Sven: Consulting now and then: What it takes to become a good Consultant
Hello! My name is Sven. I am a Senior Partner with Roland Berger based in our Zurich office. Being with the company for more than 20 years now you could call me kind of a "prehistoric rock". End of the nineties I started as an intern during my studies in St. Gall. An amazing time, totally thrilling for me as a student. At the beginning of 2000 I joined the company on a permanent base as Junior Consultant.
Today, I am leading the Capital Goods cluster within our Industrial Products & Service Competence Center. We are taking care of the machinery and plant engineering segment as well as power generation equipment producers. A very exciting job that brings me together with many colleagues at the different offices within our company since the clients are based all over the world but especially in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), the US and China. During recent years, strategy development was high on their agenda. Expansive growth strategies were developed to benefit from the economic situation. We helped our clients identify concepts to entering new regional markets, establish new solutions and services requested by customers and especially leveraged service concepts to drive profits in markets with saturated demand for new machinery.
Currently, I see a certain shift in the market. Driven by strong volatility in the markets, uncertainty about political developments, more and more complex relationships between global markets and the ambiguity of trends, there is a strong need to rebuild business models and achieve a higher agility. It has a strong impact on our work as consultants. We need to switch from growth mode to operational excellence and advice our clients on how to reduce fixed assets to become more flexible: Enter partnerships that can also be terminated again instead of investing into new capabilities that might turn out to be unnecessary in two years and reduce overall cost levels to balance shrinking gross margins. This is what keeps me motivated to still be in consulting after more than two decades: There is a constant change, numerous challenges we must deal with. But we have an excellent, highly motivated team of different characters that make it happen, again and again.
Besides my global job as head of the Capital Goods cluster I also assume the role of the Co- head of our Zurich office. A completely different challenge where the focus is on ensuring the office works. It includes administrative tasks around facility management and office supplies. But it also includes people management jobs from university marketing, to recruiting and motivation of our consultants and staff at the office. The last one is my favorite. Besides hard work in the projects we also try to enjoy fun-time as often as we can. Every Friday we meet for an "Office Beer @ 5" before everybody heads off for the weekend. We even have our own tap and bar for that at the office. Recently, we went hiking in the Alps together with all employees and their families. After a steep ascent where were enjoying a wonderful panorama with good food and beer in a group of colleagues - no rather friends.
Our business model is an ambitious one. Working hours are not "9 to 5". But some rumors certainly exaggerate, nobody is willing to work regular nightshifts and on weekends. That is clearly a fairy tale. Yet, consulting is a challenging job – from a temporal and mental perspective. For me, family, friends and sports are a good balance to that. My wife and the two kids support me in every way, but I clearly have obligations towards them as well that I need to prioritize. When my son needs support in mathematics, my daughter needs a driver to her gymnastics lessons or my wife needs to handle some of her business topics. Weekends we often spend with friends and meet for barbeques during summer or go for skiing in the Engadin where you find the best slopes – on- or off-piste.
For me, Roland Berger is the best working place to be. If you want to be part of a great team and want to experience what it means to advise customers of different industries, you should think about doing an internship at Roland Berger or applying for a job as Junior Consultant.
To be successful in the application process, you need to prove that you have the typical consulting skills, mainly analytical competences but also a certain business sense, like understanding a P&L statement and recognizing market trends/dependencies are essential. I also appreciate good communication skills, within the team but also in front of the client. Last but not least, I consider emotional intelligence a very important skill necessary to read the expectations of the team and the client. Digital skills nowadays become a kind of a basic mindset and prerequisite to enable the skills mentioned above in an optimal way. However, at Roland Berger we offer a lot of training to continuously make us better.
So, maybe we see each other soon. All the best!
- Photos Sven Siepen; Lightcome/iStock; Roland Berger; Tom Merton/iStock; Takashi Kitajima/Getty images