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Over 40 in Consulting

Anyone make the shift into Consulting late in their careers? I’m struggling - moved from industry after 15+ years, leveraged relationships to get into a Director role at PwC. Realizing now that I specialize more in thought leadership and team development, and not necessarily business development, which seems to be the ultimate driver at this level. Want to go back to industry, and am exploring options, but would love to hear others’ experiences.

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I’m a director at a competing firm for 6 more days. I joined consulting after 15 years in industry and lasted 1-year. I return to industry in 2-weeks. I struggled with the lack of influence I had at the practice level, found the work did not play into my strengths and, to be frank, realized I could contribute more than consulting allowed me. At least that’s my perspective. It was a great experience, but I’m ready to be the boss again! Good luck.

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Very smart of you to have realized that so quickly. Good luck!

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Joined consulting at 33 as a manager was interesting to say the least working with peers 6 some years younger than I was. I BSed my way to a consulting manager role from an individual contributor role in a small product company. While I enjoyed building things, What I didn't know was how to talk "frameworks". I realized many of my peers who sounded smart knew how to talk about frameworks and other clients. Year 1,2 was brutal but I was able to figure out how to fake "consultingese" and got promoted over the years to what is our firm equivalent of a partner but never lost the skill and drive to think outside of the framework and on my feet which made me successful, but at 40 now I'm reaching a point of existential despair and jadedness of not enjoying it anymore. I am the bottom of the partner pyramid and I realize to climb this ladder it's not the hustle for interesting strategy gigs and inventive pilots but massive transformations and a huge book of durable revenue. I don't know if I want it (maybe a part of me fears I can't even do it and it makes me insecure) . I want the intellectual thrill of creating something from scratch, I don't know if an industry S/VP gets you that maybe a start up. I'm very interested to hear other stories - thanks OP for starting the discussion.

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Rant warning: Honestly I think that for me, tech consulting is a game for the young or not so old, but once your past 45 (Im 46) it gets harder and harder to deal with the (what used to be) constant travel, client bs, constantly being dropped into a potential powder keg of issues, company client politics and telephone game of expectations that your superiors who themselves are usually overloaded and overbooked have misread and only chase the wrong fires without regard to the on the ground realties... The actual product created in the gig or the project only matters little, in so much as the next deal it drives or the next client sow procured and financials achieved... It’s often hard to feel proud of the work you did and complexities of software projects with multiple stakeholders,offshore and client vendors feels to me like trying to build a modern house on a plot of land in no mans land in the middle of WWI, i.e.: a recipe for failure ) it frustrates me how employees and offshore teams are treated like dirt, junior consultants left to flounder and then blamed for the vagaries of client needs and sensible engineering recommendations ignored just to appease ignorant clients to deliver something so the next contract can get signed.. Ive learned to be wary of certain clients and companies and to always get the temprature and state of a project by getting feedback before I join My pay is good so I keep doing and have learned a lot, it but I am looking to get off this merry go around and back into a more stable world but COVID has thrown a wrench into that as well ;)

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Sorry for the late response. I think you nailed it - it’s more the saleability of the product than the quality. How well you execute is not necessarily relevant because “we have a lot of people who can execute. How much business can you bring us?”. It’s fine for consulting - but having spent a lifetime in industry, it’s hard to come around to that mindset. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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I joined consulting at 41, 17 years into my career. I'm looking to get back to industry to do more of what i enjoy.

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Consulting does position you well to network across other verticals. Good luck!

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I joined consulting at around 32 I think (46 now). I took a 30% pay cut from an IT management position. Funnily enough, my first consulting gig was Avanade, A1. I made the switch because I thought consultants were sooo smart. Man was I wrong LOL. I just knew sooo little. What makes it difficult to get into consulting late in life in my opinion is our salary requirements and sometimes coming from industry you don’t get credit for your experience because you lack consulting experience. End up coming in at a lower level where people much younger are etc. With you OP, at least you came in as a director. And yes, the higher you go up in consulting it’s less about the delivery and more about sales. For me, I still love consulting. It has screwed up my love of technology though. Also, I’ve always hated the travel and learned that my first month. Fortunately, most of my career has had me working local.

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That last point you made resonates - you stop loving the technology. I’m there now - I used to make it a point to understand the depths of my ownership, but now the driver is more how well positioned we are to deliver on the SOW. I only get involved in the weeds if there is a major blocker. The pay cut is different from my experience- I got a 20% hike to join consulting, which is making it harder to go back! Competitive salaries in industry are at the VP level. While I don’t doubt that I can land something, it isn’t easy!

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Came in at a very similar age. Have about 5 years experience with two consulting firms (over 20 years overall) and am in the same boat as you, OP. I, too, thought this would be the best move for my career professionally and financially. Neither rang true, however, as industry experienced is almost treated as a crutch. Colleagues are intimidated of you because you actually understand the industries where the engagements are performed, so undermining is frequent. “Leaders” of the org have an inferiority complex due to being consultants for such a long time that they’ve become experts at nothing. Was hired “down” a level and am dealing with peers nearly 10 years younger with no clue as to what they’re supposed to do, and superiors that are passive aggressive after clients continuously contact me for help in lieu of my “bosses.” Am looking to get back to industry ASAP as this is a young and nieve person’s game. This system is broken and no one is willing to fix it, least of all the Partners.

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That’s my goal, PwC. As an experienced hire, the system is broken for us. If you’ve had a more rewarding experience as an experienced hire, I believe you’ve fared much better than most. I’m looking to leave because of all I posted above, the lack of career progression due to the goal posts moving, and leadership overstaying their welcome. I’ve also been undermined at least 5 times in the last 6 months while creating and preparing proposals, effectively having a master of nothing steal my ideas to present as their own to clients. This person is unable to execute just about anything, but will be damned to let someone like me get any credit that would insinuate my ability to execute at the next level. Finally, if that’s not enough punishment, I’ve been told I have little to no room to increase my comp. So, YMMV, but I can’t wait around while incompetence runs the practice and I stagnate.

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I joined at 47. I’m having a great time. I look 32 though. No one suspects!

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Yes, and it was an overall good experience, but unless you come in at the right level and responsibility, you are looking at a tough slog. BD is the primary reason to bring in seasoned experiences hires. No other reason for a firm to pay you extra, when they can grow the campus hires from within.

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For proposal writing, etc, yes....but the firms want your network!! I.e. where you came from...you will know who to talk to, from you previous work...contacts, etc

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Similar to you, I came in thinking consulting would be an easier transition than it was. I was two years in before I really started to feel comfortable both in my role, and in consulting. I’m not sure I would have lasted without support from a few partners and Directors around me. Similar to others, I felt stupid at first because I wasn’t sure what everyone was talking about. As it turns out, everything is a a framework through which to manage. As another pointed out, once I figured this out, my industry experience became a competitive advantage. I can talk the industry jargon and experience in a way that lifetime consultants cannot. I understand the pull back to industry, but if you can find some support while you figure out the “consulting way,” you may come to a different conclusion. I get offers to go back into industry, and I worry about getting bored.

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Joined at 40, from an academic career, so effectively from scratch. My colleagues seem to think I’m early 30s so that helps! But honestly, at least in strategy I think my experience is a huge bonus. As long as I can keep my mental flexibility and energy levels up, I can run circles around some of my coworkers. Sure, it would have been good to make this money when I was younger, but as a way to transition to a new career (I.e not applicable to those of you who left Tech for tech consulting, which frankly sounds awful) and learn a ton, this experience has been amazing. I’m never going to “catch up” to my age peers; but honestly why should I care? I make more money than a tenured professor at a good school, and I get to work in things that move the needle in real world, in real time. That’s pretty awesome.

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Came into consulting at 41 with 18 yoe. Came to learn why consultants do what they do, what constraints they operate under when delivering projects, learning how they make money, understanding the nature of the business. Deliberately came in ast manager level because I'm a doer not a salesperson. Now at senior manager and ready to leave after 3 years of consulting, no satisfaction from the job, and little support for my career direction that I've not driven myself. I enjoyed industry more, even as a contractor.

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