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Mary Agbesanwa

15 July 2021

A Day in the Life of a Management Consultant

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A lot of the most popular career paths - acting, medicine or teaching, for example - are well-known and easy to understand. 

But there are a whole host of exciting and prestigious career paths, particularly in the corporate world, that remain a mystery to those just starting to think about their career. 

Management consulting is one of those professions. Essentially, a management consultant is employed by a business to help improve performance and solve any issues they may be having. Consultants can specialise in a variety of different industries, and their work is often varied and well-paid. But the particulars of the role are difficult to know until you’ve entered the field. 

To help you get a better idea of what a career in management consulting is really like, we reached out to Mary Agbesanwa.

Mary is a strategy and operations management consultant at PwC UK, a global network of firms that deliver consulting, assurance and tax services to businesses. She works primarily with banks and Financial Technology (FinTech) clients, and is currently running her firm’s FinTech Accelerator Programme. Mary has also founded the Now You're Talking Network, a platform designed to help millennial women navigate their careers and entrepreneurship, so they can earn more and be more confident. 

Interested in business? Good at problem solving? Take a look at what Mary has to say, management consulting might be the career for you...

Interested in gaining a unique, 360-degree experience of management consulting? Mary is just one of the amazing speakers on our Management Consultancy Programmes. Each is jam-packed with immersive career simulations, exclusive site visits and personalised career coaching, all designed to give you a more hands-on experience of the industry.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

I was always really interested in businesses: how they function and how you get from an idea to a whole company that provides people with their livelihood.

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What does a typical day in your working life look like?

This question is hard to answer as a consultant because every day is truly different, which is one of the things I love about the job. 

On average, I aim to start work at 8:30, which is pretty reasonable. I have breakfast then dive into my emails and work out a plan for the day. A lot of our work is quite project-based; I’ll join one team for a bit, then a new team for another. That variety is something that I find really interesting.

I’ll have numerous meetings with clients, as well as my project team and colleagues. The key thing is preparation. You need a clear idea of what you want to get out of the day and the week. You all need to understand what your priorities are so that you’re on the same page. 

I think consulting requires this ability to have multiple different conversations on different topics. I can easily have ten meetings in a day on five different topics.

What first inspired you to consider management consultancy as a career?

I did my first piece of work experience at the firm I work at now during my first year of university. It was one of a couple of work experiences I did, along with investment banking and other financial services firms.

There was some trial and error to find out what I would enjoy. For me, this was the company and the career that ticked the box. It’s challenging, interesting work and I really like the people, too. 

A job should make you happy, the company should attract you. On the whole, I really liked that mix of client-facing work, team-based work and the ability to have several jobs within one. There are so many different projects you can be involved in. Sometimes you use more quantitative skills, sometimes you’re producing reports, sometimes you’re presenting and you need that commercial mindset. That’s what really attracted me.

Learn as much as possible about yourself and others. Be interested and interesting. It really helps.

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What’s the best thing about your job?

I think the range and variety that comes with consulting is definitely something that attracted me. 

It’s great for people who haven’t decided which industry they want to work in because in consulting you can work across many different ones, even doing different types of consulting as well. There are so many exciting projects with global brands, and being able to go behind the scenes and understand their operations is really interesting. 

I was always really interested in businesses: how they function and how you get from an idea to a whole company that provides people with their livelihood.

If you have that natural curiosity to solve problems, help people preempt trends in their sector and adapt accordingly, that ability to be forward-thinking really helps. 

Almost any industry can hire a consultant; technology, marketing, accountancy, finance, etc. 

What’s the hardest thing?

The hardest thing for me in consulting is that you’ll never be the smartest person in the room, in terms of domain expertise. 

A lot of your clients know their business inside out and know their industry inside out. But your role isn’t to be the expert. It’s to be the business architect, to understand what the overall grand vision of the organisation is - where they want to be five, ten years down the line. 

When I first joined, I wanted to know everything. I wanted to be the expert on every project I joined. But quite quickly I realised that, in consulting, you never feel like that. It’s about asking the right questions, spotting red flags and understanding the business at the highest strategic level. 

What has been your biggest achievement since starting your career in management consulting?

In March this year, I was listed on Innovate Finance: Women in FinTech Award as part of their stand-out 35 list. 

That showcases women who are succeeding in FinTech and supporting the industry. That was really great for me because I’ve been focusing on FinTech for the last two years.

They had 1000 applications; I didn’t even know there were that many women in FinTech! It was great to read around what other people were doing. For me, that was a career highlight. I realised I’m in a place that I enjoy and I’m excited about the future of this industry.

What did you study at A-level (or equivalent) and why did you choose those subjects? 

I did the IB (International Baccalaureate), which is the same as A-levels except you’re crazy and do six subjects instead of four. 

I did higher level German, economics and chemistry, then standard level maths, English and history. 

It was quite varied, but that’s because I’m so multi-interested. I wanted to do a bit of everything. The mission of the IB is to build all-rounders who do a language, humanity, maths and English.

What did you study at university? 

I studied economics at the University of Birmingham. 

I chose the BSc which has lots of maths and I picked all the maths modules, like econometrics. I was obsessed - I still read economics papers in my free time. 

What was your first job? 

The way I got this job (which was my first) was that I did a summer internship week in first year. Then I came back for the full internship the next year, then I got on the graduate scheme off the back of that.

But after uni, I worked for the government in Tanzania for four months before I started the grad scheme. 

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

None (joking).

At university, I studied economics, and the course was about 65% male. 

I remember applying to spring weeks at investment banks and getting work experience at the firm I now work at. I spoke to my female peers and they had all these misconceptions and stereotypes about people who worked in financial services. 

So, at university, I started the ‘Women in Finance’ society, which would arrange for female leaders from reputable banking and financial services organisations to come and do talks.  

That was really fun; I ran it for the rest of my time at university. I grew it to over 200 members and we raised over £7000 in sponsorship from top companies, which was great. 

We also put on a ‘Working World-Ready’ conference, where we had speakers from The Apprentice come and talk about how to prepare for the working world. 

Then, coming to London and working in consulting, I felt like the issue still existed. There were these really smart, passionate women entering the corporate world that didn’t have peer networks or support systems outside their workplace to help them succeed in their career (and deal with things like salary negotiation, getting that first promotion, finding a workplace sponsor, personal branding in a digital-first world, etc.).

So I started a network called the Now You’re Talking Network, which I’m still running today. We focus on helping female millennials and Gen Z to earn more and be more confident. We have regular Instagram live discussions and talk about side hustles like how to start a YouTube channel or Etsy page. 

We really want to help the next generation of women have more workplace confidence. We now have over 700 members and plenty of social media for people to engage with.

Do you have any advice for young people thinking about pursuing a career in management consulting?

The world really is your oyster. 

Try to embrace the fact that the world is at a turning point. I know it can feel really nerve-wracking but just enjoy it. 

Learn as much as possible about yourself and others. Be interested and interesting. It really helps.  

To find out more about Mary and her work, take a look at her website, or follow Now You’re Talking Network on Instagram.

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