Chapter 1: The road to consultancy
As part of my Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge, I did an entrepreneurship course. It involved working with a university researcher to test how viable a product they’d developed would be in the food packaging market. viability of a product they’d developed – a bit like a project on The Apprentice!
This project was one of the most interesting parts of my degree.I found the project far more interesting than the rest of my degree. And i. It made me realise I wanted to assess and solve problems and make a tangible impact. Consulting would allow me to do that for businesses at a high level.
I wasn’t keen on the idea of working for one of the big firms, though – I didn’t want to get lost as one of the many. Plural Strategy appealed to me as I’d be able to make a difference in a smaller company. So I applied and started work in autumn 2014.
Chapter 2: The early years
When I joined Plural as an Analyst, there were only seven other people at the company, so everyone pitched in for different tasks, such as stationary and snack ordering. I did the weekly Sainsbury’s order and another junior did the stationery one.
I did five months of consulting work, then took a six-month sabbatical to do a Mandarin course in Beijing. (This had been arranged before I started working at Plural – it’s not standard practice!) When I came back the team needed help building a software product, SmartXpo. So I did that for 6-8 months, learning a whole new skill set that included designing and coding. I found the work very interesting because it involved thinking strategically about what C-suite execs would want to see and how best we could display it. It also helped me to understand B2B trade events in much more depth.
When I returned, After that, I moved back into consulting and I began building up experience from due diligence and strategy projects in the events, tech, industrial and education sectors. Being exposed to such a wide range of fast-paced projects so early on was very exciting. It’s hard to imagine another consultancy where you’d have such varied opportunities in the first couple of years.
Chapter 3: Moving to the next level
I’m now a Senior Associate, which means I project-manage smaller projects and lead work streams on larger ones. I don’t have any line management responsibility though – that starts at the next level up (Manager).
Plural has changed hugely since I started, but the things I liked at the beginning still apply:
- The variety of markets, industries, strategic problems and questions you encounter is exciting. I particularly enjoy the very beginning and the very end of a project. At the start, you’re learning what the project’s about, and it’s a different sector and company every time. At the end, it’s really satisfying to see everything tie in and to see the client really engage with your hard work.
The impact you make depends on the project. On a commercial due diligence project, it might be making sure that a company acquires another company for the right price. On a strategy project, it might be that the client has managed to stop their profits from declining.
The people are the glue of the company. It’s an incredibly supportive and friendly environment. If you’re struggling, someone will always help you – however busy they are. The culture is very strong: fun, social and lively without being cliquey or unadaptable. And we all share a love of food and music. I’d more than happily spend time with any one of the team – both at and outside of work.
Chapter 4: Looking back and looking ahead
Plural has really flourished in the last four yearssince I began working here. When I started, it had a start-up feel. Now, we have more than 20 full-time staff in London and New York and we’ve moved to bigger offices in London’s Covent Garden. The work we do has changed, too – our projects have become bigger and more international.
Because we’re still relatively small, though, anyone can come in and make an impact on the culture and the way we do things. People’s ideas have helped to redesign internal processes and open us up to new types of project.
I’m excited to see the company continue to grow. I’d like to see us take on more tech-based and software projects (we’re doing a lot of these at the moment). And I’d like to see even more diversity at the firm, such as more senior women as role models, and wider range of experience and backgrounds.
If you’re interested in applying, I’d say the biggest draw is the potential to make an impact. You get thrown straight in the deep end, which I don’t think would happen at a larger firm. And when you’re preparing for an interview, I’d recommend you break down what you want to say into parts and nail each point succinctly. It’s how we communicate with our clients so you need to show you can do this in interview.