{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "To anyone who worked as a consultant in the 80’s and 90’s: what was this job like before the internet/powerpoint/laptops/cellphones? What did your days look like? How did you do the job?", "post_id": "5fe4218d13f52300200692ca", "reply_count": 19, "vote_count": 8, "bowl_id": "552d1d24dc1c586b09d2d051", "bowl_name": "Consulting", "feed_type": "crowd" }

To anyone who worked as a consultant in the 80’s and 90’s: what was this job like before the internet/powerpoint/laptops/cellphones? What did your days look like? How did you do the job?

likehelpful
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I think you need the folks from the 80s and there’s not many left of them still working in consulting. We had PowerPoint in the early 90s (actually released 87). But cellphones didn’t show up en masse until late 90s for staff / managers (they were very expensive)... car phones yes, but truly mobile phones didn’t become widely accessible until the latter part of the 90s. Before that we would go to lunch and be unreachable. Which was awesome. When we got back, we had an EA who covered most of the department staff and we would check in with them for messages - eventually voicemail became much more common so you would just check your voicemail when you got back to the office. When I joined our firm we did not have an enterprise wide email system. Prior to the advent of the cellphones many of us carried pagers and used Palm Pilots, then it was Nokia, then the Motorola StarTac, then the Blackberry before the iphone. We documented work in physical work papers (so “pls fix” isn’t a new thing...) Having said all that ... I still miss my Blackberry.

likesmart

Lol, no offense taken. It was good to reminisce over these memories fondly.

Where did people go to read a client 10k? The library?

funnylike

We actually did have a library and a librarian in the office.

likefunny

I started in the early 90s. It was pre-Google, and we eventually started using AltaVista. I mention this because at that point, consulting firms had a lot more information than clients did. Also, the quality of executive management was not as high as it is today. Topics like Business Process Re-engineering and Lean were in vogue. Clients still drank at lunch and while smoking was still a mainstay of our European clients’ offices, in the U.S. it was fading fast. Big dinners and heavy drinking at night were common. The personalities were outrageous and some were extreme - in the Hypomanic, Musk, Ellison vein. The stories from back then were a lot more interesting and funny than the moments people are allowed to create on the job today. There also weren’t as many “consultants” back then. When the dot com boom burst (maybe even before then), everyone called themselves a consultant. Firms have gotten many, many times bigger. Also consulting wasn’t as sought out from a career perspective. So, the people who entered it usually wanted to be long-term consultants. Because of all this, a much higher percentage of consultants qualified as brilliant. Personally, I think consulting was A LOT more fun back then. That being said, the variety of problems we work on today is broader, the clients are more numerous and much smarter, and the ability to accelerate your career and make lifelong friends is as possible as it ever was. So, like many of you will eventually, I look with fondness to the days of past, but life goes on and so do I.

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Some of the partners that I’ve worked with have cited using overhead transparencies (cutting out colored squares and all to make charts!), booking time on one of the few computers to run analysis, etc. There’s also a famous bottle cap story within the firm about how before one could buy market data from a vendor, some scrappy analysts went around collecting bottle caps to size a soft drink market 😜

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There is a awesome Arthur Andersen “Field Handbook” out there somewhere. Has been posted here before but too lazy to look. It’s a great read and gives a glimpse into how it must have been imho.

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Tried googling to find this and can’t. Do you know where I can find this?

I would love to see pics of the physical slides, but realized as I was typing that it's unlikely anyone would have taken pics of it before the advent of smartphones.

likefunny

I did a project in Montreal in 96 and 97. Several of my project team members used to smoke in the office, which I hated so much. There was a food cart guy (similar to mail cart) who would bring breakfast, coffee, cigarettes and soft drinks into the office and walk around the cubicles and sell them to us. As consultants we didn’t have individual desk phones, so we had to give our names and cube # to the receptionist in case if you get a phone call. Most clients had in/out signing sheets (I still see them at some places even now). Our per diem $50 was pretty decent and we could get a lot for that in 90s. I remember receiving travel allowance of $1500 per month if we travelled for more than 12 weeks continuously. We could expense dry cleaning, tips, personal phone calls, shoe shine etc. in addition to per diem.

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I’m not a boomer but didn’t people use to use flip charts?

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People still use flip charts

likefunny

I can answer this sort of. We had mobile phones but didn’t really carry them and not with text or email and it was emergency use only because it was personal use. When you went to lunch you were at lunch. We spent Sunday making slides on a flip chart on the dining room table so decent drawing and handwriting skills were good.

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I started in 2005 and even then phones weren’t standard/required. I got my first blackberry in 2006. We also had to write “Ethernet provided” in our contracts because clients were giving us unwired rooms to work in. My first client we shared one dial up line. Things changed rapidly soon after but 2005 still wasn’t anything like today.

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I think it was all just hugs and handshakes while mainframers just pounded punchcards and keyboards. I started just before the dot com bubble. We used computers and high speed internet at the office, but had beepers and a pocket full of quarters for after hours emergencies.

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Physical slide decks, pagers, & lunch martinis

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I recall bulky toshiba satellites, I would pick one up from the locked cabinet before visiting a client...along with a RSA SecureID key ring.

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