It’s Monday. I’m in the office, looking over London’s skyscrapers, checking my emails and sipping a Cappucino. At 9am, I’ll meet the CEO of my client who will outline their business problems to my team. We’ll go away, research and brainstorm, and within a day or two we’ll have found a creative and innovative solution to present back – and the CEO will be mind-blown. These were my visions of life as an intern in management consultancy at North Highland – some might say the consultancy version of Suits. So I packed my bags and set off to London for my year-long placement.
…And then I got to London to start my placement.
It’s Monday. I’m on my way to my new client – a company in the rail industry. I’ve read all the induction packs, researched the company, met the rest of the North Highland team, met the engagement lead and asked 20 questions, seen photos of key stakeholders, but somehow I still feel nervous and unprepared. Where will I sit? Did I get the dress code right? What if I can’t find the office? Lots of questions racing through my head. Northern Line to Bank, delays on the Central Line, packed on another tube feeling hot and claustrophobic, 10 minute walk dodging the other 2 million commuters trying to get to work and finally, looking a bit more dishevelled than I had when I left the house, I’ve arrived at my client. Within a matter of hours, I would be in my first meeting.
‘Chloe, please introduce yourself and what work you’re doing here?’.
A valid question. An office I’d never been in before, people I’d never met before, work I’d never done before, an industry I’d never worked in before, jargon I’d never heard before, office etiquette I wasn’t familiar with. I hadn’t even finished my degree and there I was around a table of people with 20 years’ experience and I was there to consult THEM? Suddenly I didn’t feel so confident about who I was and what exactly I’d be doing there.
‘Hi everyone, I’m Chloe, I’m an Analyst at North Highland and I’ve come to help support the PMO team here,’ I just about managed to get my words out.
And that was when I realised that the world of consulting is not a breezy, Spectre-style, walk in the park filled with cappuccinos’ and quick, sexy solutions. Some things, your degree just doesn’t prepare you for, you’ve just got to learn it on the job.
7 months on from my first traumatic day at client site and I think I could finally answer this question with confidence. I’m there to ask the right questions, speak to the right people and provide insight and solutions to my client.
This is what consulting is all about; providing expertise and insight to people and businesses working in a professional or technical environment. In the same organisation, we have an employee streamlining the HR processes in a multinational beauty company and another undertaking a data & analytics project at a newspaper publisher and hundreds more working on all industries and capabilities in between – it goes without saying that there is no end to the opportunities to nourish curiosity and develop yourself.
As for the fun bits, a placement at North Highland isn’t just about the ‘consulting’, it’s also the community, the company and the culture. Within the wider North Highland community, you can get involved with anything from academy events (Simon Sinek talks, Ted Talks&Chill with croissants and OJ, summer parties and an Oktoberfest night out), to cooking club, yoga or the football team. You’ll also be invited on evenings out with your North Highland team at client site which is likely to be something fun like Shuffleboarding in Shoreditch or darts at Flight club or simply a prosecco party in the kitchen on Friday!
The culture. Whilst a huge part of this links back to the community, we also have a strong knowledge sharing culture. As well as learning on my project, I have attended “Lunch & Learns”, Friday morning talks with croissants & coffee and capability talks which have covered anything from from data visualisation to the US medical marijuana industry and UK border force. North Highland also has a dynamic feedback culture; feedback is given across all levels and at all times. Just as those more experienced than you will provide you with feedback, it’s equally encouraged for you to provide them with feedback. Having identified your strengths, you can draw on these and use them to your advantage whilst acknowledging your weaknesses means you can take the necessary steps to improve and develop. Whilst the exact materials and projects you work on during your placement year may not be easily applied to your final year of university or future career path, your strengths and weaknesses identified throughout these projects can be applied and carried with you as you progress onto whatever the next chapter may be.
It goes without saying, that although my placement isn’t as I imagined – a glamorous, breezy Netflix drama – the reality of it is teaching me things I’ll carry with me for life!