Looking to move into geopolitical and economic strategy consulting. Suggestions for firms?
February 22, 2011 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to make a rather significant career change into the field of geopolitical and economic strategy consulting, and I'm trying to identify top-tier firms to pursue. I was wondering if the Hive Mind had any suggestions for suitable firms and guidance for how to best approach the process?

I have a background in Computer Science and IT (Bachelors and Masters degrees from well-respected institutions) but a few years ago, I came to the conclusion that the computing industry was not for me. I made a shift into commercial real estate finance and investments but, as both commercial real estate and finance have not been doing well, I had to fall back on my IT skill set during the economic downturn. But, I want to continue to pursue my goal of leaving the industry behind and securing a position as an analyst in strategy consulting, preferably focusing on geopolitcal and economic strategy (potentially in the energy sector). However, I do not know anyone in the field and so I have no guidance on what firms are most respected and that I should consider pursuing. While one of my parents is a former US Ambassador, that was some time ago and I doubt that contacts within the State department will be of much help at this time, so I have to do my own leg work.

Some firms of interest include:

* Stratfor
* PFC Energy
* Janes Information Group
* The Economist Group
* Oliver Wyman

I'm currently in the US, but I would very much like to relocate. Any thoughts on firms to pursue and how best to shape my approach would be appreciated!
posted by Imhotep is Invisible to Work & Money (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Cambridge Energy Research Associates is one place to start your search.

I highly recommend the book The Prize. It was originally published in the early 90s, but it is still a very good book on the history of the petrochemical industry.
posted by dfriedman at 9:50 AM on February 22, 2011

I do this type of work for a small, well-respected firm (not on your list, and not energy-specific). In addition to doing the analytical and consulting work, I also do recruiting, so can give you a perspective on both sides of the question.

First, you need to figure out which side of the house you want to be on. Some firms focus on doing research and analysis, with a little bit of consulting. Others do consulting, with just a little bit of non-consulting research and analysis. From what I know of them, STRATFOR and Janes fall into the research side of things, Olivery Wyman into the consulting side. There are a lot of companies doing each, so you have a decent selection to choose from.

They are, understandably, very different cultures. Not many people move between the two sides of the house, although it can happen. Forgive the generalities, but: Consultants need to be able to understand the client and environment, and how the issues will impact them. Researchers need to understand the broader issues, but not so much how they will impact a specific organization. Consultants spend a lot of their time on the road (45-50 weeks a year, in my case), while researchers and analysts get to spend most of their time in their offices.

I have to be honest and tell you that from what you've posted here about your background, I would probably look at your resume but not push you along for an interview. Most of the folks we talk to have military / intelligence / government experience, in addition to academic degrees directly related to the issues we work with. The fact that you've jumped around between CS/IT and RE/Finance fields doesn't look great, because it shows you don't have a driven dedication and strong interest in any one thing, and especially not in the fields we work in. Given an IT background, you might be able to get into a very large firm by doing database/statistical analysis work, although I don't know if your background / degrees were in those areas.

If you really want this, I would recommend a three-part effort: First, I'd head back to grad school and pick up a degree in a field directly related to the area you want to work in. Second, do some writing and try and pick up some publication credits, even if they're short pieces or small publications. Third, pick up some outside activity that demonstrates clear interest in your subject area of choice, along with showing some sort of accomplishment that can be highlighted in a resume/interview, etc.

On preview: CERA and The Prize are both great recommendations from dfriedman if you're interested specifically in energy issues.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:34 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

NotMyselfRightNow: I'm quite convinced that consulting is more suitable to me rather than pure research. While I was a defense contractor for a spell (computer security for the Military Health Service), I doubt that is experience I can directly leverage.

I'd love to go back to grad school with a focus on economics, but when I investigated programs around the time I went in for my Masters in CS, I was told that I needed related work experience (somewhat of a chicken-and-the-egg situation, given that getting the related work experience required the advanced degree). I doubt I can swing financing a suitable degree, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't at least try for it.

I appreciate your guidance and advice: while it's not encouraging, life rarely presents us with things we desire on a silver platter.

dfriedman: I also appreciate your suggestions and I will pick up The Prize right away.
posted by Imhotep is Invisible at 11:41 AM on February 22, 2011

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