Transitioning from Active Duty to Management Consulting

Often times, I look back over the last few years of my life and wonder how I ended up in management consulting. Describing my experiences as a “non-traditional business background” only scratches the surface. With five years of active duty service and a deployment to Baghdad, I had developed a unique skillset, but there didn’t seem to be much of an overlap with the business world. Moreover, coming out of the military, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. While business school helped to build my business acumen, its greatest benefit was exposing me to the spectrum of industries and careers that were available to me.

So, why management consulting? Much like my decision to attend business school in the first place, my discovery of consulting as a career was unanticipated.  While I was determined to avoid getting pulled into the crowd mentality that accompanied recruiting for consulting, I figured I’d at least give a coffee chat or two a chance.  The more I met with consultants, the more I discovered that this profession was not all that different from the military. The similarities were present in many aspects of the industry, but especially resonated with L.E.K.:

The People.  The biggest thing I’ve missed, and will always miss, about the Army is the people. The level of camaraderie that exists between soldiers is hard to replicate elsewhere. But what I’ve found at L.E.K. is a group of hard-working and dedicated individuals who are driven toward success, much like those I had the fortune of working with in the military. Dedication and a strong work ethic are equally important if you are accomplishing a military objective or developing the right strategy for your client.

The Culture.  “Work hard, play hard” is something that you sometimes hear, but never actually see. Working hard in the military is a given; tasks need to be accomplished that are not always fun and rarely easy.  But letting off a little steam at the end of the day is something you can always look forward to. The same is true at L.E.K. While hard work is the norm throughout the week, there’s always something fun to look forward to, whether that’s beer cart on Friday afternoon or the annual summer outing.

Transferable Skills.  My apprehension that the skills I’ve acquired through the military might not actually help me in consulting was a concern right up until I started at L.E.K. (and still feels like a concern from time to time). But managing a team of consultants requires many of the same qualifications as leading soldiers. The ability to relate to individuals, adapt to change, make sense of ambiguous data and take the initiative to accomplish a mission are all required in both professions.

As I sit here and think back on my journey over the last several years, I feel fortunate. Fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve my country and work with some of the finest soldiers America has to offer. Fortunate that business school allowed me to grow and develop as a person (and a civilian!).  But most of all, fortunate that the experiences I’ve had leading up to now are the foundation for growth that I can look forward to, both professionally and personally, in my career as a consultant at L.E.K.

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