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Technology Consulting: Graduate Area of Work
Technology consultants focus on advising and helping their clients navigate through business obstacles by introducing IT solutions and strategies.
While “tech start-up” is the new buzzword of the industry these days, venturing into any kind of businesses that involve introducing or implementing technology in the real world can be daunting. For this reason, businesses – even successful ones – will need consultants or industry experts who can advise on the best IT strategy and solution for their clients.
With Singapore being a preferred base for many tech and ecommerce organisations, both established (e.g. Rakuten Singapore, Zalora, etc.) and brand new, the technology consultancy industry within the country is having a field day.
There are various ways to classify the nature and services of a technology consultancy firm, but most of them will fall into one of the following five categories:
- IT strategy and design: Where consultants match their clients’ existing technology to their business strategy in order to help them stay relevant in the industry.
- IT operations and management: Where consultants work on “renovating” and upgrading a client’s existing IT and business processes to improve performance. Depending on your agreement with the client, you may be involved in the process to a varying degree – from IT governance, to managing minor tweaks in technology, to introducing and installing best practices in certain areas.
- Enterprise architecture: Where consultants help an organisation draw up an IT strategy roadmap, vision, corporate technology standards, and a core technology catalogue to guide its growth in the future.
- Sourcing: Where consultants help to streamline a client’s operations by assessing and advising if a corporation should outsource its IT functions. Again, the degree of involvement may vary – on one hand, you may only be reviewing the situation for the clients, or you may be involved in specifying the requirements and negotiating IT service agreements with IT service providers on behalf of your client as well.
- Integration: Where consultants assist clients with complex business problems via IT software solutions, whether it involves creating tailored or commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) IT solutions. Some major firms will have the ability to cover the whole development life cycle; but others will break down the cycle into parts to delegate among its specialised partners.
The type of clients that you are serving makes a difference in the type of responsibilities that you have to work with as well. For instance, if your firm is mostly liaising with players in the ecommerce industry, then you can expect to be working on projects involving specialised knowledge. On the other hand, consultants catering to start-ups may have a more hands-on role.
Employers generally start their graduate recruits out with project support and analytical roles, where they look for information and analyse data to contribute to the projects that are handled by their assigned team. This is also to help them build their foundation, pick up basic skills, and train in their firm’s methodologies.
Once you have gained enough experience, you may then be put in charge of a client or a function – e.g. reviewing/designing/building a system before being placed in a leadership position within five years or so, where you manage a major transition project or a small project.
Alternatively, you can also grow your career by specialising in certain functions to become an industry expert, or by becoming part of the senior management to manage people instead.
Work will involve you being the middleman between your clients and your firm, as well as technical work such as building, installing, and testing systems on behalf of your clients. Projects tend to be client-based, so you may find yourself spending quite a chunk of your time travelling and working onsite.
While most technology consultancy firms are willing to hire from all degrees (with strong academic background and reputable universities), they may lean towards technology, science, or numerate qualifications for some positions. Having industry-related work experience – gained from part-time jobs, internships, or degree modules – is an added edge.
That said, your willingness to learn (and learn fast) as well as your interest in technology is what appeals most to employers.
Don’t forget to cultivate and showcase a range of excellent soft skills too! The consultancy sector prizes employees with good soft skills – especially persuasion, presentation, and writing skills – so start early in your university days by joining activities that can help you improve these abilities.
Commercial knowledge and research into the consulting industry are also extremely essential; e.g. knowing the key players and their areas of specialisation can help you to successfully persuade and convince your clients to invest in IT.
Pros and cons
As a technology consultant where work is project/client-based, you’ll be exposed to a lot of different industries and companies, which promises variety and plenty of learning and networking opportunities. Many employees also relish the wide range of opportunities for career development, where you can opt to develop your technical skills to become an expert or to manage your own team.
The satisfaction of being able to help your clients find a solution and improve their business procedures is also another major incentive for some consultants. Yet others are in the industry because they like the challenge that the industry poses as they uncover different ways to overcome IT obstacles in the fast-paced world.
However, some might find the constant travelling tiring. Working hours might sometimes go beyond the usual nine to five as well, so it might require some compromise on work-life balance.