Can you leave the glamour of consulting?

Featured 24 Jun 2017

Back to MBA days, sitting in the placement hall, all you are dreaming of is being all suited-booted, walking through swanky office corridors, taking hard calls in meetings, pie-charts, presentations, ufff! All that jazz!

Well, I was no different, struck by the glamour of consulting. And no, it was not a sad story later, I loved my consulting job, being in the middle of all the action, being heard intently by top clients and all. What a rush! If someone had asked me a year back, ‘Will you leave consulting?’, my answer would have been a BIG NO! I think a lot of my consultant friends would relate to this.

So 6 months back, when I got an opportunity to work at this lesser known company Oben (now the buzzing Digit), I was like, ‘Who will move from this happening consulting role to a boring insurance industry’.

Nonetheless, I did my research and insurtech was something that kept coming up as the ‘next big thing’ globally, with India too seeming ripe for it and Oben being one of the early entrants here, backed by Fairfax (which meant great backing). So as a true-blue consultant, I started jotting down the pros and cons. We’ll come to my list some other time, for now I’ll tell you that I took that big leap and went ahead with joining Oben.

Cut to today, since the time I’ve joined Digit (now we fondly call it this), an insurtech company, a lot of my present colleagues, ex-colleagues, friends and family have been asking about how my life has changed professionally after leaving consulting. I thought I’d rather write and share my experience through this blog.

Whenever I’m asked to compare between the two industries, I somehow feel most of the people expect me to be critical about my previous work. But I tell them, the two industries share very similar qualities that I enjoy as a professional.

1. Fast Learning

In consulting, many a times you are thrown in an engagement and portrayed as an expert in certain area which you haven’t really heard /read about before (spilling the beans, am I? Oops). But that’s when you get a natural push to learn things faster. Plus, as a consultant, you get to work in multiple areas which gives at least a bird’s eye view of various aspects in an organisation.

At Digit too, the push is towards fast learning but in a different way. Here, which maybe the case with most lean organisations, each one of us is given responsibilities in multiple areas which allows us to learn lot of things in a short period. If I go back and read JD now for role I was hired for, I would laugh it off as that is literally 1/10th of what I do.

2. Emphasis on ‘Smart’ People and building ‘Awesome’ teams

They say, you become a sum of the 5 people you interact with the most, on a daily basis. This is probably one thing which I was most afraid of while leaving consulting, leaving smart people!

But man!, after coming to Digit, that aspect hasn’t changed a bit. Rather Digit has exceeded my expectations with incredibly smart people around, who are easy to get along and fun to work with. After all, you spend more time of your life with these people than your own spouse (that pains though!).

3. Work hard, party harder

People in consulting are dynamic and full of energy (ex-love flames?). All weekdays they’ll work hard, say 10-12 hours a day, and then party until 2-3am until the bar closes. I always thought insurance will have the very serious kind of people. But no, people here are no  different except from the fact the location has changed to Bengaluru from Mumbai! We rest in a pub on a friday night in order to be prepared to run again the next week.

While the list can go-on when I see the similarities between both industries, beware, there are certain things which are a contrast between both! But I found them a bit entertaining.

1. From being a ‘gyani’ to an ‘executioner’

“Working in consulting vs. a working in a lean organisation” is like “making a presentation vs detailing a word document.” You really need to go deep into things when working here at Digit. But the strange thing is that despite this, we have a bias for action. Instead of having hours of arguments / debates / hypothesis / presentations before execution, we just test and learn, which believe me gives an better and more in-depth understanding of things.

2. Looking “good??”

This is a fun one. In consulting, my wardrobe used to have 2 sections, work section and casuals section. Visiting a client, with the suit and tie look, would always make you feel as if you are compromising on your identity to impress the client. I personally feel that dressing casually, here at Digit, gives me more freedom and probably make me more productive and effective. I know, this may seem like a small thing, but wearing chinos is definitely better than tight pants!

Just for fun, opening up my wardrobe, then and now!

3. From following ‘Best practices’ to ‘Best not-yet-in-practice’

What would be the fun, if everyone is just doing the same old ‘best practices’ things. There won’t ever be any differentiation. We would still be stuck with feature phones or maybe radio signals!

Consulting is all about – ‘Best practices’, ‘Benchmarking’ etc. Here, though we know the ‘best practices’ of the insurance industry, given that we have veterans on board, we are encouraged to think differently.  And it is ok if things fail as there wasn’t any benchmarking! But that’s where the learning is.

4. From doing a ‘Job’ to actually ‘owning’ things

I am going to mention the often heard, i.e. in a young company you really feel like you are owning things. If you are free during the day, you start getting the feeling of doing something more, something extra. In consulting, on the other hand, even in client engagements, that sense hardly used to be there. It was like “Itne mein, itnaich milega” (Translation: You get this much only, in this much money) ? Nothing wrong in that but just saying!

Some friends from my consulting days are going to laugh with me, reading the above, some may want to kill me. But just opened-up my real feelings here.

All said and done, consulting was my first job and my first love. No other industry can beat the glamour and the experience you get in consulting. But at Digit, it’s been only 5 months for me and I really feel like I’ve been working here for more than a year (in a good way). So many things to work on, so many things to learn. It’s been an amazing short journey till now and hope it’s long enough to become my identity.