No two days in the world of work are the same, and Dell Young Leader alum Lehlogonolo illustrates this point in the latest installment of the Career Insights Series. Hear more from Lehlogonolo as she shares more about her consulting career, how to leverage your degree in the workplace, and more advice for current university students.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I’m from Tsakane, Ekurhuleni and studied BCom financial science at the University of Pretoria, completing a BCom Honors Degree in financial management in 2018. In my second year of undergraduate study, I was invited to join the Golden Key Honour Society.
After graduating, I joined a leading global management consulting firm as a business analyst, where I worked in mining, banking, and telecommunications, on various topics such as digital banking, market strategy, and supply chain coordination. In this role, I got the opportunity to work on projects in Ethiopia, Egypt, and Nigeria. I have transitioned roles and now work as a business analyst at an organization that acts as a global AI expert.
I am a family-oriented person who values respecting people, understanding that people are very different in terms of background, sexuality, and race. I believe that we all have something we can share with the world if we are allowed to be ourselves.
Can you tell us about a day in the life as a consultant?
As a consultant, it’s an ever-changing environment. It consists of different topics in different countries, and you work with different people and team structures. You often get to work with C-suite executives such as CEOs and CFOs. You need to be prepared to adapt, meet changing requirements, and adjust to the needs of your clients.
Can you tell us about an experience that demonstrates what consulting is like?
I joined in April 2019 and the first project I worked on was in mining. We had to plan a go-to-market strategy for a mining company in the Western Cape. When I got there, I was not a subject matter expert on the company or how mining worked, so it was a big learning curve. I had to learn about the industry and how to structure my day.
A day in the life as a consultant is knowing how to plan your day around deliverables. If I need to deliver a strategy for an African mining company – and I know the markets that we need to go to – first I find out the revenues, the GDPs, and what the market looks like. Then I carry out an in-depth data analysis and engage with people across the organization and industry to include their insights in the strategy.
What are some challenges you faced as a consultant and how do you recommend students prepare themselves for these challenges?
One challenge I faced was having to remain adaptable. Sometimes you’re working with a client, and initially you might recommend something but realise that you’re answering the wrong question. So, your scope must change. You need to adapt because consulting is ever-changing. You might have just read up on one sector and then you need to pivot and adjust – but that’s another skill you learn to develop.
Another challenge is collecting data. In varsity, you can just go online to find all the information you need. However, when you work with clients and in industry, data might not be available, or the research may not have been done. You must find new ways of triangulating information to answer your client’s problem. You need to learn to think out of the box and structure your work in a more efficient way. As a student now, start thinking about your assignments and plan your time around it. When you become a consultant, you will already know how to plan and deliver, especially because we work on such short projects.
How did you leverage your degree in the workplace?
Besides mining, I have worked in retail and banking. Those were quicker learning curves for me because it was about getting businesses to profitability and that was what I studied. I was able to leverage my degree and outline basic principles like revenue and cost and what to look at when considering these.
What other challenges have you encountered as a consultant? How can students prepare for that while they are still in university?
In different environments, the biggest challenge is time management. Work becomes a lifestyle. You travel often and have a lot to deliver. In university, your day runs for maybe five hours, you study for another three and that’s that. In consulting, we have so many meetings that you start doing the actual work at 4 p.m. At that point, you may still need to travel. During lockdown, I couldn’t travel so I could spend a bit more time in South Africa with my family. Nonetheless, you must try and ensure work doesn’t spill into the weekend because that’s the time you get to yourself. Remember to get some rest.
What advice would you have for someone joining consulting or considering that field?
If you’re going into consulting, try and join a company that allows you to work in different projects to understand different sides of the business, especially if you don’t know what you want to do. Being a generalist also helps in becoming industry-ready, if you want to move to other places. It allows you to say, “although I haven’t been in this industry, I have transferable experience that I can leverage.”
Do your research about the company, because you spend a lot of time with them. Make sure it’s a great culture, it’s a place that nurtures your talent and it’s good for your mental health. If you’re not happy, you won’t deliver the right kind of impact.
Finally, leverage other people’s experiences but also use your own judgement. It’s a big world. As a consultant you’re not working alone — you’re working in teams, so you don’t have to struggle. Remember that it’s a learning experience. There are people there who have been there before, and they will help you. You shouldn’t be stressed or think you can’t do it, because you’re always working with someone who has done it before. In the experience I just described, my team was able to direct me towards my next steps. Leverage your fellow colleagues, because they know what needs to be done.
Any final words for other Dell Young Leaders?
Be confident in yourself. You have what you need to succeed. You just need to nurture it and share it with the world.
Given the current economic environment, new university graduates face a steep road ahead.
The Career Insights Series is designed to help graduate job seekers. Dell Young Leaders alumni share insights on their career path, highlight a day in the life at their employer, and provide guidance to students on how to stand out to employers and prepare for the world of work.