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Is life as an analyst/associate consultant etc, if you cut through the marketing noise about client exposure, really just being a data slave in excel?

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Benjamin replied on 09/14/2018
ex-Manager - Got MBB offer - Taylor case solving, no framework - beginners to experts

Hi,

as explain by Elias, this depends on the combi project / team / self positionning, which can make the day to day job as analyst completely different. Let me describe here several project situation you could face as analyst to give you an idea :

  • Project situation 1 : analytics intensive

This corresponds to the situation you described, where appart the client facing dedicated to data collection, you'll spend you time crunshing data on excel. Depending on your performance, you will receive data on the analysis to perform or decide on your own.

  • Project situation 2 : market research intensive

Assume you're working on due diligence project. Your tasks will most likely be dedicated to gather marker data et understand how the market is structured. To do that, you will either perform calls to internal expert, cold to calls to industry expert, reports review, and finally you will have to synthesis this data. So depending on the data you gather this could be / or not excel intensive in case the data you're gathering is more qualitative

  • Project situation 3 : client interaction intensive

Some project such as PMO (project management office) require lots of client interaction and project management skills. You may only use excel to keep tracking of the project but not for data crunching.

  • Project situation 4 : acting as "next grade"

Depending on the staffing available, and you current progression in the firm, you will be exposed at some the next grade responsibilit, and believe me this is not only about excel

To conclude, even if some project are lesst data intensive, keep in mind that in a junior position within a strategy consulting firm you should expect some heavy data computation project at some point.

Hope this helps

Best
Benjamin

Elias
Expert
replied on 09/14/2018
Experienced strategy consultant, now running own consulting business

Short answer: It depends...

It depends on:

  • Your project: Some projects are extremely interactive, some are just number-crunching in a windowless room in the basement. Sometimes you work with people on all levels of the organisation (making exposure more likely), sometimes you work directly for the board, investors or other top execs (making exposure a lot less likely). Also politics come into play. If someone with influence at your client's (investors, worker's council, supervisory board...) is pissed that management is spending tons of money on consultants, you might want to keep that door shut. Also in tough restructuring programs you may want to keep a low profile (I've had projects where we were told to dress down to not stand out and maybe be a target of physical violence or other attacks from somebody who may just have been laid-off and is blaming us (rightly, in some cases) for it.
  • Your team & your mananger: Some project managers will encourage client interaction, some will shield you from it. If you're severely understaffed, you'll get more time in the sun (and the moon ;-) ) and be thrown into situations above your paygrade, then in a solid team setting with sufficient resources.
  • YOU: If you are great at client interaction, building rapport and relationships and are a kick-ass presenter you'll be trusted to do more of it. If you are not yet good at these things, you'll get less of it. I know colleagues who were entrusted to do management presentations one or two years into the job because they knew their shit and they were brilliant at it. I also know senior project managers who were never allowed to do important client meetings alone. They were great project managers and brilliant minds, just more than just a bit socially awkward. And, last, but not least: Do you ask for it? If during your development talks you make it a key point to ask for projects with more client exposure, you'll get them eventually. Just don't screw it up, then ;-)

So there is no general answer. You'll do a lot of data slaving for sure, but chances are you'll also get your shot at the spotlight.

(edited)

Guennael replied on 09/19/2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

No - you will also be a PowerPoint Monkey. We've all been there.

Srsly - the experience is fantastic and preps you for a multitude of various roles in the 'real world'.

Alessandro
Expert
replied on 09/15/2018
Bain & Company | University of Cambridge | CV/Resume writing | 770 GMAT

Agreed with Benjamin and Elias - it really does vary so much. I've been on cases where Excel was the focus, but also on cases where I basically never used Excel and was in client meetings 5+ hours a day. Part of this is up to chance, and part of it is your choice (i.e. pushing for specific types of staffing to meet your development goals).

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