If you give a student an avocado, there’s no telling what they will do with it!
Sean Holland is someone with a great passion for public service, which began at a very young age. Since second grade, Sean believed that he would go to law school and become a lawyer or diplomat. This interest manifested itself in participating in Model United Nations when Sean was in high school and attending George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in 2016, majoring in Political Science. After Freshman year, however, Sean discovered his love for economics and statistics and their application to real world problems.
Returning from his study abroad in Vienna his Junior year, Sean decided to apply for management consulting internships, as he knew many friends who were interested in the same field and felt that this unique opportunity could challenge and excite him. Sean did alright during the behavioral interview portion of his management consulting interviews, but fell short during the case interview process and did not receive an offer that summer. Going into Junior year with no summer internship, Sean knew that he would have to be productive somehow and took the summer to explore his interests and write about them. Sean learned how to code in R and wrote articles for Medium focused on statistics and analytics. Sean further differentiated himself by adding a comical undertone within his writings. Over the summer, Sean even had one of his articles on forecasting avocado prices published on Medium’s Towards Data Science site, which gained an incredible readership.
Armed with a summer of self-study and a portfolio of impressive research, Sean went through the Fall recruiting process his Senior year, and landed a Business Analyst position at Deloitte Consulting, specializing in government and public sector work. Sean credits landing the job to owning some of the best advice he received from his career counselor. Sean’s counselor told him to never underplay his achievements and to always convey his experiences in a positive light. To go into his interviews not with the perspective of having a summer with no internship, but a summer filled with enriched learning.
Sean adeptly describes a consultant’s role as providing subject matter expertise and a specific know-how to provide solutions to problems. Government consulting, specifically, aims to help a government agency create a vision for where they want their agency to be and works to create a roadmap for how the agency can achieve this. Although government agencies might have an in-house IT shop or finance department, these agencies often don’t have specific strategic departments that have a broad overview of all departments. As a consultant coming in, they would have the comparative advantage of working across multiple divisions and having a particular expertise that is missing. Government engagements also tend to be longer than commercial ones — often lasting several years — as consultants help along the journey from formulating strategies to advising on implementation.
Sean’s current project involves transforming budget management processes and best practices in a new defense agency. His day-to-day, like every consultant, varies greatly. On any particular Monday morning, Sean sits in on a “Stand Up” call with task leads to go over project details and developments. Afterward, he might meet with his team’s client to review some data that he has analyzed in a deck, take notes during a team brief, or help his team and project leads keep track of a lot of moving pieces related to the project. Sean would describe his work as a balance between both project management and strategy work for his team. As an analyst, his role is to mainly observe and support the vision Deloitte aims to create. Sean makes a point of mentioning that, although consulting can be high stress, he feels reassured that his work doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, but he has to show signs of improvement in what he does- advice every perfectionist should take to heart.
Sean notes that the most compelling part of his work is getting to interact with people who are on top of their game in terms of expertise. He goes further by mentioning that consulting attracts people who are used to working in teams and comfortable with hard work- those who are smart and comfortable working in teams naturally gravitating to the work. At Deloitte, Sean has met consultants who come from every background, from MBA grads to mathematicians to even former WNBA players.
In relation to challenges, Sean admits that consulting in the virtual world can be difficult in terms of feeling like you belong with a team you have never met before. Additionally, the learning curve can be pretty steep in terms of creating decks or analyzing data with expert precision. It is easy to get overwhelmed, yet the remedy for this is to realize that everyone has been in the same position at some point and that it is expected that you will need some time to learn; the benefits of hiring someone young is in being able to shape that person’s development to fill a special skill.
Looking towards the future, Sean is excited by the prospect of employing rigorous statistical methods to solve policy questions and aid in better decision-making within his work. Sean believes that work similar to this is the next frontier for consulting, where data is the most critical driver in supporting decision making.
For Sean, it seems that personal future possibilities are endless, as he continues to become persuaded by a variety of opportunities. Looking into the distance, Sean can see his life going in many different directions including attending law school and fulfilling his childhood dream, getting his MBA and working at Google, or maybe even staying at Deloitte forever!
“There are so many experiences to be had and so many opportunities out there. It’s hard to say what the future really holds.”