The first time I heard of consulting was during my programming practicum course, when Jason Green, a software architect at West Monroe, joined us as a guest lecturer. Prior to the lecture, I assumed a vast majority of entry-level computer science positions would focus on writing code and less on business strategy.
However, Jason challenged this mindset with the concept of West Monroe’s “Uncommon Blend,” applying deep technological expertise combined with business acumen. He told our class that a majority of his time was spent problem-solving with clients and not with hands to keyboard.
Thanks in part to what I learned from Jason, I decided to pursue a position as a consultant with West Monroe Partners. However, I took his point of view about the “Uncommon Blend” with a grain of salt. After all, he was a senior developer and was probably clarifying requirements while architecting solutions. I assumed coding would be a large area of focus for me as a new consultant.
Reality check: living the Uncommon Blend
My first year at West Monroe Partners, I was put on a code-heavy integration project where a majority of my tasks involved mapping fields across systems. Naturally, I thought my initial assumption was correct. It turns out that this had happened by chance because I had joined after the strategy and design phase of the project.
As the project continued, we routinely met with upper management, including the chief information officer (CIO), to iterate on the deliverables. I began to see how the strengths and weaknesses of the design would impact the business. Our team was making decisions and proposing solutions face-to-face with our stakeholders. My learning lesson: Consultants don’t just code for the given task, they are directly involved in the decision-making process because they’re viewed as the experts.
How West Monroe helps new consultants get there
To clarify, even though we might not be the experts when we start our careers, the wealth of knowledge available at the firm coupled with West Monroe’s culture enables us to formulate educated decisions. We are encouraged to give guest lectures, host hackathons, and work on projects outside of our technical skillset to help us grow. One-on-one meetings with our career advisors and other subject matter experts in the firm are highly encouraged and help facilitate the culture of sharing knowledge and expertise. These qualities of the firm are what make West Monroe Partners what it is: a group of empowered individuals who are passionate about the work that they do.
Technical consultants at West Monroe have the power to bring fresh ideas and new perspectives. Development environments can become stale and routine and we have the ability to energize environments and facilitate the push for better practices. A career in consulting has put me on a track where I work with highly motivated individuals and have direct interaction with upper management. I have the opportunity to make impactful decisions on a daily basis.
Focusing on the big picture
My original perspective of consulting and what I know now are vastly different. I have no doubt my view will continue to develop as I progress through my career. Early on, I thought I would be entering a standard entry-level developer position. I would have to work my way through testing code to later take part in the meaningful decisions. Within the first few months, I realized I wasn’t at West Monroe Partners to complete the tasks placed in front of me. Instead, I was there to help drive value by focusing on the big picture, prioritizing those tasks, and then taking calculated action. These skills have allowed me to grow in my career substantially in a short period of time.
Do you have questions about launching a technology consulting career? I’d love to help! Drop me a note at email@example.com or post a comment below.