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The perspective of an engineer who became a successful strategy and management consultant: Interview with Hadi Sawaya

Q: When did you think of becoming an engineer? 

The first time I thought of engineering as a potential field of study was when I had to make a decision regarding my high-school specialization. Back then, focus on mathematical studies was a clear decision for me but the step beyond that had always been vague. After reading career advice books and discussing with engineers from the family I started considering engineering as a potential field of study.

Q: Was management consulting your first job after your degree in engineering? 

No it wasn't. My first job was a technical job that was directly related to my field of studies. That job not only allowed me to develop a strong technical foundation but also to understand how large multinational companies operate and how career progression happens in the industry.

Q: Were there any competencies where you felt you were lagging as a consultant? 

Like most consultants coming into consulting from the industry, developing dynamic financial models and fancy slides were challenging to me in the beginning. However, I have managed to acquire these skills very quickly.

Q: Were there any competencies where you felt you were leading as a consultant? 

Technical knowledge and understanding of how activities are carried on the ground were of huge value to me as they allowed me to bring valuable knowledge to the teams I worked with, be positioned as a go-to person within the company when it comes to specific areas of knowledge, and effectively handle conversations and discussions with clients.

Q: Do you think that the MBA is a must for engineers to up their game in management consulting? 

Engineers may have some weak areas of knowledge like finance for example, depending on their educational background, and the MBA is one way to help in bridging this gap. However, the MBA is not the only path to do this and not necessarily the best way. In my opinion, the MBA has additional value to offer in terms of exposure to other successful people and development of leadership skills and these benefits are valuable not only engineers but to management consultants from different backgrounds. From another side, the MBA can be a gateway for engineers seeking a move from the industry to management consulting as it increases exposure to management consulting companies.

Q: What would be your top piece of advice for current engineering graduates?  

My key advice for current graduates is to seek the jobs that allow them to learn the most in order to develop a strong foundation of the key skillset required for the careers they dream of, whether in technical or non-technical domains. Once they have developed this skillset they can evolve and steer their career in the direction they see fit for themselves. 

Q: What would be your top piece of advice for young consultants who hold a degree in engineering? 

I believe that engineers currently doing consulting should capitalize on their practical engineering skills and pragmatic approach to solving problems as the consulting industry is moving further and further towards not only offering theoretical solutions to problems but also to being able to implement such solutions.

Q: What do you believe is the future of management consulting as a profession? 

As mentioned previously, management consulting is shifting gradually towards becoming more practical with clients getting more sophisticated and project topics getting more and more focused on solving very specific problems, not only by providing a solution roadmap but also giving practical advice and sometimes even implementing it.

 

This interview can be also found on the Vault blog under the following link: http://www.vault.com/blog/consult-this-consulting-careers-news-and-views/transition-tales-how-an-engineer-became-a-consultant/