James: Jerry – welcome to the program. Glad to have you here. Let’s get right into it. You started your career with PwC as an intern in the public practice (“WFP”), correct?
Jerry: Yep. I interned going into my senior year of college, and then I got a full time offer that summer, so I returned right when I graduated from college full time in back into public sector Advisory. I was in that for ~ two years, and then I changed practices into a commercial, technology advisory practice. And, I was there for four years after that. So, six years total, and then I left to go work for a client.
James: Six years of service. That’s a big number
Jerry: Yeah, I know.
James: Where else did you interview in college when you were looking for internships?`
Jerry: So, it’s funny. PwC was the first company to post on our on campus recruiting site which must have been in like, October of 2008.
James: When the world was ending.
Jerry: When the world was ending. They were the first company to post on our site. So, I applied online, got an interview in November, and I think by the end of my first semester of Junior year, I had already accepted it so … It was the one and only company I applied to.
James: You were one and done.
Jerry: Very efficient process I know.
James: What do you remember about your internship interview, and some of the questions they asked?
Jerry: It was mostly behavioral in nature because especially people in college don’t have a ton of technical experience, so it’s more about are you capable of doing an Associate type job? Whatever that may be in the line of business. And, also, they also definitely look for cultural fit, personality, the can-do attitude. And, then, just your ability to articulate your story, and why you actually want to work there.
They get a ton of applicants through the door, right? I would say actually the first layer of screening is your GPA and your academic credentials so you have to be a good student. And, once you get past that, it’s about how well do you tell your story, how do you share that you’re competent and interested in learning and the job and all that consulting offers.
James: What do you think the interviewers liked about you, or what do you think stood out when you did the internship?
Jerry: Okay, so I think three things. One was I was studying both business and computer science. When I was interviewing, the companies and the government were interested in digital transformation and data and all that stuff, so they were looking for people that understood the business side and people who could understand and do some of the more technical work. I think that was the first thing.
The second one was my past internships, and I was able to tell the story of what I did the summer before and my coursework. The summer before I interned at Prudential doing financial management type stuff so it was kind of logical that for accounting and consulting firm that they would see that background as a strength.
And, then, the third thing was just academics. I was a very good student so …
James: What was your GPA?
Jerry: My GPA. I think it was like …
James: You know it. You know it down to like the hundredth decimal. I know you do.
Jerry: It was around a 3.8.
James: 2007 and ’08 were probably the hardest years to get internships because of the financial crisis
Jerry: Yea that’s true, but on the flip side what helped me was that I was interviewing for the public sector, because while the whole finance industry was kind of crashing, the public sector wasn’t all that affected by the changes. If anything, we were getting more work because of all the regulation going into place.
James: True, I remember when they were setting up TARP and all that stuff down in DC.
Jerry: Yeah, exactly. They had new agencies and stuff popping up. So, yeah, certainly a hot time for big government.
James: So, was a typical day in the life for you? How would you break down the typical day as an associate or senior associate in Big 4 consulting?
Jerry: So, you’re interested in an associate or senior job?
James: Yeah? What was your typical day?
Jerry: could probably speak to my more recent experience when I was an associate or senior. So, when I was on a travel engagement, depending on the distance, I would travel either Sunday night or Monday morning. I would wake up super early if it was a Monday morning, get on a plane, land, wait in the airport for a few minutes for my other colleagues who were also traveling from other places. We would head to the rental car center together, and we would drive to the client site. Probably get there around 10 or 10:30 AM.
We’d probably have a team meeting just to discuss what’s going on this week, what are any developments in the client, any feedback or things that changed over the weekend. Then, there were some client interviews or information gathering things that we had to do. So, we would probably talk to some people. A lot of it was, at the associate or senior level, all about making sure that you’re accounting for everything that was said and that you are adequately placing things that the client said into the right buckets so you can frame things up into an executive level analysis.
In the afternoon probably just working with the team. Maybe a few client meetings with the primary client to just check your direction and see if they have any questions or suggestions for where you should look based on the information you’re getting back. We probably stayed in the office until like 7:30ish, and then we’d go out for for a team dinner. And, then, hit the hay around 9:30ish and be asleep at like 11.
James: What drove you to switch practices from WFP to commercial advisory?
Jerry: Once you join a Big Four firm, it’s just such a big place, and you realize very quickly how many opportunities you really have. And, there’s just so much different work that goes on, and probably like most people that join out of college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career eventually. So, I wanted to join a place that would give me a lot of exposure to a lot of different areas, and I’d be able to explore different things without having to make massive changes every couple months or year or so. Meaning, I wouldn’t have to look for a new job if I wanted to try something different. So, that was the appeal of joining a Big Four to begin with.
So you just start learning about different things going on, and based on your current work, some things seem more interesting or seem like areas that you want to explore. So, that’s where I decided, “Oh, hey. There’s different type of work out there for different type of client, and I think that’s something I’m interested in.” That’s when I realized, “Hey, maybe I could try something new here.”
Once I decided I wanted to switch, then it was all about actually a few things needed to align myself to the practice I wanted to join. Probably three things, like my personal interest, an available project, and the constraints of my current client project. And, it’s not something that can be done overnight. It usually takes a bit of patience. So, for me, it was about first finding what that target was and what kind of group or nature of work I wanted to do. Then, initiating that discussion with a few people in that group. Essentially I would say, “hey I’m really interested in this and I would love to get some exposure, experience on a short project if anything comes up and you have a need, let me and my Partner know, and then we could talk about this.” And, people are generally very supportive at the firm.
Jerry: So, for me, it was somebody who I worked with on my project in public sector. They actually went on rotation type thing to this client, and then, they knew I was interested because I stayed in touch with them. And, then, they reached out, and a couple months, later the timing happened to work out where my project was ending, and it was a reasonable time to try something new.
Jerry: It definitely requires a lot of communication and coordination and a bit of patience to … That’s how it went down. And, then, it was initially framed as something that I would go and do for a few months, and then, the expectation would be that I come back, which I was comfortable with because I really did just want to try it. but after being on … Doing that different type of work, I decided that’s what I wanted to do so it was the partner in that group who pulled me over, and then, obviously the folks in my current group at the time were supportive. So, that’s how the transition was done.
James: You’re a very hot commodity, getting pulled over like that.
James: Yeah, I think no matter what, if you do a good job, and consistently have a good reputation, and get good ratings, people will vouch for you. There are a lot more opportunities for you to move on to cool things.
Jerry: Yeah. Good personal brand.
James: Good street cred.
Jerry: Doing good work is the most important thing. If you’re shitty at your job, then nobody is going to want you on their team, and nobody’s going to vouch for you.
James: Can you talk about your decision to leave PwC for your client?
Jerry: So first, how did I know I was ready to leave? Actually, a lot of people leaving PwC or the Big Four have a particular reason like they don’t want to travel or something. For me, it was actually more opportunistic where I was working with a client kind of on and off for a few years, and I actually really liked the work I was doing, and I liked their culture. And, they were going through a very interesting change at the time that I was very interested in. So, I knew I wanted a different type of deeper experience and also to see the work through that I was doing for so long. So, that’s where the opportunity came up.
Jerry: It wasn’t something that I was thinking about for a long time or where I was like, this is my intention from the start. It was more like this opportunity presented itself, and it happened to be a client whose culture I liked in an industry that I wanted to work in. The work was really interesting.
James: Looking back and comparing yourself to other colleagues that didn’t necessarily come from the same Big Four background. What do you think you’re really good at in your new role that PwC and the Big Four helped you with? How did your PwC job and experience translate to your new role?
Jerry: I think one thing that the Big Four really helped me with was having a general problem solving skill set that’s applicable to any situation. I’ve had a lot of exposure to companies in different industries, all different types of functions and different roles within those functions as well.
So, just having that rapid exposure forced me to learn how to learn quickly. And, it taught me a lot in a very short amount of time. So, I felt like going into the industry side it … that was like the most important thing, and now it’s about thinking about where I want to specialize and what domain I ultimately want to work within. But, I think in terms of a general problem solving skill set, the Big Four is invaluable there.
James: What an answer. What a Big Four answer.
Jerry: Such a Big Four answer. I should have said, “It depends. It depends.