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Interview with ICEF Graduates key employers - A.T. Kearney

ICEF Career Centre is actively working with a number of leading consulting firms - ICEF Graduates key employers. In addition to career events they organize on campus, these firms also participate in various ICEF initiatives. We are grateful to those of them giving us feedback and answering questions, which are of interest to our students and recent graduates. We have formulated key questions and asked partners from some of the leading consulting firms to answer them.This week we are publishing the response to questionnaire by an A.T. Kearney partner – Boris Poretsky. More - to come.


Why consulting over IB/cool industry (google etc)?

It is a better combination of breadth and depth of real life experience. IB is about deals, consulting, sustainable advantage. Cool companies, with all excitement, have to ignore over ¾ of the global economy.

What are the main responsibilities of interns?

Interns support project teams in all key tasks – research, number crunching, etc. Internship is successful if an intern is viewed as a business analyst for all practical purposes.

What knowledge & abilities does the internship give?

Abilities are more important than knowledge. Consulting gives a fast track acquisition of such key skills as analysis, structuring, prioritizing, seeing the big picture and, in general, ability to understand business.

Strategy Intern in Industry. Is it an advantage in CV?

Intern in a respected consultancy has a definite advantage. Function/Industry matters much less, if at all.

What can a 2nd year student make to work in consulting?

Demonstrate curiosity, ability to think out of the box and go extra mile. Basic analytics/math and understanding of business principles is also a must.

Will be crisis a momentum for business innovations?

The vision of innovation as “extracurricular” (as in, spend more time on it in crisis when there is nothing else to do) is fundamentally wrong. Moreover, crises are as natural as growth, the key is not to be reactive (firing in crisis, hiring at growth), but proactively see the opportunities. Hopefully, that is exactly what consulting is about.

What are the most crucial problems for companies now?

Making sure the revenue potential is fully realized. This is something companies underestimate, hastily doing cost cutting. It is now that consultants help the most advanced companies with strategy refinements rather than cost management.

How does consultants' fresh view help (examples)?

It is not only fresh. We hope it is systematic and best-practice entrenched. And this may be counter-intuitive to the client. For example, we developed an own shop network for a telecom company that was cheaper on a per acquisition basis than dealer channel, which was totally contrary to the client thinking at the moment; or, advising a major car manufacturer, we recommended to stop the latest program on the basis of low market potential. The client kept up with the program and it actually did prove to reach only 50% of planned output in a peak year… we call it essential rightness rather than just fresh view.

What is the most exciting experience in your career?

There were many exciting engagements, but the best are hands-on ones with real client impact. Arguably the best for me personally was developing a pre-paid telecom product back in 1999 called ONICard. We did all the hand and legwork down to procuring the physical card producer. The result was the most successful product on the local market, still alive 12 years after, when all its competitors succumbed to new technologies…

What is the recent problem of consulting industry in Russia?

I do not think there is a specifically “recent” problem. The more long-lasting problem is what I call “the NO culture”. Russian clients much more than Western ones develop arguments why something cannot be done rather than finding ways to move things. As a result, there are substantially more failed implementations and repeated efforts. But this has nothing to do with economic downturns.

What circumstances could make you close the Russian office?

We did not do so in 1998 or 2008, so why now? I cannot think of circumstances other than that are typically mentioned in “force majeure” clauses. Sincerely hope these spare us!

How do consulting firms perform during crisis?

The ubiquitous C-word. Short answer is – continue serving the clients. The nature of engagements may slightly differ (but, as I mentioned before, not in a drastic or reactive manner; it is far from pure cost-cutting now as much as at the height of the market it is not just growth strategy).

Which skills are essential for consultants?

First and foremost, concrete thinking. A consultant has to see specific business elements behind concepts and calculations. Then, ability to synthesize, prioritize and make sense of seemingly disparate facts. Lastly, purely analytical skills.

Are entrepreneurial skills important in this work?

It depends. Yes if we mean ownership of the project and result orientation. Not necessarily if we mean running a consulting shop as a start-up. It is not.

What is the key to successful career in consulting?​

Being persistent and thinking positively in the long run.