Consulting with the Government

A Wake Forest graduate describes a typical day as an associate in the government sector of the Booz Allen consulting firm

Working in the government sector of Booz Allen (, 5/22/08), I am responsible for multiple tasks, which include researching commercial products, interviewing client personnel, preparing and delivering client presentations, and expanding the business. A few examples of recent projects include redesigning a customer-satisfaction survey and developing a sampling method for the survey. I have also worked on an asset-management project and co-authored white papers. Currently, my client is a U.S. government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers. Specifically, within the government agency, I support an organization that provides global IT services for itself and other government entities.

Prior to entering the Wake Forest MBA program, I was an IT consultant and worked with implementing, performing enhancements to, and resolving issues with financial management systems. I realized the path that I was on was leading to a project manager and then a program manager position, but I wanted to have a more robust skill set to be successful in those roles if I decided to continue down that path. At the same time, I was interested in exploring different opportunities that would allow me to tackle an array of management challenges.

Here's a typical day:

6:30 a.m.—Wake up and start my day. Thankfully I do not have a meeting at a client site that would require me to wake up at least 45 minutes earlier in order to avoid the traffic. I live about a 30-minute drive from work, although it is only 10 miles.

8 a.m.—Arrive at my primary client. I am 100% on the client site, so I do not have an office at Booz Allen, but I work in a shared space with other Booz Allen project members and client personnel. I check e-mail, catch up with my colleagues who are also at the client site, and review and update the briefing I am creating for the chief and deputy chief.

10 a.m.—I have no meetings at other client sites today (it is not unusual to travel between three different locations), so I shift gears and update my statistical sampling model for a customer-satisfaction survey. On the days that I do have meetings, all of my client sites are located in Northern Virginia, so I am able to drive between all of them. I can usually get from one location to another in 30 minutes. I highlight two sensitivity analyses to walk through with the client for later in the week.

11:30 a.m.—Eat lunch. Afterward, I see someone pop up online who I have been meaning to catch up with. Then I conduct research for some upcoming tasks and schedule client meetings for the following week. If I am meeting with what would be the equivalent of C-level executives or department managers, I go through their executive administrators. One of the tasks I just completed was working on a cost-allocation model to determine the correct amount to bill another government agency.

2 p.m.—Interview client personnel to ascertain the current state of business operations and how activities diverge from agreed-upon processes.

3:30 p.m.—Type up notes from the meeting and determine action items. Review a colleague's briefing and then prioritize tasks for the next day before leaving.

5:30 p.m.—I am back at home, check personal e-mail, review the major headlines of the day, and I am off to the gym. On my project, besides local travel for meetings, there are no "road warriors."

6:30 p.m.—My wonderful wife has prepared dinner.

7:30 p.m.—Check work e-mail, catch up on world news, and appreciate the fact that my client is local, and I can come home every night—and that I am not on the road every week. Play a little Brain Age 2, and see who has a younger Brain Age, my wife or me.

10:30 p.m.—In bed, and read a few more pages of the latest book I am reading, Mayflower.

While an MBA is not a requirement in the government sector to be an associate, it can only help and position you to achieve higher levels at an accelerated pace. If you are interested in an opportunity at Booz Allen, the best way to obtain an interview is to be referred by a current employee. There are other avenues to pursue if you do not know someone within the firm. I visited the Booz Allen booth at an MBA career fair and was invited to interview (, 8/10/06) shortly thereafter.

To better prepare for the type of work I perform now, I would have spent more time creating the PowerPoint slides for presentations instead of always taking the presenter role for my team. I understand trade-offs must be made in B-school, but I would stress that honing your quantitative skills is never a bad investment. Communications, negotiations, and strategy classes would be wise choices for those considering a career in consulting, but they would serve graduates well in any discipline they choose to pursue.

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