Domain or Consultancy – What Comes First?

Sat, Oct 1, 2011

Alumni Speak

Few years back, in early winters, a consultant came over my desk while I was in my office. He was young, freshly graduated from a premier management institute, ever smiling and had a charming personality.  I was working at client’s site and he was supposed to join me as a consultant for a very specific requirement. Things went well for a while but after few months had passed, the situation turned grim. The consultant couldn’t understand client’s language and was unable to perform as per their expectations. Sometime on the Friday afternoon, I was discussing with my client about consultancy business and came up with interesting thoughts that I would like to share in following paragraphs.

In my mind there has been a constant struggle between two choices of career, and more often I ask myself the same question every time I meet such consultants. Is it a good idea to join consultancy business just after management education? Work in a domain profile or join consultancy business has been a bone of contention between two halves of my mind. There is no specific trend but the dream of working for big 4 consultancy firms always stays . On the contrary, according to senior professionals and leaders, it is always preferred to gain domain expertise before moving into consultancy. There seems to be a logical flow in the career progression. Working in a domain will impart strong fundamental support to the knowledge that will serve as a baseline. This is the best time to apply and test the theories that are learned during MBA curriculum. After spending appreciable time and age in the domain industry, it is then advisable to switch to consultancy business so that the knowledge and expertise gained previously is spread across to different clients in need. The consultant will now feel confident and empathic to the customers he is facing.

On the other hand, is it that starting a career with consultancy is a bad idea? I have no answer to this as I feel students are left with no better choice. In reality the demand for management students in consultancy business is always many times more than in domain business. Moreover consultancy firms exploit the use of trainings and on-job experiences to fill the necessary gap, the extent of which depends upon various factors. On top of this, the hefty pay packages and overseas travels always attract the students for generations.

In the end, what is the way out? As I was discussing with my client, there could be two alternatives a student can choose. Look out for core operational experience in a domain company for a certain period of time and then, maybe move on to consulting firm of choice. On the other hand, start your career with consulting company but for some time, put more focus on skills and knowledge which may not be at par but atleast equivalent to domain experience, and then face the customer with confidence. The point here is to continuously learn and evolve with the organization. The bottom-line is, spend some time in contemplation before you choose your career.

Vipul Mathur

Business Consultant-Manufacturing

Tata Consultancy Services, Mumbai

(MBA@IITK, Batch of 2007)

2 Responses to “Domain or Consultancy – What Comes First?”

  1. KC Says:

    Vipul, nice one.
    But I am very biased about folks with domain experience before they jump to consultancy. The initial years spent in market or on shop floor gives a tremendous push to the knowledge level and understanding of the concepts. Incidentally, I have seen the respect of clients growing leaps when they know some one has domain experience before coming to “teach” them a concept or product (like SAP).

  2. Siddharth Chawla Says:

    Very aptly put by Vipul sir and i am in complete agreement with it.
    He was a guiding force behind my decision to move from consultancy (in Infosys) to domain experience.


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