Renowned for its steep learning curve and entrepreneurial spirit, the strategy consulting industry is a major draw to graduates looking to build momentum in their early careers. Thomas Friedland and Constance Delahousse both work at OC&C Strategy Consultants in France – they spoke to Consultancy.eu about their own experiences.
When graduates leave their academic careers behind, one of the most popular ports of call is the consulting industry – something seen as an ideal environment for individuals to quickly accrue working experience and deep industry knowledge. Such is the popularity of the consulting sector that one recent poll found that around one fifth of students would love to enter the profession – citing its challenging work, compelling projects, and industrial diversity as reasons for heading into the sector.
In particular, many of the best and brightest graduates are drawn to the strategy consulting segment. The prestige of strategy consulting is well known – with the world’s leading brands catering to important clients at the planet’s largest companies, as well as top governmental bodies.
According to Constance Delahousse, an Associate Consultant in the Paris office of OC&C Strategy Consultants, her first year with the company was exemplary of entry work in the strategy consulting segment. In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, she was still about to complete many projects in many different sectors, working with an OC&C team from all over Europe – enabling her to “learn tremendously with this job.”
She said, “I have been able to work on more than 10 different projects, for corporate clients and private equity funds. All projects were in very diverse sectors, from retail to the heavy industry and tourism as well. I really enjoy starting a project in a new sector, knowing very little about it, because in just a few days I will have a global view on what is at stake, thanks to research and conversations with partners, clients and experts.”
Similarly, for Associate Consultant Thomas Friedland the diversity of work and OC&C’s leading reputation was a key motivator in joining. He previously worked as an intern with the firm, during which time he had the chance to be deeply involved in four different projects, and was given “the exact same responsibilities as a full-time new joiner,” something that convinced him the company was an ideal fit for his ambitions.
He explained, “There is one very simple reason I decided to continue with OC&C: I got exactly what I was promised! personal growth goes hand in hand with quickly increasing autonomy and direct exposure to senior team members and external third parties (e.g. experts, data providers, etc). This environment enabled me to ramp up very quickly and work on many topics and industries in a very short period.”
“The perspective of continuing such a steep learning curve and of working on pressing strategic matters along with an international environment (nearly all the teams I worked with were multinational) made OC&C an obvious choice.”
Since becoming a full employee of the firm, Friedland has had the opportunity to work on eight projects to date. A number of them were due diligence projects for private equity funds, on targets from various industries, including luxury travel agencies, pub companies, and premium food retailers.
At the same time, he has also been tasked with corporate strategy projects, with one example being a project for a construction material retailer, who wondered in which European countries to expand its business. Such corporate engagements typically last longer and are “more complicated to crack,” which according to Friedland, “makes the job all the more fulfilling,” as staff often directly provide insights to C-level executives of major companies.
Both Associate Consultants speak highly of OC&C’s efforts to help them hone their skillset quickly. As a junior, new hires begin their OC&C career with two-weeks of training, aimed at providing the essential toolkit of a consultant – from problem-solving capabilities and consulting basics to presentation skills – with the goal being to ensure graduate entrants become proficient enough to tackle almost any task they could be asked to face.
Delahousse remembered, “OC&C is very focused on our professional development, making sure we have regular trainings and mentoring sessions. They are also keen on staffing us on projects that will help us progress on key development areas to make sure we acquire all skills necessary to progress in the firm.”
On a more personal level, Delahousse continued, “OC&C pays attention – especially during these difficult lockdown periods – to the well-being of consultants, with the managing partner of Paris calling us regularly and implementing processes helping us find a balance between work and life.”
Reflecting on his own two-week training period, Friedland commented, “You can’t imagine how much you can learn in a fortnight!”
Meanwhile, a parallel objective of the induction period is to “build strong bonds with your peer group [consultants in similar ranks who joined at roughly the same time]. This is tremendously important, as they will evolve along with you during your time at OC&C. People are always keen to reach out and provide support, and asking for help is actually another – maybe the best way – to grow.”
Having had to move to a larger location in 2020 to accommodate for its growing headcount, OC&C Strategy Consultants is currently expanding its Paris presence. When asked for a factor which would make them recommend joining the consultancy to future graduates, both Friedland and Delahousse offered an answer centring on the firm’s staff.
“I have met amazing colleagues that make you progress fast, and motivate you at all time,” Delahousse explained. “The international level is clearly an asset as well: in Paris, we are a small but growing team but are also supported by London, with its experience, processes & resources. We get to work with people from the UK, Germany, Italy & Poland, sometimes the US & China as well, expanding our knowledge of these market and meeting diverse people in the process!”
Similarly, Friedland concluded, “Literally all the people in the firm, consultants and support staff, are incredibly great at including everyone and keeping a friendly atmosphere during projects, even during challenging periods. This is obviously important for a smaller office like in Paris but is also materialised at a global scale, which always makes international projects very enjoyable and enriching.”