Why consulting companies are killing your career

career Jul 2, 2020

How can Consulting Companies kill your career? Let me explain.
Today, I will be trash.
I will speak like I never spoke before.
Because I have to get it out of my chest.
I must tell you how I feel, so you can avoid making a big mistake.

You might hate me after this email.
You might unsubscribe because I hurt your ideas...
It's fine, it simply means that my vision and yours are different.
We can still be friends.

But I still have to tell you what I think...

Ever heard of Cap Gemini? McKinsey? Alten? Altran? KPMG?

Let me tell you something...
Everything I do is to prevent you and hundreds of other engineers from joining these consulting companies.
Everything I do is to help you find a way not to join them.

I don't dislike them, I hate them.
My daily fight is against them.
I believe that they are cancers to your careers...
...and you should avoid them like the Plague... or the Coronavirus.

So before you join them and do something stupid, hear me out!
I almost did something very stupid too.
And if you read this email, you might avoid this and save yourself.

At some point in my career, I was "ready" to join the self-driving car field... and I faced a choice.

  • Choice A - Join one of these consulting companies to be sent in a startup, or another group
  • Choice B - Find a startup or a group directly working on it
    I was young and ambitious, I still am.
    I faced this choice... and found out that choice B was much harder than choice A.
    So I accepted an interview with one of these consulting companies; that was choice A.

    The activity of consulting companies is to find another company that needs you...
    And charge them from 500to1,500 to 1,500 per day, just to send you to work for them.
    Every day, when the consulting firm makes 1,000,youmake100, you make 100 to 200$... a tenth.
    That's the deal; the engineer struggles to find the company; the company struggles to hire engineers.

    I had a rendez-vous at 6 P.M. with a recruiting manager from their group, M. Imbert.
    I was prepared like never before...
    I knew that they had the possibility to send me to a self-driving car company.
    Big consulting groups have contracts with almost every company.
    This is why most people join them.

I started to discuss with M. Imbert, a very tall person.
When I say very tall, he was over 2 m tall.
In an interview, this might be a disadvantage for me.
How do you think I felt? Impressed? Yes, a bit. I'm only 1.86 m tall.

We began the meeting, and M. Imbert started to tell me about his company.
This is easily one of the biggest companies in France and Europe, they have over 70 or 80,000 employees all over the world.
They have structures in the US, in China, Europe, everywhere...
It's a big fish.

5 minutes in, M. Imbert tells me about the career evolutions inside this company.

  • Year 1, you'll start at level 1.
  • Year 2, you'll be one level higher.
  • Year 3, you'll be one level higher.
  • Year 4, you might have the possibility to change boss and section, and you'll be one level higher!
  • Year 5... you got the point.
    I was used to small groups and always wanted to be noticed.
    To me, being in a group of 70,000 people wasn't a good thing.
    And having my career planned 10 years ahead wasn't either.
    I started to argue with him that that's not really what I had in mind.

    And we started to debate.
    I was telling him that I wanted to work on self-driving cars and that I felt that he could help me do that...
    ... but that I didn't like the big group mentality.
    For over 2 hours, we defended our ideas and convictions.

    I was convinced that we should grow fast in companies, and that skills were more important than years.
    He was convinced that we should grow slowly and age like a good wine, that we didn't really have a career before 40 or 50 years old.
    It wasn't an interview anymore, it was a political debate, a dog fight.
    Every idea was openly shared, the temperature was high.
    At some point, he even called for backup.

    M. Imbert and his backup tried to convince me that I was too young to know what life was about.
    They started to tell me that, with age, I would understand what it means to actually work and join the cause.
    They were starting to patronize me.
    And I fell for it.
    I was in doubt and wasn't sure about anything anymore.
    They were good at their job.

    Sentences like "your beliefs are fake beliefs because you're young" ...
    "You'll see when growing up that you were wrong"...

    These sentences worked well on me, as I didn't know what the future looked like.
    I didn't know if I had any real option to join a self-driving car startup.
    I didn't know if I had the skills, or if there actually was a way different than consulting.
    It was a complete brainwash.

    So I started to ask questions: "How long have you been here?"
    And they both proudly replied: "a few years".
    - So you never changed companies in 5-10 years?
    - No. And you know... you are already at your 3rd company and you're not even 24.
    If you join us and leave after a year, it will not be seen right by the other recruiters.
    - What do you mean?
    - You'll look unstable. It's okay to change companies but wait at least 3 years to do so... Not 3 months.

    Have you ever heard this sentence? "don't change too often, they'll see you as unstable."
    It's easily the dumbest thing I ever heard.
    Like we should be willing to lose 3 years of our lives because someone who doesn't exist would not see us as "stable".
    Let me tell you something: changing companies is healthy.

    Changing companies means you evolve, it means your mindset grows
    If you change quickly, it means you were wrong and didn't wait 3 years to realize it; it's smart.
    Don't forget something here, time is your most valuable asset, not money, not anything else.
    Time only goes one way, and no one can buy time back.
    Don't lose 3 years because you fear someone won't like it.
    You'll always find someone else.

    If you change companies after a long time, it means you are ready to move on, meet new people, and face new challenges.
    Staying in a company for 10 years is staying in a comfort zone.
    And if you don't really like it, you're staying in comfortable mediocrity.

    By the way, they saw me as unstable for having 2 jobs in a year, and still made me an offer.
    This is the perfect counter-example of this fake belief.
    And this belief is causing hundreds of engineers to lose their precious time.

    And then came the salary negotiation.
    At the time, I wasn't a good negotiator.
    I am still not, but I definitely learned how to appear more valuable and how to be more respected.
    So they made me an offer that didn't even match my current salary: 38,000€ a year while I was asking for 45 or 50k.

    The reason? My school and years of experience.
    Of course, like they were going to judge me on my skills and how I could benefit them.
    The worst part is that I could not negotiate with them, they had a "salary grid".
    I could raise the offer by 1,000€ a year, and that was their "maximum effort".

    1$ more and I would be responsible of the death of a multi-billion dollar company of over 70,000 people. Can you believe that?

    There are a lot of fake beliefs in this world... One that is true is that your salary should evolve with time.
    If you accept a low salary when you start, you risk staying low for a long time.
    If you start high, you can pretend to aim higher and higher.
    So changing my salary for a lower one wasn't an option, even for a self-driving car engineer position.

    A side note, I ended up taking another deal in a startup.
    The deal was 7,000$ higher.
    A year later, I had another offer for 15,000$ higher somewhere else...
    The sum was over 20,000$ higher than what I was offered.

    If you change companies, your salary will increase.
    If you change companies, you can choose how much you make.
    It just depends on your skills and your attitude.
    If I took the offer, I'd still be at 38,000or40,000 or 40,000 per year instead of the 60,000$ offer.

    The meeting ended after nearly two hours.
    As I said, it was a dog fight.
    I was sharing my ambitions and dreams, he was sharing his system.
    His system didn't match my dreams, and he was trying to convince me to give up on my dreams.

    So why do I hate consulting firms?
    Have you ever heard...?
  • "Don't change too often, because people will see you as unstable."
  • "Your salary is X, because of the grid"
  • "Don't think X, because you're wrong."
    Consulting companies are designed to portray these beliefs.
    These beliefs are based on fear... fear of the unknown and fear of your own dreams.
    They are using your dreams against you.

    Do you want a life planned 10 years ahead?
    Know exactly how much you'll make 10 years from now?
    Know exactly your rank 10 years from now?
    Spend your time sacrificing for a company that doesn't care?

    Because yes, they don't care about you.
    You are 1 out of 70,000.
    You are a drop in the ocean.
    If you leave today, they'll replace you tomorrow in no time.
    They are always hiring.
    Their business model is not to get you what you want, it's to sell you... as meat.

    Don't be meat.
    Be a vegetable that is rare and hard to find.
    Be someone who can actually make a change.
    You can't make a change as a drop.

    Find companies that will pay you based on your skills, that will invest in you.
    Find companies that don't know what tomorrow will be like...
    Find leaders that admit they are wrong sometimes and that care about you.
    Find companies where change is possible.
    Revolutions are made by startups, not by big consulting firms.

    One final thing about them.
    Have you ever noticed? Someone enters the company to work in Artificial Intelligence.
    A year later, he's doing SQL programming for a client he didn't know existed.
    His dream vanished when the company received the offer for an SQL position.
    He had no choice but to say yes, because "no" is forbidden there.

    They'll convince you that you should work on X instead of your original plan because it's better for you.
    Too many times, I had people trying to tell me how good it would be for me if I took a deal I didn't want.
    In reality, it was good for them.
    All I had to do was to give up on my dreams.

    I didn't.

I got out of the interview more decided than ever.
I wouldn't accept this for me.
I would not be trapped in fake beliefs.
I would improve, and find a job by myself.
It saved me.
Be free of the consulting trap...
The main reason I created thinkautonomous.ai is to help you break free.

If you're already trapped, use it to find a company you like.
And move on.
Leave. Yes, Leave.
If you have no other choice, use them to find a client you will love...
And then leave for the client.

If you still have a choice, think about who could be.
You can count on the others to find a job for you, because you can't do it yourself...
Or you can bet on you.
You can bet on your skills, on your ability to convince, on your potential to make a change.

You are on the right path, but you need to trust yourself.
Your success doesn't depend on a consulting group

Your success is up to you, will you work on yourself?
Invest in your skills?
Try interviews, fail, and repeat until you succeed?

Or will you take the easy option...
Join a company that will hire you no matter what because it makes them money?

In the end, the choice is yours.
But you should bet on you.
You can learn this, and you can be good at it.

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