As an engineer, there are a number of transferrable skills you can take with you as your career progresses. But there are few areas you could move into with more potential and scope than management consultancy. This branch of business spans across a broad spectrum of industries and projects, demanding the ability to adapt and learn on a daily basis.
But, if you have ever thought of a career change, what might be the reasons for someone with an engineering background wanting to move into an industry that at first look does not seem a logical career progression for your skills?
Well, at the simplest level, it can be framed as a question of freedom. The role of the engineer is usually dominated by rigor and the need to follow specific rules to produce particular outcomes. But in management consultancy, whilst there is still a huge amount of rigor and numeric literacy, just as in engineering, the rules are negotiable; you can tailor and adapt to each client and individual set of circumstances, with a remit to explore every angle and option, to find the best fit for the client.
The opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking is a different proposition for the engineer. If you have followed set procedures and outcomes for a number of years and begun to feel stifled, the chance to reimagine frameworks and strategies instead of following them is hard to turn down.
But, this is not to say the two roles are entirely opposed in their approaches. They effectively engage similar skills, but with a different paradigm of how to apply these skills. An engineer is required to solve concrete problems with defined parameters.
The management consultant, however, is tasked with solving more abstract problems with more opaque parameters. An engineer will address a specific problem or process, with an intended outcome, such as improving the performance of a motor.
A management consultant might look at a wider problem, such as reducing the cost of producing the motor. They will assess all the conditions surrounding production, from the cost of materials, the level of mechanical knowledge within the company, the cost of sourcing different materials, and so on. They will then develop a hypothesis of various solutions to find the best fit and value for the client.
Both roles are trained to solve problems, but it is the paradigm shift of engineering change in human and organisational behaviours instead of mechanical or technical processes that separates the two job functions.
Management Consultants work on case studies, building hypothesises around the particular conditions of the project. They use this to map out a framework for understanding the challenge they face, creating a logical pathway to the right solution.
So, with that in mind, we have created a case study. We examine your career and the problem of how to best transition into management consultancy from a technical background. We examine your weaknesses, strengths, and possible answers in how to best formulate a plan of action and implement change.
One of the most widely used methods in management consultancy is the hypothesis-based analysis to build up a more complete understanding of the project, beyond superficial analysis.
So in this instance, we need to get a deeper understanding of the question “how do I move from engineering into management consultancy?”
So to get into this question on a more complex level several areas, we must consider several key areas:
You really need to understand why you want to move into this consulting. It is a competitive industry and will require dedication in changing track from your previous route. It demands you add previously untested skills to your repertoire. And, you need to be able to communicate all this to potential firms as a strong reason to hire you.
This point follows on from the first point, but can be broken into two sub points:
2.1 Individual circumstances – where are you in your career? Have you been working for several years after an engineering degree and become dissatisfied with the predictability of your work? Do you crave more creative input, or wish to have more human interaction during projects? Can you handle being less hands on in technical areas, and working with numbers and statistics in more abstract ways? Would you like the challenge of working on new projects in different places with new people on a regular basis? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you are well suited to make the move.
2.2 The bigger picture – what is the industry like, beyond your individual objectives, are the market conditions conducive to making such a move? Well, there is great news here. As the Indian business landscape adapts to keep pace with the other BRIC and established Western economies, we are seeing a shift from traditionally regulated industries with set procedures, such as IT and engineering companies.
The movement towards new business models such as research & development and engineering consultancy is gathering pace during this decade. All these newer forms require not just strong tech knowledge, but creative problem solving; or, in other words, management consultants. The growth in demand for people with these skills in India (and abroad) is only going to increase in the coming years.
Again, this is an that area can be broken down into subsections:
3.1 Relevant skills – What value proposition can you offer firms? First and foremost are your highly developed quantative research and data analysis abilities. These skills form a large part of management consultancy tasks.
Secondly, your deep knowledge is a great indicator to consultancy firms of your strong appetite for hard work and solving hard problems. Engineering is well recognised as one of the toughest degrees you can undertake, posing some of the toughest challenges for candidates to solve.
3.2 Skills Gap – Management consultants use strong business understanding to perform their job successfully, but your background has emphasised technical understanding. Lacking a strong foundation of business and leadership skills is your biggest roadblock ahead. However, many consultancy firms specialize in across tech or niche technology areas (such as semi-conductors), so the demand for technical knowledge can tip the scales back in your favour
- You can attempt to highlight you skills and experiences, for example, team management, or get involved with market research projects in your current position. However, whilst these things might help bolster your experience, they will probably not give you the edge on your CV to make the jump into your new sector. Instead, you need a definitive way of proving your business aptitude and analytical problem solving to consultancy firms.
- The surest way of proving your business smarts? Go out and get the proof, and all our research indicates the best way to do that is to undertake an MBA program.
Many top companies see top business schools as the breeding ground for the next generation of management consultants. Why? Well, it will cultivate strong foundation knowledge in all aspects of business leadership, along with analytical approaches to problem solving. They replicate the real life working conditions of the consultant with a case study approach, working on a variety of tasks. You learn to account for all factors when making decisions.
And beyond the specific business skills you will learn, are all the other attendant benefits of business school. You will form a large network, both formal and informal, as well as access to internships and workshops. You will also be exposed to candidates from a range of backgrounds, all with different perspectives you can learn from.
Most business schools will also have a management consultancy club you can join, getting practical experience on the types of projects you can expect to work on for a real firm, along with help in preparing for interviews and demonstrating your passion and knowledge of the industry.
In analysing your best options, we need to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the options. In a highly competitive field, hoping your current CV is good enough to propel you into your dream position is an inefficient use of time. You will probably waste time and productivity hoping to get a foot in the door.
So the question becomes, when investing in your future career, can you afford not to go to business school? An MBA will arm you with precisely the skills you lack and the skills consultancy firms target. It is the shortest, most efficient way of kick-starting your career progress and is the most elegant solution for bridging the gap from engineering to consultancy.
When it comes to planning your MBA experience, from choosing courses, to help passing the GMAT entrance exam, Jamboree Education is the oldest institute in India (founded in 1993), aiding students and professionals gain the best possible experience when looking to enroll for MBAs and study abroad.
With counseling centers in 27 locations across the country combined with a fantastic website full of resources, Jamboree combines test preparation with help in applying and planning your trip, drawing on the experience of helping thousands of candidates achieve their potential.