client and am also leading the market expansion strategy for the firm. In this way, the exposure I am getting working with the firm as well as large clients is helping me achieve these goals and objectives.
Karan: What are the pros and cons of working for a boutique consulting firm?
Bryan: A key pro in working with a boutique firm is that you get to see the value you are creating within the firm and with its clients almost instantaneously. Also, the influence you have in decision making and firm strategy goes a long way and you are also given the opportunity to lead initiatives that interest you. On the flip side, a con for working with a boutique firm is the type of people that can survive in a boutique world. Unlike larger firms where people with different working styles can thrive, a boutique firm requires individuals who are able to manage multiple responsibilities of equal priority without diminishing the entrepreneurial nature of the person. In this way, you tend to work with very highly-charged and motivated individuals and thus begin seeing common patterns in work cultures without any major diversity.
Karan: What skills/personality would fit in well with a boutique consulting company?
Bryan: As mentioned in my previous response, individuals who are willing to take on multiple responsibilities and manage client relationships at the same time would thrive in a boutique world. It is not for the faint-hearted and considering the large sphere of influence you would have, your decisions would make or break your career. A good foresight, ability to multi-task, manage client relationships, deliver value, ability to grasp patterns etc. are all skills that are required as a basic necessity for anyone wanting to working in a boutique firm.
Karan: Because many boutique consulting firms are not well known, what advice do you have for students looking to find boutique consulting jobs?
Bryan: Network. It is important to remember that although many boutique firms exist out there, only a chosen few of them are actually creating ripples in the industry. One way I was looking to identify value-adding boutique firms which had a strong future strategy was by simply speaking with professionals in large companies that employed their services. That way I was able to see how the firm was adding value and also take a call if I would fit in that culture – and this method proved to be very useful to me since I am not seeing that same pattern of delivering value through my work with the firm. Do not go by jobs on job portals because firms get hundreds of thousands of applications every day. Network with individuals in the firm who can refer you.
Karan: How can students leverage their Thunderbird experience to help them prepare for a career in boutique consulting?
Bryan: Take classes in Thunderbird that tell a story of where you are going with your career. Do not take classes just because they are easy or don’t have exams but ensure that at the end of the day, when you look at your resume and call yourself a major in a subject, you have the classes on your transcripts to prove that. I have been asked for my transcripts with multiple firms I interviewed with and got offers from, large and boutique, and I have always had to explain why I took the classes I took. Make sure your story makes aligned sense on your resume and on your transcripts.
Karan: Looking back on your Thunderbird experience, are there things you wish you had done differently? For example: courses you wish you had taken, clubs you wished you had joined
Bryan: For one, I wish I could have attended more networking events and joined professional associations during my MBA. Even though I started networking in the first trimester of Thunderbird, I always feel that it is never too early to start networking. I am still networking even though I am working as a Senior Consultant with Loft9 Consulting primarily because the industry is always changing. The function is always changing and if you don’t network or stop networking once you have a job, it will be too late to catch up.
Karan Singh is a second-year MBA student, focusing on Global Marketing and set to graduate in April 2012. He has been associated with TMCA for the past one year and heads the Communication Chair.