Find Me A Rock
I love my morning reading routine. Most mornings during the week – between 5am and 6:30am – I sit at my computer, catch up on email, read the stuff in my daily folder, go through my RSS feeds, and generally explore whatever I can on the web. Some is systematic (my daily folder, my RSS feeds), some is more random (Techmeme, Hacker News), and some comes from places that I couldn’t tell you how I got to.
Today’s amazing story was from The Tech, MIT’s newspaper (currently in Volume 130). The article is Opinion: The story BCG offered me $16,000 not to tell and is a great story from Keith Yost, an MIT grad, about his relatively short experience working at BCG in Dubai as a management consultant.
It’s a story that will be familiar to anyone who started working at a management consulting firm straight out of school. Or an investment bank. Or a law firm (out of law school). Or an accounting firm. Or any number of other “professional services firm.” It’s especially relevant for anyone who got an A+ education and was at the top of their class, which seems to correlate with the type of people that management consulting firms are interested in hiring.
When I was at MIT, I never really contemplated getting a job working for anyone. I started a few companies while I was in school, the first two of which failed but the third (Feld Technologies) took hold. During my senior year, I was also finishing up my first year of business school at Sloan so for the hell of it I went to a few recruiting dinners, mostly to see what they were like. I vividly remember one for McKinsey at L’Espalier when it was in its old location on Gloucester Street. This would have been 1987 when L’Espalier was the best ticket for a fancy meal in Boston (I think I’d been once) so there was plenty of buildup. The evening was one part delightful (the meal was awesome) and one part “turn a power drill on, place it between my eyes, and put me out of my misery” as the senior consultants and partners from McKinsey took the room through a presentation using overhead slides (this was before the age of Powerpoint) talking about the firm, the firm’s history, the firm’s importance in the universe, and a bunch of other things I forgot within 15 seconds of leaving dinner.
Over the years I’ve had plenty of opportunities to work with other large management consulting firms on various projects. While I found the style and tempo to vary, Keith’s article rang true to me, especially when I talk to some of my ex-investment banking friends who didn’t make it through year three of their “advanced copy machine operation and presentation wrangling” skills.
If you are early on in your career in a professional services firm, you’ll benefit from reading Keith’s article and thinking about the story of “Find Me A Rock.” If you are a manager or a partner, you’ve probably already found a rock, but it’d be worth your time to read this story also and ponder what you are doing on a daily basis. Think of it as having something healthy for breakfast instead of the usual Cocoa Puffs.