Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Julia Gilmour and I am a Management Consultant at Nous Group. I’ve been a management consultant for about five and a half years now.
I am a born and bred Sydney girl. I grew up in Sydney, and went to Sydney University, where I was fortunate enough to live at the Women’s College. There, I got into a lot of women’s mentoring programs, which informed who I am now, the values that I take forward in my personal life and also where I work.
Outside of work, I love travelling to new places (currently making the most of exploring NSW), hitting up the slopes, reading a good book and cooking for friends. My favourite thing is being with my family.
So you’re a Management Consultant, but what is Management Consulting exactly?
Management consulting is a lot of things. In short, management consulting is a profession that supports organisations to make big strategic decisions, communicate and create changes that hopefully improve the performance of the company.
I’ve had the chance to work across lots of industries – government, higher ed, financial services, products, transport, utilities and infrastructure, to name a few. It’s a really interesting career that allows you to assist leaders to make big changes. We work across implementation, business and digital strategy, public policy, data and analytics, design, organisational performance and leadership, and Indigenous consulting.
What does a typical day in Management Consulting look like for you?
I’m a morning person, so I’ll wake up super early and I know that it’s naughty to say this, but I typically check my phone and look at what’s happened overnight. During the pandemic, I’ve probably gotten more into this habit than ever.
I’ll have multiple cups of tea and then I go for a walk or do some sort of exercise before work.
From there, I like to start my work days developing a plan. This involves how I can ensure the projects I’m managing are going to achieve what they need to that day, how I can ensure my teams are set up for success, and how I can also make sure I’m doing the things I need to do to keep everything running along. Then I’ll get into work.
No two days in management consulting are ever the same. Typically, I manage multiple projects at any one time, which keeps me on my toes, and it’s great!
It involves engaging with my colleagues and clients to make sure we’re all connected and going in the same direction. It also involves thought leadership, creative thinking and problem solving, which are some of the most exciting things about consulting for me, because there’s not always one clear answer.
I’ve recently taken on the role of a performance coach at work, helping junior consultants to have the tools and support to succeed at work. That’s one of my favourite parts of work: mentoring other people.
I often end the day with a bit of planning as well. So that’s making sure that I’ve done everything that I needed to do, and that my team and I are ready for the next day.
Then I have dinner, watch Netflix, maybe read a book and go to bed… when I can, early nights!
What are the strategies you and your team use when you are trying to “think deeply”?
We make our thinking sessions as structured as possible in that they are outcome-focused and implementable. For anything that comes out of these sessions, there’s always a really clear next step as to what we need to do to make fall into place or flesh it out more.
As consultants, we have a lot of frameworks that allow us to make sure that we’ve considered all of the big areas, as well as allow us to communicate what we’ve come up with in the future if we need to present it back to the client. As a project manager, I like to give everyone in the team space to contribute.
As not necessarily everyone in management consulting has a business background, people tend to enter consulting with many different degrees or previous work experiences. I get to work with a range of really interesting, intelligent people – I find this very rewarding.
What have you learned from performance coaching?
The culture at Nous is one where we give feedback regularly, with radical candor. This means providing regular, sincere feedback so that we can manage our performance – either when something is working well, or when we need to set ourselves a new development goal. This also means that as a team, we genuinely care for each other’s professional growth.
I have learned to apply this school of thought to my day-to-day. Requesting feedback can be daunting, but it’s one of the most powerful tools that you have, because it allows you to develop in real-time rather than just half-yearly performance feedback sessions.
What are your qualifications?
I did a Bachelor of Political, Economic and Social Sciences and then a Master of Management – both at Sydney University.
Although I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, I knew that I had ambitions to do something interesting and diverse. In terms of the Masters of Management, I was lucky to have done a few business subjects in the Bachelor’s degree, and Women’s College had given me networks in corporate services.
Whilst I got to try out lots of different things during the Master’s degree, I knew in the back of my head that it might lead to management consulting.
How have these qualifications helped in your current role as a Management Consultant?
My first graduate role was in management consulting . The Master of Management was a clear and smooth transition into a graduate management consulting role. It set me up to have a good understanding of the types of business situations that you deal with in management consulting .
My undergraduate degree gave me an appreciation for the world and different perspectives. As a consultant, you have to have lots of diverse capabilities and skills. One of the most important things that I learned through my Bachelor’s degree and as I’ve worked as a consultant is to have empathy for different people’s opinions and situations. That’s the type of thing that allows you to perform well and also make the most positive and impactful changes.
And how did you find the transition from university to the workforce?
I was excited to start work and I felt like I was ready. But there were a couple of unexpected things.
Firstly, the biggest change for me was working five days a week and not having as many holidays! I remember that it was tiring at first, but you get used to it.
Secondly, at uni, you’re doing a lot of theoretical things in projects and assignments. Then when you get to work, you’re making real changes that actually have an impact on other people.
What attracted you to Nous Group Consulting?
I worked at a different management consulting firm at the beginning of my career, where I was able to do really interesting work and learned that I enjoyed the work.
After working at this firm, I took a career break and travelled for six months, which is when I realised I wanted to keep working in consulting. I chose Nous as my values aligned with the types of work that they do, specifically being that our work has a positive impact.
Practically, the thing that appealed to me (aside from the alignment with values) was the high number of female leaders. Having other experienced women around to mentor you, to work with and to look up to was really important to me.
What has been your biggest career highlight?
I can think of some great things that have happened in my career, but it’s not the big things that give me the most joy. It’s actually the smaller, everyday things. It might be when a client achieves great outcomes from something I helped them to develop. Or when a colleague that I’ve worked closely with gets a promotion.
How have you managed the workload as a Management Consultant?
Management consulting is often perceived as a high-pressure career. In reality, it is a lot of the time, but there’s often ebbs and flows. Sometimes you might be working really big weeks, and sometimes it’s not that bad and you learn to enjoy those moments.
To get through it, I feel a lot better when I’m organised so that I have a really clear plan. A couple of years ago I got into meditation; I try to do it every day and it has made a huge difference. And then also during COVID, I exercise every day, and that makes me feel a lot better as well.
What’s your favourite meditation app?
I love ‘10% happier’!
All the voices are so soothing! If I have 10 minutes in between meetings and I’ll lie down on my office floor behind me because I’ve got like a yoga mat behind my chair.
What have you been doing to stay productive, organised and motivated during the pandemic?
Obviously it’s a very stressful and unusual time, but it’s also a time where I’ve realised the importance of being in the moment and taking things day by day. I have aspirations but make them a little bit more short term. I’m grateful for my health, the health of loved ones, and to have a job.
When the pandemic started, getting my mental state to think about it in terms of those things was really important. Accepting things as they come and also spending a lot of time with my partner and family as I can. Also, I got an iso-kitten – Mac. He’s very cute, and has brought me so much happiness (and cuddles during meetings).
I think I can just try to do my best each day.
What advice would you have for university students looking into a career in Management Consulting?
First, management consulting is a great place to start your career. It’s exciting, diverse, and involves travel. You are constantly challenged, learning, get to work with really smart people, and solve interesting problems.
Second, university clubs (180 degrees consulting and BusinessOne) give you real-life experience while working for not-for-profits. I did that when I was doing my Bachelor’s degree and it was a great way to give me a taste of what consulting does and have a fulfilling extracurricular while I was at uni.
In terms of getting into management consulting, I have colleagues from all types of backgrounds and it’s not just business. They are lawyers, engineers, psychologists, musicians and much more. That’s what makes it great – you’ve got lots of different perspectives and experiences in the room. It’s the type of career that you can come in from many angles.
What advice would you have for someone who is looking to get into consulting from a non-traditional (i.e. non-business) background?
Speak with someone who is in management consulting who might be able to direct you to someone who has a similar background to you. They’ll be able to give you really good examples of what type of work they do and the path that they took to get into consulting.
Do you have any advice for acing the interview with a consulting firm?
A management consulting interview is notoriously hard. Each firm does it a little differently, and the process might involve multiple steps like an aptitude test, case interviews (this involves solving a problem in front of the assessors), and then a business case/ business problem. What firms are looking for is the ability to problem-solve, to be creative, to ask good questions, and deliver a structured answer.
It’s best to prepare a lot for these, and there are great resources online that help you prepare for the case interviews specifically.
I used Acethecase.com and PrepLounge.
What are your goals/ what are you looking forward to in the next 12 months?
It’s hard to plan and create tangible goals at the moment. For me, I think that staying grateful, checking in to see how others are doing, and setting up shorter term goals has been important.
I remind myself that there are a lot of great things are still happening every day, and that there’s a lot to look forward to in the future
That’s the approach that I’m taking.
If you would like to learn more about Julia’s work and Nous Group, head to their website.