A need for entrepreneurialism, creativity and flexibility laid a path to the door of A.T. Kearney for Cambridge MBA alumna, Tatiana Goncherova (MBA 2014). Now, after two years with the global consulting firm, she reflects on what drew her and what’s keeping her.
She says “I was looking for a role with a mix of technology and entrepreneurship. I also wanted outlets for my creativity and a flexible work environment. I tried two very large corporations but they failed to give me what I was looking for. An earlier experience at another consulting firm was also a let-down. Then a friend who works for A.T. Kearney recommended them to me and, even from the interview stage, I was very impressed with the very collaborative culture and the people. From the start they impressed me by saving their time and mine by completing the entire interview process, from initial meeting to job offer, in just one day!”
As Tatiana had previously held an analytical role, A.T. Kearney assessed her profile and offered her a role with their London analytics team. A few months into the role, Tatiana spotted an opening with a newly created team, which positioned itself as ‘consulting done differently’ and had attracted a wide array of talent with a unique spectrum of skills. It was one of the first new business models established within A.T. Kearney.
“I work in a small group of ten, operating in the Proposition and Customer Experience (PCE) lab. It’s a kind of start-up within the bigger company. My role is to build the business by helping develop new products and services for customers, promote our brand within the organisation and beyond, pitch and deliver proposition work, and educate our clients. For instance, if the company wants to penetrate a new segment, perhaps younger people who are not traditional users of banking products, the team I work in will propose new products and experience that will be attractive and easy to understand for younger people.”
It’s a role she is very happy in at present but, should she wish to try other aspects of the business, the path is again made very straightforward under the A.T. Kearney culture:
“Migration between both strands of the business is made very easy and many people move between the two all the time. The company is very supportive of that.”
This flexibility is an ethos that pervades all aspects of how the business views employees and their service. One of the benefits which most appeals to Tatiana is the opportunity for extended periods of unpaid leave to pursue other goals and life experiences:
“Employees are free to take several months unpaid leave when they wish to spend time with family or pursue other interests. They then return to the company and begin work on another project. When that is completed, they may again take unpaid time off for a while. A.T. Kearney employs a lot of parents and young people and this flexibility really suits parents wanting to spend time with their children, or young people who want to go travelling for an extended period. It’s a great offering. And, with people taking a rest or experiencing other aspects of life and the world, it means they constantly have fresh minds on the job!”
The commitment to training and individually tailored development is another aspect Tatiana is enthusiastic about.
“At Associate level, we can do up to two training session a year – each is one week long in a nice location. These can be on any aspect of working life – the last one I took part in focused on presentation skills and public speaking, and a previous one was about how to write proposals. There is also what we call ‘hot house’ training, – an external expert assesses a particular team to determine its strengths and weaknesses and decide what training and development the team needs. The training is absolutely outstanding and focuses on personal development areas. I was also assigned a mentor from day one, who helps me with all aspects of my role from salary negotiations through to guidance on whatever project I may be working on.”
Guidance is something that is never hard to find, with the company’s expectation of colleagues at all levels that collaboration is paramount. This means employees are able to reach out and access the skills and experience they need at any time. Tatiana cites as particularly beneficial, A.T. Kearney’s ‘blue calls’ system:
“This means you can use the company’s internal social media to send out calls for advice and guidance to anyone in the company. So you might want advice on breaking into a certain market or on the nuances of doing business in a certain part of the world. You put out a call on that and your colleagues will make time for you and send you advice and support – it’s amazing to be connected like that at all levels of the company. I am always surprised at how much time even very senior figures will give you – and how quickly they respond.”
Top of the list of what keeps her at A.T. Kearney PCE Labs however is her team:
“We’re a small team based around the world, all from amazingly diverse backgrounds and a wide range of industries. We have worked well from the start – I don’t remember any ‘storming’ phase! They are so inspiring and I am always learning from them.”
When she recruits, Henriette Smith, Senior HR Manager at A.T. Kearney, is on the lookout for people with strong individuality but who will also make good team players:
“We want individuals who can make an impact, through strong communication and relationship building abilities, and also that emotional intelligence component. We always look for alignment to A.T. Kearney’s core values – candidates who are collaborative, forward thinking and authentic. We find this aligns very well with the kinds of MBAs we have hired from Cambridge. Reasoning capabilities are important – analytical skills, problem solving and critical thinking. But we are also looking deeper – candidates who can think creatively, show diversity of thought and the ability to operate in ambiguity”
As part of The A.T. Kearney Experience programme, new hires join a cohort from day one. Learning is not just a series of training classes but flows from a formal, catalytic curriculum.
“From the first day at A.T. Kearney, colleagues will follow learning threads that enable them to excel at their current level, while creating a foundation to excel at each subsequent level, and as a partner.”
New recruits should expect to be immersed in a collaborative culture which draws in both clients and consultants. In return, employees will be given the chance to get their teeth into really interesting and challenging business problems, with each project an opportunity to enhance key skills and make a difference. Henriette comments that A.T. Kearney is deliberately ambitious for its people and their impact:
“Each consultant has responsibility to input into client engagements, which cover strategic and operational CEO-agenda issues facing business and governments globally.
“We want our people to be well positioned to make immediate and visible contributions to the world.”