apples vs oranges

Consulting candidates face a seemingly endless variety of alternatives when it comes to career path options in today’s market: different industries, services, locations, working styles, and so on. Two of the most popular alternatives are strategy versus technology consulting. In the tech-oriented business world of today, it has become more and more difficult to distinguish between the two paths. If you’re interested in the tech industry but have a business background, can you still gain exposure to Silicon Valley via a strategy firm? If your expertise revolves around IT systems, will you be comfortable operating outside of the traditional tech consulting practice?

Before you decide between strategy and technology consulting, understand a few key points:

  1. Scope The types of problems addressed in pure strategy versus technology projects differ in several key ways. First, strategy projects focus on the overall business, such as growth plans, divestitures, pricing, and cost efficiency. On the other hand, technology projects concentrate on how IT can solve a client’s problem. Examples of typical engagements include migration from one tech platform to another, enhancements to communication channels, customer relationship management (CRM), and improvements to data capture / reporting capabilities.
  2. Timeline & Lifestyle Timing and flow of a typical engagement tend to impact the consulting lifestyle. In strategy, consultants may bounce between four or five projects a year across various industries and service offerings. In tech, an engagement may last multiple years involving one type of business system. There are unique benefits to each (e.g. relaxed timelines vs. face-paced environments, deep knowledge vs. broad exposure) as well as many similarities (e.g. travel, team-based work, client interactions).
  3. Two roads diverged… Several consulting firms require that recruits choose between strategy and technology before interviews are held. You may go through a different process based on which service area you choose. Once choose a specialty, it can be difficult to switch focuses, mostly from a project staffing standpoint. You even may have to interview again for the new role.
  4. We meet again… That being said, it is not uncommon for a strategy consultant to work on a tech-oriented project and vice versa. Most projects nowadays involve some form of technology and some aspect of strategy, and clients expect consultants to be able to wear both hats. For example, one meeting point between the two sides might be an acquisition, as major business transactions require both strategic and IT considerations in order to be executed successfully.

During your conversations with campus recruiters, keep in mind the above points and ask for their personal stories. It’s only through contact with the experts that you’ll be able to determine which path is best for you. And once you’ve narrowed down your preferred firms, be sure to work with a Consulting Interview Coach on interview prep and resume review in order to secure your dream job in consulting this winter!