Help me choose where to work as an IT-consultant
June 22, 2006 12:41 AM   Subscribe

I’m almost graduated, in the process of applying for a position as a junior consultant with a number of different IT-consultancy companies. I have my own ideas about who to choose, but since these companies are international I thought I could get some information from the smart people here at MeFi.

The job market here in Denmark is extremely good at the moment, and on top of that I have a pretty good CV. It looks like quite a few companies would be interested in hiring me. They all look pretty good to me, so it would be nice to hear some actual experiences on professionalism, working conditions and culture in the different companies.

My profile is probably kind of typical: I'm a young and ambitious person who won't mind working long hours at the beginning of my career. I'm very interested in working at a company that can give me some international experience and where I can keep my skills updated. All for a decent pay of course :-)

So, please share your experiences (as an employee or customer) with the following companies:

PA Consulting
Devoteam (mainly European)
Cap Gemini
McKinsey (where I haven't applied, but I'm starting to think I should have)
posted by bering to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I don't have direct experience, but I have a few friends who worked for Accenture, and HATED it. They were treated like shit, and expected to work 12 hour days, weekends and spend a LOT of time in remote cities. If you don't have any friends or a social life at all, the money is/was VERY good. But they were basically non-existent as human beings for most of the time that they worked there. But from what I can tell, this seems to be the norm for IT consulting. YMMV, of course.
posted by antifuse at 2:21 AM on June 22, 2006

I have friends who contradict antifuse's friends' findings. I knew people who got a lot out of AC (as they were then) and have gone on to do things they wanted to.

But it is worth considering other options like smaller firms that do what you'd like to do. Again, I've known people who got a lot out of this route (as I did).
posted by sien at 2:35 AM on June 22, 2006

I've dealt with these firms, but from the other side of the desk as a client on the banking side. A few points:

You will be working hard, directly - and visibly! - providing services to the client. While money won't be as good as if you were employed directly by the client, the varied experience that firms such as these can add to your CV will be very, very valuable. And the networking opportunities you'll have will be priceless.

A possible downside: almost always the business will be secured by a Partner or Senior Manager then the consultants such as yourself (should you choose to accept) who will actually carrying out the work are brought onsite. Sometimes expectations aren't managed properly at the point of origination in terms of expertise of people actually carrying out (as opposed to selling) the work, and you'll get caught up in that.

Otherwise, some great opportunities there! Top notch firms and they'll spend a fair amount on training, equiping you with broadly transferable skills.
posted by Mutant at 4:04 AM on June 22, 2006

Hehehe see? So clearly Accenture varies from place to place. Maybe they'll kick a lot of ass in Denmark.
posted by antifuse at 4:05 AM on June 22, 2006

I'm a veteran of one of the international consulting firms you named (e-mail me for more information - see profile) and, essentially, here's the deal:

-- You'll work your ass off and quite likely travel a lot, because you will be spending much/most of your time at client sites.

-- If you don't have good people skills now, a consulting role will force you to develop them, as client expectations must be constantly managed and good communications must be constantly maintained.

-- After a few years you're likely to tire of Big-Firm Consulting, but if you apply yourself, by then you'll have terrific experience, a bunch of great contacts and references, and a great brand name on your C.V. You can then strike out on your own, or seek a smaller firm that specializes in an area that interests you. (I took the latter option and like it a lot; better working conditions and a lot more money.)

-- If you *don't* tire of it and decide to try to make a career in Big-Firm Consulting, you will want to hone your political skills to a razor-sharp edge.
posted by enrevanche at 4:59 AM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Having done both the consulting gig and the in-house gig, I can tell you I prefer the in-house IT job to the consulting one. However, every IT person should start their career as a consultant. As others have pointed out, you'll get the opportunity to sharpen a number of soft-skills, but your technical skills will not be embiggened (a perfectly cromulent word!) as a consultant.

Despite what they think, general consultants have been, in my 20 years experience, the least-skilled of the IT flock. They learn the basics of how to get things up and running, but get very little in how to keep things going which is the more essential skill. For example, most consultants will tell you the OS from Redmond is unstable, insecure and give you a thousand reasons not to use it. But, any admin worth his salt will tell you otherwise. You will gain a lot of overall experience in many fields, but only a little in any particular area. This is good, as it'll allow you to choose a specialty, should you so choose and give you the basics in other fields if you need to change it later. Being a specialist consolutant is where the big money is (such as being a consultant for Cisco, as opposed to a third-party vendor who sells Cisco products).

You also won't have to work as hard (I rarely work more than 40 hours a week) in-house. Granted, unless you've got a lot of experience, consulting's the way to go if you're just interested in a paycheck. But, for me, I'd rather not have to work hard for that check, so if it's a little smaller, I can live with that. :)
posted by Spoonman at 6:32 AM on June 22, 2006

Again my experience of (several of) these firms has been from the client side. All of them will give you the opportunity to develop your technical side- but the really valuable skills that they have are to do with pitching ideas, gathering requirements, project management and so on. Even within a single firm my experience has encompassed both people who are primarily very smart at solving problems and those whose main skills are in advanced BS. You are asking your clients to buy a Lamborghini rather than a Ford.

Ask yourself if international work is important to you primarily for the number of countries visited or for a more in-depth experience of working in a single country. If the latter applies then consider applying to be based at a foreign branch of the same firms.
posted by rongorongo at 6:48 AM on June 22, 2006

I don't know enough about this field to know if this is valid advice or not, but I have a friend who's been working at Booze Allen for about a year and she absolutely loves it. She's a super smart workaholic, and she's really felt like her contributions are noticed and appreciated. She's gotten raises and promotions and helpful evaluations. And the company has a great culture that she really enjoys.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:50 AM on June 22, 2006

These companies are known for producing volumes of "strategic guidance," powerpoints galore "synergy from silo dis-intermediation" and lots and lots of sound and fury, signifying not a lot. That's not to say that you won't learn a lot, or that you won't enjoy it, or that you won't change the world (or at least your client's company). But I find many management consulting engagements to be a huge waste of a company's money. But that's ok because they have a lot of money to burn. NOTE: I am not a CEO of a large financial services company or otherwise at all qualified to make the above statements.

I think that we haven't learned very much at all from the Mythical Man Month and other semnial works in the technology meets business realm. Nearly all projects are poorly specified, started with terrifically misguided assumptions (Surely everone will love to plan every meeting on a crazy custom calendaring application that doesn't interface with any other calendar on the planet! Result: everyone's calendar is always out of date.), and not part of any grand strategy (reactionary, not visionary).

If you focus on gathering better requirements, this could be a very useful skill for your current gigs and later in your career. Requirements gathering is a hard , long, complicated slog.
posted by zpousman at 7:33 AM on June 22, 2006

Good luck! I've tried getting into the consulting biz, despite having friends at D&T, AC, and IBM but I think I'm over the hill (or my contacts suck at any rate.) More importantly, I have two friends who work for AC, both seem to like it, but also have the same beefs consultants have: lots of traveling, many hours, much red tape and corp BS. They both will be trump tight on their career path when leaving the firm, so I think it's a fair trade off.

Although, I woke up at 5:30 this morning, to the sound of my roommate coming home to take a nap. He came home last night @ 7:30, to take a break and go back to work. He took probably an hour nap this morning and rolled out before I left for work (got up even.) Crunch time I guess? This is specific to AC, but your best bet will be to get into their consulting arm, not ACS; ATS? Basically is their technical arm, technical consulting pays well, but the actually strong arm code monkeys not in client facing rolls get paid next to nothing and their jobs are slowly slipping away to BPO (internal BPO for a company specializing in BPO) heh.
posted by AllesKlar at 8:16 AM on June 22, 2006

My post in unclear. They have Business Consulting, strategery and all that jazz, where they expect you to face clients, be a DBA, smiley gladhand, et al. This is where you want to be, broad exposure to technologies without being pigeonholed in a particular concentration.

ATS is underpaid overworked code monkeys and the like. (No disrepect to monkeys or coders, I've been both)
posted by AllesKlar at 8:19 AM on June 22, 2006

Thank you for all the great answers. I'll be studying them in detail this weekend.
posted by bering at 1:17 AM on June 23, 2006

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