A day in the life of
The best way to give you insight into what kind of work we do is to read the personal stories of the people who are actually part of this project team. They are solving problems by developing innovative solutions. A few of our consultants have described some of their personal experiences to allow you a glimpse into the life of an A.T. Kearney consultant.
Dutch Retail and Food company
A large Dutch company active in the retail and food industry wanted to improve their commercial performance. A.T. Kearney was asked to review their strategy and commercial business plan.
Marieke Witjes (Associate)
Mid July, still hoping for summer sunshine to arrive on my desk….well, let’s first find a desk! My client has recently reduced its office space, so most of the desks are ‘flexible seating’. This means typical ‘consulting flexibility’ from our side….So I first grab a cappuccino (as our client is a ‘professional’ in food & beverages, the coffee is good)
Now it’s time to get started. While I start up my laptop, my counterpart of the client (program manager) stands at my (newly created, flexible) desk to agree on some practical, but important issues. We have launched a large program me with 8 teams consisting of around 60 employees to develop new value propositions. So we continuously have to stay aligned on communication with the board of directors, the teams, the project team manager about the organization of workshops, team meetings, steering committee meetings etc. And I realize that trying to become a manager includes getting control over a lot of complexities, both on an abstract, intellectual, operational and practical level… So after another 3 phone calls, I put my phone on silent and switch to the intellectual part.
We have to assure the quality of the value propositions that the teams develop, so we try to steer and facilitate them with business cases. Today I will review the business cases of my teams before we have the meeting with the teams this afternoon. While going through the business cases, I realize I need to find some benchmarks in the ATK network to strengthen the cases. All the estimates of the teams feel like loose to me….how do I improve this? I call a colleague from the Brussels office with a lot of food and retail experience…he will send me some benchmarks later today. Then I ask Ruben if he can help me to get some historical data on the cost and revenue side for different situations. We also make a work plan for the rest of his week, to make sure he can go on his holiday next week (and we have the right input/analysis prior to his leave).
After team lunch, I go to the team meeting to discuss the business case and issues I encountered. The team is a bit disappointed, but they agree there is a lot of work yet to be done. I agree to be in touch with the project leader at the end of this week to see how it goes. The meeting took longer than expected, so I only have an hour left before I have to leave for my tennis match tonight….Then the commercial director comes in and asks for an update on a few things. After a discussion of almost 50 minutes, I realize I have to be in early tomorrow morning, because I still have to prepare for my 9 o’clock meeting….But now - getting ready for some relaxation on the tennis court!
Ruben Griffioen (Sr. Business Analyst)
Beep, beep, beep! My alarm goes off at 7:00 this morning. After a quick shower and breakfast, I jump in the car and head to the clients office in Utrecht. Once I arrive I have some time to prepare for my first meeting of the day.
I am working on a large financial model to create insight in historic profitability. The outcome of this model will be key input for the strategic decisions that will be made later during the project. At 10:00 we have an important meeting with the CFO of the company, so I need to make sure that my results are flawless. At 09:45 I meet up with Simon for a coffee and a last review.
Luckily the meeting with the CFO goes well, we have to make some small changes in the model but the CFO was impressed by the results.
After I make the required changes to the model, we have lunch with the team. Over sandwiches we discuss next the steps of the project. After lunch, I jump in the car and drive to the east of the Netherlands for a meeting at one of the large restaurants owned by the client. In our line of work I’ like to combine insights from the data with practical observations on sight. So it’s always good to have a walk around ‘the shop floor’.
At 2:00 I arrive at my destination and am welcomed by the local Food and Beverage Manager. He shows me around the location and we have a discussion on what the current issues are and what works well in the day-to-day business. Then I have a meeting with the financial controller to discuss some of the implications of the financial model.
After the meetings, Marieke and Simon join me at the restaurant for a quick team dinner. Hey, if you’re working in the retail and food industry; you might as well enjoy it! Marieke, Simon and I have a couple of drinks and laughs and head back home at a decent time because tomorrow is my last working day before my holiday in Tuscany!
Global Fast Mover Consumer Goods company
A Global Fast Mover Consumer Goods company wanted to improve their operations. As part of a larger program, A.T. Kearney was asked to investigate and design a waste management strategy.
Arjan Berntsen (Principal)
Today, we are starting a new work stream for a global consumer foods company. I find the topic very interesting. The aim is to identify all issues along the value chain that result in waste, i.e. raw materials and (semi-)finished goods that cannot be sold to end customers. Based on the findings, we need to develop a plan to address these issues in order to obtain cost savings.
In the morning I am meeting Ilse and Piotr. Together we put the final touches to the project kick-off document and we discuss roles on the team. In the afternoon I have conference calls with some of my colleagues in other regions. We are part of a global project with consultant and client teams based in different continents. I am the project manager for the European part.
After a successful kick-off with the client Ilse, Piotr and I further refine the work stream plan and discuss activities for this week. Afterwards I meet with the European client lead and we prepare for a review we will have tomorrow morning with the client’s European leadership team. We discuss which messages we want to bring and where we need their support.
My day ends with a team dinner together with all the other A.T. Kearney consultants.
Piotr Stencel (Manager)
Today we are about to finish up the final presentation, this is extremely important since we have to convey a lot of information and convince our client of implementing the suggested courses of action. We have worked very hard on this project and the final presentation should be the ‘icing on the cake’.
In the morning I try to finalize my work on the presentation in order to have a good version to discuss with Arjan. Together with Ilse we each work on some last parts of the presentation. Just before we have our meeting with Arjan I have to combine the different versions and make sure I delete the correct slides.
Ilse and I have a discussion with Arjan about final presentation just before lunch. The storyline is robust and convincing but we still have to add some slides and present some conclusions differently. We conclude the meeting with dividing the last bit of work with Ilse. Late in the afternoon we have a blue team over conference call with subject matter experts from around the world in which we want to check the most complex subjects.
After the call, which also resulted in some additional “to do’s” we leave for the hotel for some diner. Most of the evening we use for finishing our work in the business lounge of the hotel
Ilse Aerts (Sr. Business Analyst)
This morning I woke up very early in order to catch my flight to the client site in Switzerland. I packed my suitcase last night, so I only need to get ready and go to the airport. At Schiphol I am joined by two of my colleagues, Daan and Matthias, who are from other teams, but at the same client.
During the flight I open my laptop and try to get some smaller analyses done on the data that Piotr (my projects manager) and I received before the weekend.
On my way to the client site I discuss with Daan and Matthias that we should try to organize a team dinner this week and Matthias knows just the right restaurant to go to.
As soon as I’m at the client site I’m joined by colleagues from other offices. We start up our laptops and I go to get a coffee with Maggie (American colleague) who is going to Amsterdam this weekend and wants to know where to go and what to see. We agree we’ll discuss this further during our team dinner that week.
This week Piotr and I have several interviews, the first today, so I need to get my analysis done before that interview. The analysis gives several insights that are interesting but need to be discussed further in order to come to the right conclusion. As soon as Piotr comes in we sit down and discuss the insight that I put down in a presentation for him. He suggests some further insight that we need in order to interpret our data correctly, so I decide to go to Jürgen (from the client) to ask him if he can help me get the information and explain some definitions and specific data points.
During lunch with my colleagues outside on the terrace in the sun Piotr and I give a quick update to Arjan.
After that we go back upstairs, since we have our first interview and need to prepare. The interview goes well, but has confronted us with a dilemma, as it looks like our first hypothesis was incorrect. Piotr and I sit down with Arjan and discuss what to do. Arjan provides some interesting alternative hypotheses that we will be pursuing for the next week or so.
In the evening I go to the hotel with colleagues from several work streams. After an hour of swimming and sports most of us join up for dinner and go to the little Italian restaurant around the corner where we enjoy a football game on the big screen. München is playing and my colleague Nico (German colleague) a very big fan. Dean Sandy (UK colleague) and Maggie are enjoying watching it, while we discuss the ‘must-see’s’ of Amsterdam.
Financial Services in the Netherlands
A Dutch based financial services organization wanted to improve customer satisfaction and simultaneously increase its performance. For this large project AT Kearney was asked to assist with redesigning the strategy, organization and processes.
Nathan Burgers (Partner)
Most of the time my day is pretty full with meetings and conference calls. In addition, I am planning to speak to some business unit directors about potential projects at the same client at which I am currently already running several projects for.
I start my day with driving to the client office and making several phone calls to colleagues from the Amsterdam office to discuss some specific subjects as well as a colleague from Italy. This mainly concerns some international opportunities we have identified. He leads the European Financial institutions group of which I am part of.
During the day I have several meetings with the different teams that are currently active at this client. Two meetings were particularly good. In the first the analysis from the consultants showed some really good insights in which we both want to dive deeper into and we decided upon next steps in the analysis. In the second we discussed a rather unique finding with the team which we want to take further and discuss with senior client management. It really drives me to have such discussions with the consultants
Following the meeting, we discuss the progress we have made, issues the teams have ran into and we talk through the important presentations they have this week. It is impressive to see how many results we are already achieving.
Later on in the afternoon I have a steering committee with the board of directors. We present and discuss the current status and dive into some issues. Since the board needs to take several decisions in a short period of time – little over an hour – we introduce each subject shortly and present the most important arguments. Luckily we are able to cover most of the issues. After the meeting, I address one of the business unit directors, who is also present, to discuss an idea I have about a new project. She supports it and we agree I will discuss it with the board tomorrow morning.
At the end of the day I approach Roger and Rutger to let them know we will probably start this new project shortly. We immediately discuss the approach and conclude as we have to start with some interviews.
Rutger Mans (Manager)
It’s my first day back after three weeks of relaxing, I just came back from a wonderful holiday with the family! My mailbox is full with emails. A quickly scanned yesterday on the TGV from Marseille to Paris which gave me the expression that a lot happened the last three weeks and in addition a new two-week project will start today, on which I will work together with Dean. The project is complex and difficult but has big potential.
I jump in the car and phone Roger to get up to speed. He informs me about the most important events of the last weeks and we discuss what needs to be done this week. Afterwards I have a phone call with Nathan from Spain about the new project. He informs me about the background, the objectives and sensitivities I have to take into account. It is a very challenging and interesting assignment - we are really on top of all the changes in the marketplace here, and since my other project is very related it should be possible to deliver excellent results. Once I arrive at the client’s office, I have to meet up with the secretaries to go through the agenda. I have the first meeting with the client and I sit together with Dean to determine how we will setup and execute the project. We have some lively discussions, make some sketches on the white board and at the end of the meeting we have multiple flip charts with the approach on, important hypotheses and other remarks. To start the project Dean and I will schedule some interviews.
But first I have to prepare a steering committee meeting I have this afternoon. The meeting goes considerably well, there are some issues we have to manage but everybody is confident we will be able to deal with these. The meeting is hardly over, when I have to prepare another meeting I have with the board member responsible for the new project. Together we test the hypotheses and discuss the client team that should get involved. I have to read through the most important documents, discuss these with Dean and prepare the discussion points.
At the end of the day I finally have some time to catch up with all the other ATK consultants on the project and give them the short summary of my holidays. But not before we have headed out for a run in the forest around the hotel we are staying in.
Roger van Engelen (Associate)
Today starts very busy, the whole morning is filled with several important meetings. Since both Rutger – my manager on the project – and Anne – the principal on the project are on holidays I have to replace them in some important meetings with the client.
After I had a good breakfast at the hotel and read today’s newspaper, I have some time to prepare for the two meetings and the interview which are all scheduled in the morning. The first appointment starts at 9 o’clock in which we are presenting the progress of the transformation program to the advisory council (RvC). Ilse has prepared it well and within an hour we have walked through the whole document with the client and have written down all the required changes. I quickly discuss the recent changes with Ilse and hope she has enough time to go through with these changes before we have to send it to the board of directors later this afternoon.
Afterwards I have to rush to my interview. Together with Nathan I conduct the interview which involves two of the client’s business unit directors. Following this interview, Nathan and I evaluate our observations and conclusions, and we decide on what this means for this part of the project. We have to incorporate these insights into the overall story line and have to make new recommendations; it will be challenging to integrate this into our conclusions of all the other interviews. Based on the hypothesis, we determine what the next steps will be. To conclude, Nathan tells me an intern from Belgium will join us in two weeks for the upcoming month. This gives us some more ‘manpower’ to be able to finish this project before the end of next month!
After lunch I start working on another presentation, and with a little luck I will be able to have my first draft ready by the end of next week. In the afternoon, I discuss the final document for the advisory council Ilse made, she did a great job! In addition I have some discussions with the client and the rest of the team on what our main priorities are for the next steering committee and which subjects need more attention.
To conclude the day I drive back to the hotel and have dinner together with Bart. He has been an intern on our project for almost two months now. We have an interesting discussion on an analysis he did today and agree we have to look into that further tomorrow.
Ilse Aerts (Sr. Business Analyst)
This morning I jumped into my car to drive to the client. On my way I have some internal ATK related calls on the resources for the update of our website with Marc-Jan, I have a call with Arne on the topics on our upcoming Friday In the Office (FIO) and Kristel (ATK colleague) calls me to check if I can manage to do some sport on Thursday instead of Tuesday this week.
As soon as I’m at the client site I have a meeting with Roger about a presentation that we are preparing for the supervisory board. Since we are managing a very large transformation which will completely change the way the client’s business is run, the supervisory board needs to be informed quarterly. Today Roger and I are going to discuss our draft story line with the client. The meeting goes well, and the client wants to make some adjustments. However, we only have limited time before the board has to approve it. So after the session I discuss the required changes with Roger and discuss possible solutions and sketch the new slides.
Halfway during the afternoon, I finish the presentation. After a quick review session with the manager on the case (Rutger), I send the presentation to the client. He immediately replies that he is really pleased with the result!
The last part of my day I spend on a different topic for this project. It is a spin-off from an earlier work stream I’ve worked on for this client. Together with Lilia (consultant working on this topic) and Bart (our intern) I am analysing the financial impact of our recommendations. It’s exciting that I’ve been able to structure the problem on my own with minor feedback from Rutger and Roger! Together with Lilia I’ve set up a planning, arranged resources with Paul (program manager from the client) and helped Lilia and Bart get started. It is exciting to be able to have so much impact on our client! Before the end of the day I ask Bart to give the client an update on our progress this week.
At the end of the day I decide to have a quick bite with my colleagues in a restaurant in the city before I head home. In the car I have a conference call with several European and American colleagues to discuss a proposal we are writing for a company in the Fashion industry, an industry that has held my passion for some time now. I’m happy that Kearney gives me the chance to develop myself in that industry!