Monday, November 12, 2007

Carrer in Consultancy - BOOZ Allen Hamilton

How is Booz Allen different from other top-tier consulting firms?

Our major differentiator is our focus on Strategy-Based Transformation

Helping clients face change brought about by discontinuities in their markets (e.g., deregulation, new competition, convergence of technology, mergers and acquisitions)
Working with clients that want to drive to a new future through major, cross-functional change
Covering the entire CEO Agenda, from corporate portfolio to business unit strategy to functional strategies (e.g., marketing, technology, operations)…with precision, speed, and certainty
A Strategy-Based Transformation includes:

Understanding industry structure and dynamics
Developing a strategic agenda—including both business and functional strategies
Driving the CEO’s agenda forward through skilled program management
Cascading the strategy throughout the organization through effective leadership and organization strategy
This Strategy-Based Transformation work is more focused on the full CEO Agenda than the work of most of our competitors.

How is the firm structured?

Booz Allen has a straightforward corporate structure. The firm is comprised of several business units: North America Commercial, U.S. Public Sector, Europe, and International.

Our senior staff are all members of industry- or functionally-focused teams.

The Industry-focused teams are:

Aerospace & Defense
Energy, Chemicals, and Utilities
Financial Services
Health & Pharmaceuticals
The Functionally-focused teams include:

Information Technology
Organization & Change
Strategy & Leadership

What are the differences across offices in terms of size, industries served, types of clients served, and type of work being done?

Unlike most of our strategy consulting competitors, Booz Allen does not follow a regional consulting model. We staff the best people for a specific engagement on the engagement, even if they don’t happen to live in the office closest to the client’s location. However, our industry and functional teams are often located closest to the markets they serve. For instance, partners in our Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit offices lead most of our automotive work; most of our media partners work in our New York office; partners in Dallas and Houston lead most of our energy work. As a result, many of our staff who work on those jobs tend to come from those offices. We also factor our staff’s career development needs and interests into staffing opportunities and will staff him/her on a job in another city to meet those needs and interests.

In the North America Commercial Business, New York is our largest office. Our other commercial offices are in Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, McLean (VA), Mexico City, and San Francisco. Those offices serve primarily commercial clients providing strategy work for the executive agenda. We have over 40 offices across the U.S. that serve our public sector clients; however the majority of staff live and work in the Washington DC area. Those offices serve primarily public sector clients providing management consulting, engineering, information technology, and systems development/integration services to government agencies, institutions and infrastructure organizations.

How would you explain the work that Booz Allen does?

While we have long-term relationships with many clients—we have worked with several clients almost continuously for 40, 50 or 60 years—people come to consulting to do a variety of different things. Our goal is to keep you on one project for no more than six months. Thereafter, you may stay at the same client, but will be working on something different—something that will help you develop and take you to the next level in your consulting career. Team size can vary, depending on the project, but most times you will be working on a fairly small sub-team, focusing on a particular aspect of the client’s issue. A typical sub-team could be comprised of three to a dozen people—and almost always, you’ll be working side-by-side with members of the client organization.

What does Booz Allen look for in a candidate?

Booz Allen looks for candidates with the following general attributes:

A high level of general intelligence and academic achievement
Real thought leadership, combined with strong analytical and problem-solving skills (which includes both a quantitative and qualitative orientation)
Personal leadership qualities, including an ability to manage people, drive change, and accomplish challenging goals through and with others
The ability to work independently, while simultaneously being able to forge productive team relationships
Business judgment and maturity, including the ability to develop a ‘big picture’ view and use it
Intellectual curiosity
Strong personal presence, combined with compelling and professional presentation and communication skills
Initiative, personal organization, motivation, and ownership of one’s work
One of our senior partners said it best:

"What kind of person makes it at Booz Allen? Someone who has done something very hard and very well, like compete in a marathon or sing in an opera—something at which they strive to excel for the sheer self-satisfaction of the quest. People here are driven to excel for the feeling, the personal satisfaction of being the best."

What is the career progression for an Associate to a Partner?

New MBA hires begin at the Associate level and advance to Senior Associate, Principal and then Vice President (known inside the firm as Partner). Individuals tend to spend two to three years at each level. On average, it takes about seven to nine years to become a Vice President.

Incoming Associates can expect to join a functional or industry team right away. However, Associates will not work exclusively in their chosen industry or function. We believe in providing Associates with a broad development experience across a range of industries, client problems, and functional issues.

Virtually all of our Strategy-Based Transformation work is, by definition, cross-functional. It requires deep expertise in organizational strategy, IT, or Operations. That’s why we hire some very highly skilled Associates directly onto the IT and Operations teams. Associates who align to a functional team will gain broad expertise across industries and across client problems.

I am trying to decide between consulting and investment banking. Why should I choose consulting? [Back to Top]

Investment banking and consulting are different career paths -- comparing them is like comparing well-paying apples with well-paying oranges. Consulting is, by necessity, a longer, more open-ended, and more personally interactive process than the more transactional nature of investment banking. Strategy consulting presents a variety of different types of problems which require unique solutions. The consulting experience guarantees variety project to project and client to client. It is important to choose what you would be happiest doing.

Can you describe the types of things a Summer Associate actually does?

We want our Summer Associates to get a good feel for what it’s like to be a consultant at Booz Allen. So you’ll do the same kind of work that our Associates do. You’ll be staffed as a fully functioning member of a client team, generally working side-by-side with your team members at the client site and tasked with your own responsibilities and your own deliverables. As is typical with any new Associate, you will concentrate on the fundamentals of consulting—fact-finding, analysis, developing recommendations for change, writing, presentation skills, and building client relationships.

What training do you provide before I start?

As a full-time employee, you will begin by joining other new Associates at a week-long training session that imparts Booz Allen’s heritage, culture, and approach to consulting. This is also a great chance to get to know your fellow associates as well as other members of the firm. Similarly, for our Summer Associates, we provide a week of training where you learn the basic tools to work as a Booz Allen consultant, while also getting to know interns from across the globe.

How much say do I actually have about the types of projects I work on? Can I focus more of my projects on one area?

Your individual development preferences and needs play a huge role in the projects on which you’ll be staffed. Additionally, our clients’ needs and the overall availability of staff also play a significant role in the staffing process. You’ll work with your mentors and the staffing team to find the right projects to develop your core consulting skills and your personal preferences.

I hear you have a well established mentoring program at Booz Allen; how does that work?

At Booz Allen we recognize that everyone needs someone to talk with about their careers, someone they can use as a sounding board, someone with more experience with the firm who can give them advice. Therefore, we have a formal mentoring program in place that’s worked very well.

When new Associates join the firm, they are assigned a Junior and Senior Mentor. Junior Mentors are people to reach for around anything from how to book your travel and where to stay to writing a self-assessment during your appraisal cycle. Your Senior Mentor is someone who can provide insights into your long-term growth at Booz Allen and often works to ensure that your development needs are being met through your staffing assignments. In addition to your formal mentors, you can certainly form less formal mentoring relationships with other colleagues based on your personal or professional interactions.

What is the culture/work environment like at Booz Allen?

The culture at Booz Allen is unique. The best and brightest people—highly experienced individuals from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise – come together to help our clients succeed by solving CEO-agenda problems. Our culture is one of the key reasons why people decide to join us.

The firm places a strong value on:

An ability to thrive in a team environment
Intellectual integrity
A drive for excellence
A commitment to servicing clients
People who do well at Booz Allen have demonstrated a strong team orientation and creative thought leadership in their previous jobs and campus activities. They are analytic in their approach, thorough in problem solving, and most importantly, are intellectually curious and have a passion for solving problems. Almost any academic or industry background appeals to Booz Allen because our business spans most industries and functional disciplines.

We also value diversity. The wide array of backgrounds among our people serves as a competitive differentiation, a source of individual and corporate pride, and one of the selective secrets underlying the power of our teamwork. The solution we derive for our clients with a diverse team who bring a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives will always be better than one that is derived from a team who does not have that diversity.

How much should I expect to work, travel, and be away from home? How many weekends should I expect to work? I’ve heard that people at Booz Allen travel more. Is that true? [Back to Top]

The consulting business inherently is a fast-driving business. There is no doubt that we work hard. And if you are looking for a 9 to 5 job, then this is not the right industry for you. Challenging, demanding work sometimes requires long hours; however, fourteen- hour days are not business-as-usual at Booz Allen.

We believe that our consultants work hours than are typical of those at our competitors. We encourage you to talk to members of our firm: they will tell you different stories--about some really tough projects, and about others when the hours were very reasonable; about those times when they traveled a lot, and about those where they didn’t hit the road for months.

The reality is that every project has peaks and valleys. Teams generally work together at the beginning of an assignment to lay out a project schedule and try to anticipate when those peak times will be so that you can better plan your schedule.

How do I know which consulting firm is best for me?

When considering potential employers, think about your specific career goals and aspirations. Articulate what is important to you and evaluate each company you consider against these criteria to determine which one will give you the best opportunity to discover and develop your full potential.

Booz Allen offers an extraordinary range of development opportunities. From the beginning, you’ll be making contributions to businesses in a global marketplace. You’ll be developing an international perspective, building strong team leadership skills, deepening functional and industry capabilities, and gaining cross-functional understanding.

We believe that the best measure for determining a firm’s fit for you rests in how you feel about its people: Will they help you learn skills, lead others, grow personally, and have fun? Talk to as many people as possible—including people who are currently working there as well as previous employees. Ask the same questions repeatedly to see if you receive similar or different answers. Press for specifics on the criteria that are most important to you.

At Booz Allen, we encourage you to get to know us. Participate in the various activities we host on campus. Get your information firsthand to gain valuable insight into our corporate culture and environment.

1 comment:

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