I participated in the Consulting Careers forum last night in Charlotte, NC at the WFU SsOB campus. It was a well-attended event with about 30 students and 6 panelists (5 alumni) representing other consulting companies such as The North Highland Company, Carlisle and Gallagher Consulting Group,  Techcheck Inc., and Mercer Health & Benefits. It was my first event as an Alumni (now 18 months out) so I was excited to get involved with the WFU community again.

Consulting companies at the WFU Alumni Event

Consulting Companies Represented at the WFU Event on June 10, 2011

I enjoyed the discussion. Mainly student Q&A, it covered questions on the typical consulting day (not that there it is such a thing), how to break into consulting, what industries are served by the consulting industry (essentially all of them), what skills are most valuable to be a good consultant, and the pros/cons of working for bigger vs. smaller firms. There were a few points that really stood out to me as being insightful from the other panelists. I’ll share them here.

First, on the topic of getting introduced to a consulting company, the point was made that it can be very helpful to make an informal introduction of yourself to the company. This can be done by leveraging whatever personal connections one might have with a company, alumni connections perhaps, to simply have lunch or coffee with a company rep which would hopefully give a sense of the culture/lifestyle that might be the norm at a given firm. Consulting is a field which relies on personal touches and comforts, and different firms will have different slants on these softer aspects of the work. The experience at Vision Point Systems, an example of a small boutique technology firm, is going to be much different than at a mega firm like Accenture.

Second, on the topic of what skills would stand out when applying for a consulting position, we all seemed to agree that the things that matter are not the things that come through on a resume. In fact, when discussing certifications such as PMI, or Six Sigma Black Belt, it was raised that these may not just simply be not valued or ignored, they can also become liabilities at certain firms, because of the potentially negative connotations that come along with them. (i.e. spreadsheet jockey)

The last major takeaway I had was on what the definition of “consulting” actually is. There were a few differing perspectives on the panel. Some were close to mine – a consulting is about problem solving end-to-end while leveraging expertise in a particular business aspect and/or industry. Others had the background of consulting being tied closer to sales. My point was that a true consultant differentiates themselves from an integrator, salesperson or technician by not only being an expert in a field or product, but by knowing how the immediate problem is impacting the overall business of the client. In my opinion, there is where the MBA really becomes valuable and why MBAs are so often associated with the consulting field

I look forward to continuing my involvement in the WFU Alumni community, and it was great to make connections with the students and other panelists in the Charlotte area.

Who is this Guy?

March 8, 2010

I had a nice business lunch last week with Jeremy Rasor of InteractiveGIS, a GIS software company here in the VTCRC. It was a nice introductory meeting where we learned about each other’s companies. I hope we can find a way to do business. The interesting part, I think, is how this meeting came to be. If nothing else, its another concrete example on how social media, or specifically Twitter, can lead to business results.

A few days ago Jeremy posted a blog about open source software, a topic near and dear to us at Vision Point Systems. We proceeded to have a nice public conversation about the post with the exchange culminating with a DM request for lunch.

DM from InteractiveGIS

Twitter DM

The story on the other side, which Jeremy told me, basically goes like this. I suppose I asked a thought-provoking enough question that Jeremy brought up what I said to his boss. The boss responded with “We need to find out who this guy is”, supposing some sort of threat. Upon looking up my info on Twitter, my blog, etc, Jeremy quickly found out that I literally work across the parking lot, and sent me the previously mentioned DM. The sense of threat had calmed to curiosity.

To me, the exchange show that Social Media can be a venue for respectful and thoughtful conversation. When the thoughts become personalized, and you make an effort, it can turn into something real. I don’t know if this event will turn into real business or not, but I at least have another good connection. Hopefully at a bare minimum we can continue the type of dialogue that got us here.