Career change: Accountant to Consultant
Uzma Ali, a Senior Analyst at CIL, discusses her decision to move from an accounting firm to a consultancy and what motivated her career change.
What has your career path looked like to date?
After graduating in 2018 from a Business Management course, I joined a graduate scheme working as an auditor in private markets. During my time in that role, I did my ACA exams to become a qualified Chartered Accountant, which consisted of 15 exams and three years’ worth of relevant work experience. While taking my exams, I knew I wanted to make the move into consulting, I always saw consulting in my future. I really liked the idea of working with businesses, making a real difference supporting clients and being part of their journey and growth.
I felt that now I had done my exams and spent some time around private markets, I had the experience and business acumen to take the step into consulting – auditing gave me the skills and industry knowledge I needed. And so, once I had qualified from my exams at the start of 2021, I decided to look for a new job as a Consultant and that is where I found CIL.
What drew you to CIL and what was the application process like?
I had some exposure to different consulting companies throughout the start of my career and I realised quite early on that I wanted to join a mid-sized fast-growing consultancy where I could make a real impact. Working on mid-market companies also appealed to me as it allows you to get more hands on with the work and provides a greater exposure to the senior teams of those businesses.
The CIL application process also stood out to me – it was friendly, easy to navigate and made sense. Along with the usual CV and cover letter, we had to put together a presentation about our ideas for a mid-market private equity firm. I really enjoyed being able to present my own research and show off the skills I had picked up as an auditor. Compared to other firms, the application process puts a much larger emphasis on your business acumen and analytical work, skills that you actually use day-to-day as a Consultant.
How did joining as an experienced hire affect your role and attitude towards the work?
When you join a company as an experienced hire, you have to adjust to new working styles. When you start off as a graduate, you are easy to mould into the role that you’ve been given, but when you have experience elsewhere, it can take time to unlearn old habits and relearn them in the new style.
At CIL, everyone has been so supportive and are always willing to give you time for feedback and development. Nobody is made to feel inadequate when you don’t know something – it is treated as a chance to learn more and expand your skills and knowledge. In fact, it’s almost impossible to do our job without asking loads of questions and always seeking answers.
How did CIL support you as a new joiner?
CIL often recruits in cohorts – groups of new joiners who start together – which I found was a big pillar of support when joining a new company. It was really easy to make friends with everyone and I even started alongside some other experienced hires, which meant we were all able to support each other in the next step of our career.
Around the office, anyone you sit with will start a chat with you, and someone you haven’t met before will introduce themselves in the kitchen. The open plan office is also very helpful, as it means you can be sitting next to the Managing Partner one day and some graduate Analysts the next. You are always learning from the people around you and the lack of hierarchical culture means that everyone is friendly and willing to joke around.
CIL also held an experienced hire dinner, for both my cohort and those who had joined before me. It was useful to hear some tips from people of all levels in the company who had been through what I was going through, and it made the transition into CIL an easy one.
What advice would you give to other experienced hires looking to switch to consulting?
Just do it! If you’re interested in working with a wide range of companies, interacting with clients, and helping them get more out of their business, then becoming a Consultant is absolutely the right choice to make.
If, like me, you don’t come from a consulting background, it might seem daunting to have to learn everything from scratch, but the training is brilliant and very in-depth, and will put everyone on the same page to ensure you have everything you need to be a successful Consultant.
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