Gaining expert consultancy insights at IBM and The Shard
16 March 2018
MSc Business (Consulting) students Chelsea and Sharmistha share their experiences of attending the ‘A Day in the Life of a Consultant’ event, one of the features of the course that connects content covered in lectures with practice of consulting. Organised by course director, Joao Baptista, students visited IBM Southbank in the morning to experience a modern workplace setting, and Warwick Business School’s London base at The Shard, hearing from and interacting with a range of speakers on their experiences in the world of consultancy.
The day began with our arrival at IBM Southbank at a little before 1pm. I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to see an agile working environment in action, and the presentation given by the IBM team and their perspectives on working at IBM felt incredibly genuine. By the end of our time there, I found a lot of the preconceived notions I had had about IBM completely transformed. Not that I have ever viewed them negatively; rather, I just had not seen them as a company that I would fit into.
We then left IBM for The Shard to speak to a diverse panel of consultants. I appreciated the way Paul Levy facilitated the panel; he made a distinct effort to push the panellists to answer our questions more deeply, as well as have them answer more controversial questions that others may have shied away from. I think splitting up the panellists and having us (the participants) speak with them in small groups was also a great way to help those of us who struggle with big networking events like these; having a chance to speak to panellists was much less intimidating in a setting like this.
‘The speakers did a phenomenal job’
I think the best thing about the speakers at this event was the diversity of their backgrounds and experiences.
While I think all the speakers did a phenomenal job, there were a few panellists that really resonated with me. Jay Keyse (Director Advisory at DXC Technology) spoke about challenges women face in the industry, particularly about finding confidence and overcoming self-doubt. These are issues that I deal with both professionally and personally, so to hear someone with so much great experience speak on it as candidly as she did was refreshing.
Molly O’Rourke, (IBM Senior Consultant) who spoke to us both at IBM and The Shard, had a fascinating career path that inspired me to investigate working for start-ups more seriously. The responsibility and volatility of the start-up experience she had sounded incredibly exciting and challenging.
Reinvigorating and inspiring
Overall, the day left me feeling reinvigorated and inspired, and underscored why I felt coming to WBS and pursuing my Masters in this field was the right choice for me. I think often I let my assumptions prevent me from seeing a bigger picture or exploring industries/companies because I think my background or characteristics prevent me from succeeding. This day and the professionals we spoke to made me realise how important is it that I work to overcome that.
One of the pre-planned events for the year that our class was unanimously eagerly awaiting was the day trip to The Shard in London. Advertised as a “day in the life of a consultant” and an opportunity to network with some of the best industry practitioners, the day delivered exactly what it advised and more!
Gaining insights from consulting experts
On arrival in London, we were pleased to be welcomed by the campus of IBM Southbank. After a cordial greet at the reception and a tour of the campus, the young team from IBM engaged us with interesting insights and pointers from their own experiences and journeys. Personally, I was most intrigued by the identifiable story of Surabhi Deshpande, a fellow Indian and alumnus of Warwick Business School. To be able to converse with her about her experiences and insights post the presentation was truly gratifying.
I have been privileged to have visited the WBS campus at The Shard twice in the course of the programme to date. This time we were compelled to present our best professional selves in order to learn from the range of remarkable consulting experts that the programme team had organised. The interactive insight session from the distinguished panel, followed by the individual networking opportunity with panellists in smaller groups, was effective in gaining perceptions about what our work-life could potentially look like in the near future.
Inspirational stories and experiences
The panellists were kind in offering industry information and personal manifestations of what the consulting sector truly offers, and what we as young professionals can expect. My brief, but consequential, conversation with Alaa Al Sairafi (EY – Middle East) and Jay Keyse (Director Advisory at DXC Technology) was the highlight of the day for me. Their stories and experiences were particularly inspirational for me as a woman hoping to make a mark in the sector. It came as a pleasant surprise at the end of the evening when Alaa decided to award me with one of the prizes for standing out amongst my peers.
Sharmistha’s key takeaways from the day
The day gave us an all-encompassing outlook on the expectations from a consulting career. The opportunity to meet and interact with the practitioners definitely helped put into perspective what we have covered in our consulting lectures. Some of the key takeaways included the need for networking and learning dexterity. Not only were the advantages of consultancy highlighted, but we were also informed of the predicaments we may face in our work-life. The day came to an end on a light note with further networking over food and drinks, giving us ample time to reflect during the coach ride back to our accommodation.
Professor Joao Baptista, Course Director
The "day in the life of a consultant" is an integral part of our course structure, and is pivotal in the journey from acquiring, to applying knowledge. It happens also at the time when students need to shift their mindset towards considering career options. The day provides an insight into the various pathways into consulting and what being a consultant “feels like”.
The day was preceded by a workshop to gather questions from the students, which ensured that the speakers provided relevant answers to their questions. The talks and tour at IBM Studio provided students with an inside view of working as a consultant in modern and agile working teams. The panel at The Shard allowed for speakers to answer the questions from the students directly, and breakout sessions provided moments for a more intimate discussion with experienced consultants about their career options and pathways.
I would like to thank our fantastic speakers for an insightful day: the IBM team, led by Kamaran Sheikh and Matthew Parish, and the members who spoke at the panel; WBS alumnae Surabhi Deshpande and Alaa Al Sairafi, Jay Keyse, Ross Jackson, Molly O’Rourke, Supriya Mundra, Graham Mackay, Danilo Di Salvo, Salma Qureshi and Justin Jackson, as well as my cohost Paul Levy, for skilful facilitation of the panel.