Barden Uncovered: An Interview with Cathie Farrell, Associate Director in Grant Thornton on the Transition from Industry to Consulting
Barden caught up with Cathie Farrell, Associate Director in Grant Thornton’s Financial Services Consulting team to glean an insight into how she found the transition from industry to consulting and what her role entails.
Cathie’s built her career in financial services (predominantly banking) and loved the dynamic nature of her work. Thus, a career move into consulting was somewhat of a no-brainer for her.
“Every day is different; you just don’t know what’s going to happen on any given day. I thrive on the variety and unpredictability of it.” Cathie comments. Industry roles usually tend to be more structured, with a sense of certainty about what each week or month entails. In consulting, projects can last anywhere between two weeks and two years, so it’s important to be adaptable and be able to keep up with the pace of change.
In consulting, every hour you work is chargeable to your client, so time really is money! “The clients’ needs are always top priority!”. A career in consulting requires a certain degree of flexibility, being on-hand and ready to react to your client’s problems, regardless of what other tasks you have on your plate that day. It’s not enough to listen to your client’s issues or to identify areas for improvement, your thinking must go beyond this. “Successful consultants are solution-focused individuals; our clients pay us for our expertise in providing and implementing innovative solutions to their challenges”.
The diversity and changing nature of teams is something that Cathie has really enjoyed about her time in Grant Thornton so far. “Teams are fluid; you get to work with different people all the time which gives you the opportunity to learn from each individual you work with”. Teams are comprised of individuals with varying skillsets; whether it is technical expertise, system knowledge or general project management skills, everyone has a critical role to play in ensuring the optimum solution is successfully delivered to the client. This creates an environment in which everyone is continually learning from one another, sharing knowledge and building new skills.
An ever-changing, client orientated, fast-paced role has its challenges too! “It can sometimes be difficult to manage clients’ expectations, particularly in terms of deadlines. Everything has to be done yesterday and that can be challenging!”, Cathie notes. However, it is in times like these when teams really pull together and help each other out. “The challenging times tend to be the most rewarding.”
So, what are the key traits needed to have a successful career in consulting?
“Attitude is everything. You can teach people technical skills, but you can’t teach a positive attitude”, Cathie says. To get the most out of consulting, it’s important to have an interest in people, a natural curiosity and enjoy solving problems. Alongside this, self-motivation is key. “Micro-management isn’t something you come across very often in consulting. We trust our teams to work hard and uphold high standards at all times.”
If you’re considering a career in consulting, Cathie’s advice is to do your homework first. “Firms are known for their expertise in different areas, so make sure you choose a firm which aligns with the area you are most interested in getting experience in.” Consulting can mean different things depending on what firm you work in. The nature of the projects, the length of engagements, client base and team size greatly vary from one firm to another, so it’s important to talk to a few different firms to make sure you choose the one that is right for you. “I chose Grant Thornton for the opportunity to join an extremely successful financial services consulting practice and become part of a team with ambitious expansion plans”.
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