Two real life examples of a day in the life of a Management Consultant (as told by consultants)


A pharma consultant:

There is no “typical day”, as the daily demands and needs of clients and senior management are based on current business needs, schedules, and your role on the project.  I’ve based the schedule below on a medium-intensity day when I was involved with three separate client projects.

6:00 AM:

  • Wake up and respond to overnight e-mails from clients and team
  • Download and save edited oncology market assessment PowerPoint presentation from senior manager for 10:00 AM client meeting
  • Shower and dress for client meetings (business casual with tailored jacket/blazer)

7:00 AM:

  • Travel to office
  • Scroll through iPod playlist for the perfect song to fit my mood of the morning, usually a dance track with catchy lyrics
  • Mentally prepare for a fast-paced day, focusing on today’s opportunities to 1) impress my clients and senior management and 2) continue to professionally develop my junior team members

7:30 AM:

  • Check voicemail on office extension and return calls, if needed
  • Consume caffeinated beverage and briefly socialize with office mates
  • Briefly meet with junior team members to answer questions and assure client-facing documents (e.g., PowerPoint presentation, Excel model) will be ready for today’s 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM meetings.

8:00 AM:

  • Meet with senior management to discuss scope and staffing for a new client project
  • Take careful notes regarding action items and next steps for this project and send these items in a e-mail to all attendees immediately following meeting

9:00 AM:

  • Work with administrative assistants to set up upcoming client meetings, assuring all logistics (e.g., meeting purpose, date/time, attendees, driving directions, room numbers, teleconference information) are finalized

9:30 AM:

  • Update PowerPoint presentation based on senior manager’s comments, review content, and print materials for 10:00 AM client meeting
  • Travel to client meeting

10:00 AM:

  • Meet with client team #1 to discuss preliminary research findings for market assessment of a new oncology product and plan next phase of project
  • Take careful notes regarding action items and next steps for this project and send these items in a e-mail to client immediately following meeting

11:30 AM:

  • Respond to e-mails and scroll through today’s healthcare industry headlines
  • Respond to junior team member questions regarding 1:00 PM client meeting
  • Travel back to office

12:00 PM:

  • Grab a quick lunch with team and discuss approach/ roles and responsibilities for 1:00 PM client meeting

12:30 PM:

  • Review PowerPoint presentation with junior team members, make modifications, review content, and print materials
  • Travel to client meeting

1:00 PM:

  • Present primary research from physician interviews to client team #2
  • Field questions/comments from client team #2
  • Assist junior team members with note-taking and capture action items/next steps

2:30 PM:

  • Call junior team member to assure Excel model and documents are ready for presentation to client team #3
  • Travel to next client meeting

3:00 PM:

  • Present and demonstrate Excel-based forecast model to client team #3
  • Field questions/comments from client team #3
  • Assist junior team members with note-taking and capture action items/next steps
  • Travel back to office and prepare for primary market research interview with physician

4:30 PM:

  • Interview physician via teleconference and take copious notes for use in data analysis

5:30 PM:

  • Conclude interview and jot down any last thoughts/comments for future reference
  • Send/respond to client and team member e-mails
  • Confirm tomorrow’s schedule and clarify any logistical questions

6:00 PM:

  • Meet with junior team members from client meeting #2 and #3 to discuss changes to documents and next steps
  • Divide tasks among team members and agree on deadlines

7:00 PM:

  • Travel home
  • Grab dinner and send/respond to e-mails

8:00 PM:

  • Update project documents and e-mail to team members, as appropriate

10:00 PM:

  • Prepare for tomorrow’s meetings/project deadlines
  • Send/respond to personal e-mails

11:00 PM:

  • Go to bed

A Mc Kinsey Consultant

7:30am – Hotel alarm wakes me, I automatically reach for the Smart Phone. The Production team has emailed me with Powerpoint slides I sent them last night. Breathe sight of relief as this means I won’t have to spend 2 hours this morning before team meeting getting my client presentation slides ready.

7:45am – as I’m getting ready, telephone buzzes. Manager says he’ll be 15 minutes late this morning. The team usually meets in the hotel lobby to share a taxi to the client (client is particularly cost-conscious on this project). I contemplate going back to sleep, until I look at my work shirts. All are wrinkled, and v-neck sweaters are at the hotel dry cleaners. No extra sleep for me.

8:15am – shirt is ironed, laptop bag is packed. Meet team in hotel lobby and we pile into the taxi for the client. In taxi, everyone is reading the WSJ or busily scrolling through their smart phones. Manager asks collectively if we’re ready for the client meeting at 2pm, I silently nod my head in agreement.

8:45am – arrive at client headquarters. We spend most of our time in the client’s satellite office (the bulk of our project is focused there) but this, our monthly progress checkpoint, requires us to be at headquarters.

9:30am – we’ve settled into our office for the day, a nondescript conference room on the 10th floor. Everyone’s a little nervous but also excited – the CEO’s secretary has just confirmed the CEO’s attendance at today’s meeting. I do a quick scan of my emails and open the attachment from the Production team. Thankfully most looks good – there are the usual typos, missing footnotes, and weird alignment issues to fix – but could have been much worse.

10:30am – I’ve fixed all the minor issues with my part of the presentation, or “the deck”. Print out 4 copies to share with team as we aim to do a quick review at noon. I let the manager know.

10:31am – I can now focus on cleaning out my enormous inbox piled up from the last few days of focusing on this presentation. It’s littered with: emails from ex-teammates asking me questions about work I had done on past projects; surveys and questionnaires sent by firm HR, recruiting, and various other groups (and boy are there a lot of these); random forwards from friends and other analysts

12:00pm – team meeting starts. The main partner on our team is dialing-in (stuck in Toronto for a different client meeting). Minor confusion as we seem to be on the wrong dialcode. Turns out our team secretary has changed everyone to a new dialcode but partner was still using the old one. Problem fixed.

12:30pm – the two other associates have finished running team through their slides and analyses. Only one tough question from partner so far. Manager has seen our material a thousand times so no surprises from him. It’s my turn to present. I carefully run them through the slides, making sure to highlight the “so-whats”, the really interesting anecdotes from the client that reinforce my conclusions, and leave time at end for questhe tions. There are none – partner has small nit on the source for a particular chart – I realize I left out the footnote. Dang.

1pm – team meeting ends. Partner wraps up by mentioning that the senior client had some questions recently about scope being too narrow (ie, we’re not doing enough), and has scheduled a late afternoon call with the broader team (read: more partners) to hammer out this issue post-progress review. I twitch nervously in my chair wondering if this means workload will increase.

1:30pm – we’re at team lunch, and have invited some of the client team from the satellite office. Through the last 8 weeks we’ve built strong working relationships with the 4 member client team – and through forced socializing have gotten to know them on a quasi-personal level as well. Chipotle burritos done, we head back to the office to prepare for the meeting.

2pm – client meeting starts. I’m still mentally reviewing my slides – even though I’m not leading the presentation, I know I’ll be called on if anyone has questions about the data, the methodology, etc

2:10pm – CEO enters room. Everyone’s attention is immediately focused on her. She smiles, shakes each of our hands – I briefly wonder if she’ll ask me how old I am as she shakes mine. But no – they’re too professional for that, even though it’s probably one of the first questions on her mind. Her VP (and our senior client lead) tells her that we’ve worked together very closely these last 2 months, and have a lot of interesting findings to share today. Everyone smiles nervously.

2:45pm – manager is leading CEO through one of my slides. The CEO – who to this point has largely been silent – points at a graph and says, “wow, is this really the improvement you’ve been seeing? And were the initial performance numbers consistent across all employees?” Everyone rotates their heads toward me. My time to shine. I look down to make sure I’m seeing the same thing she does, and then quickly share facts and figures that by now I’m reciting in my sleep. (”Yes, this is the improvement – 300% over priors based on pilot with 10% of the workforce; No, initial performance numbers were not consistent across all employees but 80% fell with a plus/minus 5 point range”). Manager flashes a relieved smile and our attention once again returns to the CEO. She nods in silence.

3pm – meeting over! CEO seems happy with our findings. Mentions to partner on phone (with whom she’s worked several times before) that once again, he found an excellent team, and she’d been hearing great things all along from senior client lead. CEO says she looks forward to seeing where we’ll be by project end (in 4 weeks time). Manager is beaming.

3:15pm – after politely saying farewells, our team heads to our original team room for a post-meeting debrief. Upon dialing in, partner thanks all of us and mentions the scope issue discussion call at 4pm.

4:00pm – scope issue discussion call with 3 partners and team begins. Manager spends next hour in increasing frustration as partners cannot agree on anything – how to address the scope issue, which client to address it with, what our recommendation should be. Finally, two of the partners have to drop off for another meeting. Finally, the lead partner (who we’ve been working closely with) stays behind on the call, and tells us that he’ll circle-back with the other 2 partners to try and reach consensus. He’ll circle-back with the manager to sort out the details. We return to our laptops.

5:30pm – receive large email attachment from client team. It’s new employee performance data gathered from this quarter. They wanted to share the latest with me so it can reflect in the model we’ve built. I look through the data – it’s a mess. Quarter of employees are missing from the sheet, data is improperly formatted and different attributes are combined in one cell. This is going to take hours to clean-up with a variety of Excel functions. I resolve to work on it later tonight and tomorrow.

6pm – manager packs up and suggests we go home early. It’s been a long but successful day – plus tomorrow, we have a busy schedule packed with client interviews (we’re trying to gather more qualitative insights to further reinforce the data findings).

6:15pm – we all pile into a taxi back for the hotel. Two associates are on the phone with significant others. Manager is having a catch-up call with our partner. I put on my iPod, and plan out my night – which will include the gym, room service dinner, and several hours spent cleaning and incorporating the new data in time for tomorrow.