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Short Version: Moving Across to Consulting with Duncan Lemieux


Duncan recently made a successful transition across to management consulting with just under two years’ experience outside of the industry. In this interview, he offers valuable advice for those considering a similar path.

How did you come to find out about the management consulting industry?

Well, it started with an internship I had in university. I was working for the Senior VP of Student Affairs at NYU. He brought me in and said “Duncan, would you mind helping me with this project for a student engagement platform? It's very ad hoc. You will have creative liberty over how to go about this, but I want to understand whether this is going to be a good idea”.

Then about two years ago I was trying to think about what kind of work I had done in my life that I enjoyed the most. I came back to this time and thought “what kind of position would enable me to do that kind of thing?” So that's where my interest in consulting stemmed from.

What about the industry made you want to get involved?

I think it's quite commonplace in any job for your interviewer to say to you “this job is different day-to-day”. I haven’t always found this to be true.

In consulting your work truly never is the same. You might be working on the same kind of problem for two clients in the same industry, but those clients are going to be fundamentally different. Different audiences, different issues etc. I really think that strategy consulting is one of the very few industries where your day-to-day is very different, and every project is entirely unique to the one that came before.

How did you approach your job search for consulting roles?

I didn't feel like I had any particular sector expertise. However, I had some exposure to TMT-centric projects at my last company and technology is also just something that I have a natural interest in. I thought that could be quite a good fit. It made a lot more sense than going for something like healthcare – which I have no background or particular passion for. I think you need to be engaged with whatever kind of consulting you want to go into.

In terms of my actual search, I went about it the typical LinkedIn route: “jobs in London”, “management consulting”, “strategy consulting” etc. Then I reached out to you. I've worked with several recruitment firms in the past, but I so appreciated your responsiveness and being so on top of things.

I remember when you first told me about Horizon, I said “I'm not sure that will be the best fit for me because I don't have a huge amount of tech experience”. You said, “put that aside, do the interview and see what comes of it”. I am so grateful that I did – it's been amazing so far. Looking at the job description, that’s not something I would have ever applied for myself because I thought I would’ve needed way more expertise in technology.

You have now successfully landed a role within a consulting firm. In terms of the work itself, what have been the main challenges that you’ve faced so far?

Significant increase in workload for sure. You have to be quite a flexible person. I think that's just the nature of the job. For instance, most of our clients are US-based so timings vary. Sometimes they want late calls. If you're approaching a deliverable, you will regularly be working quite late. That's something that you need to understand going in.

Conversely, I think they also recognise how hard you work here and reward that. If the work is something that you enjoy doing, then you are just kind of happy to do it. I feel much more satisfaction knowing that I'm interested in the work I’m doing.

On the other side of that, what part of consulting have you enjoyed the most?

People have such unique backgrounds. When I first started looking into consulting, I thought I wouldn't be able to get a job unless I had been bred and groomed for it – had consulting internships all throughout university or was coming out of an MBA programme. I thought it was going to be near impossible. When you actually get into consulting, you realise that everybody has vastly different backgrounds.

When you have an industry like that, there is so much that you can learn. You can pull a lot of different information out of people, and you learn different ways to think about things. I'm also lucky that my team is very diverse geographically. We've got somebody from the US, Denmark, Belgium, Austria and Poland. So that's something that I am also really enjoying. I suppose that's more unique to my firm.

If you had one piece of advice for someone considering making the transition across to consulting, what would it be?

I'll do you one better. I'll give you two;

  1. I think you have to do a lot of research beforehand to understand whether this is something that you actually want to do because a lot of people will lean on consulting as sort of catch-all. I think it has worked out well for me because I really knew what I was going into. Like I said, I did a lot of prep beforehand.
  2. The other thing is being able to balance being highly resilient to feedback with standing by your decisions. Clients can come back and say, “I hate this thing that you put together, please redo it”. Sometimes you just have to accept it, move on and redo it. Other times, you need to be able to have the conviction to stand behind your own decisions if you really believe something has been done the right way. I think those two things are key in consulting.

To find out more about the preparation Duncan undertook in order to make the transition across to consulting, read the full version of our interview here.

- by John Barker

Posted by: Beament Leslie Thomas