Careers in consulting: alumni share their insights
12 December 2022
Considering a career in consulting? UCL alumni share their career journeys, demystify the work that they do and reveal their top tips for breaking into the industry.
Consulting is an exciting field to work in and attracts graduates from all degree backgrounds.
From joining a graduate scheme at a 'Big Four' company to an in-house consulting division to freelance work, there are a number of pathways to working as a consultant.
The term ‘consulting’ is, however, very broad and can have a variety of meanings depending on the industry it refers to.
So, what is consulting and what do consultants do? And how can you stand out from the crowd when applying for roles?
To shine a light on what it’s like to work in the field, a panel of UCL alumni, who are consultants in a range of different settings and industries, recently came together to deliver a talk to more than 130 alumni and students as part of the UCL Connect professional development programme.
Following the event, we caught up with two of our alumni panelists, Umesh Ramanan and Katherine O'Neil, to understand more about their career paths.
Umesh Ramanan, Consultant at BCS Consulting, part of Accenture
Umesh has worked on a wide range of projects such as financial crime, operational resilience and digital transformation.
Prior to his current role, Umesh joined PwC’s consulting graduate scheme where he worked on projects in both the private and financial services sectors.
Why and how did you get into consulting?
I started my consulting career by joining the management consulting graduate scheme at PwC back in 2020, before moving to my current role at BCS Consulting, part of Accenture, last year.
I chose a career in consulting as I am able to continuously learn through the variety of projects and clients I work with on a daily basis. What’s more, I am surrounded by intelligent and talented colleagues from diverse backgrounds, all of whom enable me to become a better consultant.
What do you like most about being a consultant? Are there any cons?
Consulting offers everyone a chance to find a speciality that aligns with their own interests. The role of a consultant varies, from a subject-matter expert (SME) in a specific knowledge space (e.g. open banking) or industry (e.g. insurance) to a delivery consultant working across various areas.
There are pros and cons to every job (and life!), for example in consulting, the demand of projects may mean you land in a role that is not aligned to your interests and/or skills. However, this provides opportunities to learn and grow as a consultant. Be open-minded and give it your all!
What skills or attributes are needed to excel?
A couple of soft skills which will be of use for those considering a career in consulting include communication, presentation and stakeholder management. These skills are used daily and can be honed throughout your career. What's more, these skills will always be useful if you were to leave the world of consulting.
Specialist skills that are used across all types of consulting include data analysis, critical thinking and project management.
What top tip would you give to someone looking to get into your area of consulting?
I suggest strengthening your Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint skills as these are widely used across the sector. However, most importantly, keep learning and reading into the subject areas you find personally interesting, this will help shape your career in the direction you wish!
Katherine O'Neil, Founder & Placemaking Consultant at Builtfully
Katherine O'Neil (MSc Urban Design and City Planning 2019), who’s from Minneapolis and now lives in the Greater Boston area, is a placemaking consultant who founded her business Builtfully ® to showcase beautifully built environments and to create better places for all.
Tell us a bit more about what your role involves.
I inspire communities to make places more beautiful, sustainable, and vibrant so everyone feels welcome at various levels. I do this by managing community events and consulting on placemaking projects.
Placemaking is a community-led approach to the planning, designing, and programming of public spaces to connect people to the places they live, work and play in. I create content to share beautifully built environments worldwide through my expertise and resources, which include consulting, writing, engagements and photography.
Why and how did you get into consulting?
After working for several years for a couple of nonprofits/NGOs, I ventured out independently. I started an LLC (Limited Liability Company) in the US to have more flexibility in choosing projects I was passionate about. I gradually built-up clients and began contracting full-time with a start-up company doing various placemaking and community engagement projects. After graduating with my Master's degree from UCL, I started Builtfully®, which is a holistic approach to making places better through consultations, community, and content.
What skills or attributes are needed to excel as a consultant?
To be a successful consultant, you need to be an efficient project manager and practical problem solver while thinking outside the box. Communication is vital in everything you do and it’s important to be a team player and work well independently too.
Networking and making connections to build relationships for your business ensures success. Be an active listener and advocate for yourself; never forget the why in what you do.
How has your UCL degree helped you in your career?
Thanks to my Master’s degree from UCL, I gained international knowledge and expertise. I formed close relationships with people who have similar interests from various global backgrounds. Plus, I got to study in one of the greatest cities in the world - London! The degree was a life and career-changing experience, and now I have an excellent UCL alumni network.
Want to find out more?
To learn more tips from Umesh, Katherine and the rest of the panel, watch the full recording of the Demystifying the Consulting Industry event.
To expand your learning further, explore more UCL Connect content. UCL Connect brings professional development opportunities and expertise from alumni to the UCL community, so you can take the next steps in your career with confidence. Whether you’re still studying, established in your career, moving into a new industry or considering your options post-graduation, the UCL Connect series has something for everyone.