Phil Stone, Partner in London, interviews Sam Feary, Senior Associate, about the year he just spent in Plural Strategy’s New York office
Q: Welcome back! Were you sad to leave New York?
Thanks! In a way, yes. But I was more excited about applying what I’d learnt to my job back in London. Having a slightly different role in New York, and meeting different people, gave me a perspective I was keen to bring back. I’ll keep working with the team there, too, so I don’t feel I’ll be missing out. And I’m sure I’ll go and visit one day!
Q: How long had you been at Plural when you left for New York?
I joined straight from university in 2014, when the firm was still quite small. But the overseas programme is open to everyone, as long as there’s a position going at your level of seniority.
Q: What appealed to you about us?
I liked Plural because of the people and the cultural feel in my interviews. In some places, there can be a long silence after you say something chatty or informal. At Plural, it’s back-and-forth conversation. I felt these were people I’d like to talk to outside of work as well as be colleagues with, and I was right – the year before last a bunch of us went to a music festival together. The fact that we’d choose to spend our holiday time with each other tells you something about the people here.
Q: So, New York! Why did you decide to go?
I always knew I wanted to work abroad at some point. It was a cultural thing for me, really – I wanted to experience another big city. And if you pass up on something like this you don’t necessarily get the chance to do it again.
Q: What do you think it says about Plural that we offer this opportunity?
I don’t remember seeing other firms advertise a programme like ours. I think it shows that Plural is willing to go beyond the obvious benefits to support people in doing what they want to do. It gives us new skills, too – so we become better consultants, as well as happier. It’s a win-win!
Q: What did you expect from your year professionally and how did reality compare?
I didn’t expect the project work to differ, and it didn’t. But because I had a relatively more senior role, I thought I’d get to do non-project work I wouldn’t normally, like training more junior team members.
In reality, I did much more than that. I got involved with helping more on recruitment for the New York office, including how to attract new clients. And if we needed more people, Matt (our partner over there) and I would discuss how many and what kind.
Q: And what about personally?
I wanted to experience the American culture and see how it compared to what we see on TV. The flat I lived in on the Lower East Side overlooked an apartment block like the one out of Friends, so in that sense it was very New York! And I had two really nice flatmates who were hugely open and welcoming.
I expected to do some travelling, but I found so much in the city to keep me occupied that it didn’t happen much. I also didn’t expect to meet someone over there who’s since moved back to the UK with me.
Q: What has the experience taught you?
Dealing with the time difference has made me more efficient. It helped me develop my project management and communication skills being away from some members of the team who were still on another time zone. Now, it’s my natural state. Not always being side by side with your colleagues also meant I learnt to delegate more. And because I’ve been away and done something different, I have more confidence about progressing to a more senior level in the company.
Q: What would you say to someone thinking of applying to Plural?
You can get huge satisfaction from the work you put in. You’ll get to do high-quality work, on interesting topics, with a group of people who are not only fun to be around but willing to help you improve yourself. So if you want to learn an instrument or a foreign language, or to travel, they’ll listen. I think the overseas programme reflects that approach.