Purpose of this series
This interview series was created to give students an insider look into the world of consulting. You will hear on the experiences and advice of professionals who have graduated from UIUC and gain insight on what it truly means to work in consulting. Professionals range across companies, industries, and job titles.
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Alumni: Garrett Whitsitt
Major and Grad Year: Supply chain management, December 2010
Title: Senior Tech Consultant
LinkedIn: Garrett’s LinkedIn
Point in Career: Approaching 7th year of working in consulting
- Introduction about Garrett (00:20)
- What is tech consulting on a higher level, client types, project types, industry (01:35)
- What was it like being hired in the 2010 period (04:12)
- Working at Hitachi vs Deloitte (07:20)
- Starting positions at Hitachi vs Deloitte (11:52)
- How do consultants learn on the job (12:40)
- What are skills that you have built from consulting (16:25)
- Functional vs technical roles in tech consulting (19:40)
- What is client interaction like across different positions (22:58)
- How have you adjusted to building the expertise of a consultant (25:38)
- How do the projects in tech consulting across industries compare (29:00)
- Where do consultants go after working in consulting (30:11)
- What advice do you offer to students (33:25)
- On a whole, the tech consulting industry is focused on offering services for client IT systems. In Garrett’s case at Deloitte, this ranged from strategizing changes to an IT systems (Deciding which programs will be used, how they will be implemented, etc.) all the way to implementation (Doing the actual “ground work” of changing client systems) and supporting them in the future use of their products, at Hitachi, Garrett noted they were more focused on implementation. (See SDLC life cycle defined below)
- Consultants learn their various skills both through on the job training and experiences as well as in more formal ways such class room settings or online teachings for certain topics.
- Tech consulting offers roles for both engineering students and business students; a variety of skill sets are utilized in tech consulting from functional to technical.
- Students should focus on gaining consulting experiences through consulting RSOs and internships, demonstrating their communication, leadership, and teamwork skills, as well as demonstrating a strong and well-founded interest in consulting.
Big Bang/Phase: Big Bang is a go-live or cutover scenario where a business switches from their old system to their new system at a single point in time whereas a phased approach is a gradual roll-out over time and has inherently less risk.
SDLC: Software Development Life Cycle- various stages in a software implementation:
- Requirement gathering and analysis
- Development (Implementation or coding)
Legacy Systems: The old IT systems a client uses prior to replacement of new IT systems.
SAP: One of the largest ERP software companies in the world. Deloitte implements SAP’s software.
Oracle: Competitor to SAP.
Edge Applications: Also known as edge computing which shifts applications, data and services away from centralized points and conducts data processing at the edge of a network which helps with performance and reducing latency.
Steering Committee: A higher level leadership committee focused on checking status and directing the aim of on going projects.
Accelerators: Templates that help accelerate a project, for example pre-configured solutions that we can apply at a client that has a lot of the basic configurations/setups needed to stand-up the software.
Functional Specs: Functional specifications that detail how a solution or design should perform.
Development Objects: Coded objects that are created as part of the technical specification in order for the system to function as required by the functional spec.
ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning – A software that enables an organization to utilize a system of fully integrated applications to manage all facets of its business.
Agile: Iterative based software implementation that allows a project to realize benefits earlier on in the implementation. Conducted in sprints that last 2-4 weeks and comprises the SDLC all in a sprint.
Waterfall Methodology: opposite of agile, this is the traditional way of implementing ERP projects. Follows the SDLC and culminates in a go-live.
Alumni: Richard Graybill
Major and Grad Year: Ph.D. Analytical Chemistry, May 2017
Title: Life Science Specialist
LinkedIn: Richard’s LinkedIn
Point in Career: Just finished Ph.D., soon to be starting full time role
- Intro on Richard (00:22)
- To someone who does not know what consulting is, how would you describe your role (01:36)
- What is the “ground work” of consulting (03:36)
- What other organizations were you in other than IBC (06:43)
- Responsibilities in projects as a consultant vs project manager vs senior manager in IBC (08:05)
- How involved is the senior manager in projects, more depth into their role (10:32)
- How many projects have you worked on; Dive into an individual project (12:41)
- Did you have a clear vision of the end goal in the project discussed in the previous question (15:03)
- Who has been your role model through your experiences (16:35)
- How has your academic path led you to consulting, what other things did you consider along the way (18:04)
- What are the opportunities you see for yourself going into consulting (22:23)
- How have you built your network while at Illinois (23:25)
- General advice for students interested in consulting (26:29)
- Richard describes consultants on a whole to be like “hired minds”, they are experts in a particular field of business that tackle problems, as a team, that companies are unable to solve internally, or that they may simply desire a second opinion on a matter.
- Some example tasks of the “ground work” a consultant like Richard would be doing could include interviewing thought leaders -experts of a particular field-, conducting surveys of the end users of a particular product, or doing financial forecasting on tools like excel.
- In IBC, consultants perform the core research and presentation on projects for real clients (ranging from fortune 50 firms to startups). Meanwhile, the PM guides the project direction and trains the 6-8 person team, and is the main point of contact with the client. The SM, managing 3 projects at a time, offers advice and overall steering of the team, using experience on projects to help with project scoping and in times of uncertainty.
- Reaching out to alumni is an untapped resource that students are highly encouraged to take more advantage of on campus.
- For advice towards students interested in consulting, Richard recommends getting involved in career organizations such as ICA, in addition to project based consulting groups such as IBC ( This would include groups such as OTCR, Cube, EntreCorps, SCNO, etc. ).
Alumni: Ryan Barr
Major and Grad Year: Systems Engineering, Minor in Business Admin., May 2016
Title: CIO Advisory Associate
LinkedIn: Ryan’s LinkedIn
Point in Career: Completed a year of work in consulting, now moving to pursue a Ph.D. in Sustainable Energy Systems at UC Davis
- Intro on Ryan (00:22)
- What drew you to work at a big 4 firm like KPMG as consultant (01:42)
- What does your role entail as a CIO Advisory Associate (04:07)
- What defines KPMG compared to other firms offering tech consulting (05:45)
- Review of a couple projects Ryan has worked on (08:20)
- Time frames of projects, how do project lengths range (12:44)
- What position does your team act in during projects, are you offering an intermediary role? (15:30)
- Why is implementation of consulting projects sometimes difficult? (16:21)
- How did your IBC experience compare to your full time? (18:03)
- How did your Internship compare to your full time? (20:36)
- What major skills have you taken away from your career in consulting? (21:50)
- Are you concerned about returning to your Ph.D. after a year off? (25:44)
- Where do you feel universities can prepare students better? What do students need to be conscious of? (27:38)
- General advice to freshman who are interested in consulting (28:52)
- Brief rundown of what Ryan’s Ph.D. will be focused on (30:25)
- KPMG has less of a focus on implementation work than do firms such as Accenture or Deloitte which also offer tech consulting services.
- Projects or “engagements” range anywhere from six weeks to two years or more. Ryan pointed out that by people and dollar amounts, more projects are on the longer side as opposed to a misconception thatconsulting projects are typically are short,
- Tech consulting solutions can sometimes be difficult to implement simply because the projects themselves are difficult to predict both in terms of cost and timelines.
- Ryan felt both IBC and his internship gave him an accurate depiction on what the world of consulting is like, however he noted that IBC does not offer as much face-to-face engagement as are seen in typical consulting roles.