Staying Organized: Project Management for Consultants

Project management is a function that all consultants have to execute at least once in their careers. Enjoyable or not, project management is a crucial skills for consultants to learn & will prove valuable for years to come. Throughout my time in consulting, I’ve found that project management style can vary by person, so it’s important to find what project management style works for you. Regardless of management style, organization in project management is key. It’s difficult to manage stakeholders, timelines, and conflicting priorities without staying organized. When working on project management engagements, I learned a few habits that helped me, a naturally disorganized person, stay organized and help drive projects along smoothly.

A large piece of project management is aligning several stakeholders to a common goal. Often, these stakeholders have conflicting priorities, making the task at hand exponentially more difficult. Managing a project and stakeholders involves several meetings & conversations to align on key decision points. However, it’s easy for someone to forget decisions or change their mind down the line. Because of this, it is critical to document and socialize each decision made.

After every meeting, I’ve made it a habit to note down and email out key decisions made and next steps, along with an associated owner and deadline. This helps keep everyone accountable for decisions. Even if it’s just a casual conversation with a co-worker or client, be sure to follow up the conversation with an email documenting any decision that may impact the overall project, and be sure to keep all impacted stakeholders aware.

For taking detailed notes and documenting action items, I like to write things down first rather than type on a computer — this is a practice that has helped with memory retention, making me sharper and quicker on-the-job. This Moleskine notebook is designed specifically for project management, and can go a long ways in helping you stay organized.

Moleskine Project Management Notebook

I also love using a Montblanc pen to write with — it gives me something to look forward to every time it comes to writing something down.

Montblanc Pen

It may be useful to learn more about project management best practices and techniques without going through formal PMP training. This book, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, can be a great resource for helping consultants manage projects and can help consultants stay organized Yes, formal PMP training can be a plus, but most consultants aren’t looking to make a lifestyle out of project management. Rather, it is a necessity to delivery quality work & products for clients.

Project management may not be the most exciting topic for consultants, but it is a daily, unavoidable reality. Putting time into being an effective project manager is important, and staying organized is a crucial piece of that. From documenting and socializing key project decisions to keeping detailed notes, staying organized will go a long way in becoming making sure your projects run smoothly.

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The Best Headphones in the World

Best Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 20

Having a pair of quality headphones is a must for all working professionals, especially consultants. The Bose QuietComfort 20 headphones are hands down the best headphones I have ever used — they have great audio, are travel-friendly (not bulky, over-the-ear headphones), and drown out outside noise with the flip of a switch. While these headphones may not be the right choice for everybody, they are perfect for the traveling consultant.

Amazing Sound Quality

Bose is world-renowned for producing top-quality consumer headphones. The QuietComfort 20 is no exception. These in-ear headphones deliver excellent sound quality using Bose’s proprietary Active EQ and TriPort technology.

Noise Cancelling Capabilities

Normally, noise cancelling headphones are over-the-ear; there are very few in-ear noise cancelling headphones that exist. These headphones are able to deliver noise cancelling capabilities that rival even the top over-the-ear headphones. CNET calls these headphones “top performers in the noise cancelling earbuds category”, and Amazon reviewers agree. Here’s what one reviewer said:

“I think that these may have just saved my life. […] My downstairs neighbor gets home every day around 2 a.m. and without fail he is always on the phone. I tried the silicon, foam and even some weird elastic ear plugs and none of them worked, nothing seemed to be able to drown out this guys vibrating voice. [With these headphones] I can no longer hear what felt like my neighbor’s vibrating voice, my neighbor above me walking and slamming things at 6 a.m., or even my boyfriend getting home and walking on the creaky floors; its all drowned out COMPLETELY.”

Needless to say, having an effective pair of noise cancelling headphones is a must for consultants, and these headphones definitely deliver.

Perfect Fit

I have never had a pair of in-ear headphones fit this well. They’re extremely comfortable and never fall out of my ears. I regularly used them for 4 hours straight to drown out airplane noise when flying coast-to-coast on red eye flights without any discomfort. As a bonus, Bose offers multiple size options in their Stay Hear+ tips so that everyone can find their perfect fit.

A pair of good headphones is a great investment for consultants, especially when traveling. In addition to taking day-to-day client calls and listening to music, these headphones are great for all-day (and night) use with their comfortable earbuds and noise-cancelling capabilities. For full specifications as well as customer reviews, visit Amazon’s website.

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Tips and Tricks to Help You Get a Job in Consulting

Breaking into consulting isn’t easy. At each college or university, there are hundreds of candidates following similar casing strategies and behavioral interview frameworks, vying for just a few positions. Each candidate is unique in his or her own way, and showing that individuality is critical in making a lasting first impression on recruiting mangers.

After being both a candidate and a seasoned consultant screening other applicants, I’ve learned a few things that would have made the recruiting process a lot easier if I had known them ahead of time. Here are my top pieces of advice on how to get a job in consulting:

1. All Networking isn’t Good Networking

Most consulting candidates know networking is important. They go to all recruiting events and try to get a few words in with every practitioner they can. Almost always, these candidates end with “Do you mind if I get a business card so we can stay in touch?” 

Business cards are not Pokémon — you don’t need to catch ’em all.

Networking by trying to talk to as many people as possible isn’t an effective strategy, but it’s a great way to come off fake and make a bad first impression. Instead, I encourage applicants to network with a purpose.

This means three things:

  1. Reach out early, not just during recruiting season
  2. Don’t over-index on level; instead, prioritize speaking to people who work in areas you are interested in and ask targeted questions
  3. If you make a genuine connection, maintain it by asking for their contact information and staying in touch (even if you don’t end up getting / wanting the job)

2. Perfect Your Résumé

The 80/20 rule is important in consulting, but not when it comes to your résumé. Take the time to really think about the message you are trying to get across to recruiting managers and make sure your résumé reflects that. Only include relevant items (high school debate club does not count) and be sure to measure your impact when detailing your past experiences (e.g. “Led X initiatives that increased profitability by Y% over the period of Z years).

3. Don’t Overlook Your Campus Recruiter

Campus recruiters don’t make hiring decisions, but they are critical resources and can help guide you as you navigate the application process. In the past, recruiters have helped me connect with consulting practitioners, speed up interview timelines, and extend deadlines. Be sure to know who your campus recruiter is and to introduce yourself. To earn some brownie points, you can also offer to help out in any way you can with on-campus recruiting events, room bookings, etc. You never know when that connection will come in handy.

For more advice on how to get a job in consulting, check out Case Interview Secrets by Victor Cheng. It’s a great read, extremely helpful, and helped me get a job in consulting when I was an applicant.

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Day in the Life of a Consultant

What is Consulting? Day in the Life of a Consultant

What is consulting?
What is Consulting?

It’s not uncommon for folks outside of consulting to really wonder, “What is consulting?” What consultants do on a day-to-day basis depends on client / project, travel schedule, and level. While there is no “typical” day in consulting, I’ll try to take you through what a day in the life of a consultant could look like from my own personal experience after 2+ years in consulting at a Top 5 firm.

6AM – Alarm

My 6AM alarm rings and I remember the promise I made to myself the night before: to work out. Feeling tired and slightly hungover after a team dinner & drinks, I turn it off and wait for the next alarm to wake up. Truth is, I make myself that promise every night — it rarely gets fulfilled.

7AM – The Real Alarm

Okay, now it’s really time to get up. Before I get out of bed, I immediately reach for my phone to check my email and make sure there were no fire drills (i.e. client emergencies). I start getting ready, thankful I remembered to pack all my personal care items this week (this kit has pretty much everything a man could need, travel sized). 

(Pro Tip: For a quick & comfortable shave each morning, try Philips OneBlade — this changed my life).

8AM – First Call & Leave for Work

After getting ready, I quickly call an Uber to work and take out my AirPods to hop on my first call of the day with our offshore team in India. I’m hoping I don’t have to speak because I’ll probably lose service in the elevator down and will have to drop the call when my Uber driver inevitably calls to tell me they have arrived (to all the Uber drivers out there, we know when you arrive. Give us a minute.).

8:30AM – Coffee

Once I get to the office, I put my things down, grab a co-worker or two, and go get a coffee to start my day. I prefer higher-end coffee shops (e.g. Blue Bottle), but I can settle for Starbucks. My order is a trenta cold brew (black), in case you were wondering. After numbing myself to the effects of coffee over time, caffeine rush lasts only about 3 hours.

10AM – Daily Scrum Meeting

After firing off emails and sipping on a burnt-tasting cold brew for most of the morning, our team’s daily scrum meeting time approaches. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is when the whole team gets together in a room and talks about what they are working on. In my opinion, a colossal waste of time. But yes, we do this… every. single. day.

11AM – Client Calls

I don’t like to schedule my client calls first thing in the morning because I’m typically still half-awake, so I take a couple from 11 till lunch time. These calls are typically either design / requirements gathering sessions (common when working on a technology project) or meetings to work through some sort of issue or fire drill (most of the time they aren’t even real issues — they were self-created through one misinterpreted client comment followed by several games of telephone down the chain of command).

Pro Tip: Always offer to schedule meetings for your team and client. It’s a bit of manual work, but you get to choose a time that works well with you.

1PM – Lunch

It’s finally time for lunch. I try and push myself (and my team) to eat as late as possible because it makes the 2nd half of the day seem shorter, but since I don’t eat breakfast I’m famished by this time. I offer to order for the team in most cases (this way, I get to pick the restaurant), and we get it delivered through Uber Eats or Postmates. I’m typically still in calls when lunch arrives, so I send an analyst down to go play Where’s Waldo with the delivery guy.

2PM – More Meetings

If you haven’t noticed, meetings are a trend. I spend roughly 80% of my days in meetings, which leaves me 20% of my time to do actual work. This is the cost of keeping senior leadership and the client happy and informed while still trying to get your job done.

3PM – Leave for Airport

I traveled from the west coast to the east coast and back during the work week, so I pack my beloved Tumi laptop bag and leave for airport earlier than most folks. On the way to the airport, I take another client call (it’s incredible how many calls you get invited to when you have a little subject matter expertise).

Pro Tip: Remember to block off time on your calendar if you don’t want meetings scheduled — when I was on the west coast and had east coast clients, I always blocked off 5-8am so I could get a full night’s sleep.

5PM Take Off & PowerPoint

I rarely get time to stop by the airport lounge, so I have my first drink on-flight (double Bloody Mary). Shortly after, I bust out my laptop again and start working on presentations. These presentations are typically for next-day leadership status updates or client design sessions. Airplanes are my quiet time, thanks to these Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones, and where I work the most efficiently. I love these headphones now that I no longer have to hear the first-time flyers complaining that they can’t connect to the wifi or annoying babies crying all flight long (send ’em to the back of the plane!).

8PM Land, Groceries, and Home

There’s no better feeling than landing home on a Thursday evening. With a smile on my face, I rush out to find my car and get to Trader Joe’s to do my grocery shopping for the weekend so I can get home and sleep! Looking back, I probably would have saved a lot of valuable time with Amazon Fresh. After I get home, I turn on Netflix for an hour and slowly fall asleep after another long (yet rewarding) week on the road.

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