How do you move into management consulting – and succeed? Marion Siegl used to manage change processes for a premium car maker. In the summer of 2018, she began a new job as a consultant supporting agile teams in the field of electronics development.BACK TO CAREER
Yes, I have. The main thing I brought with me from my days in HR is a stockpile of knowledge. I know the ins and outs of employment law and I gained plenty of insights into occupational psychology – things that are useful to me now. Numbers play a big role in the world of developers; methods like Scrum are often used to boost efficiency. So sometimes people lose sight of the interpersonal side of teamwork. That’s when I can put my HR hat on and point out that the way people interact within the team has a greater impact on success than the project methods or digital tools they choose. In other words, it’s the melody that makes the music.
I’ve always wanted to work with people. For me it’s fun helping others make their jobs simpler, more appealing or better. That’s why I chose to work in HR and went to work in the HR department of a carmaker. But after a while I noticed I was having to do a lot more admin work than I’d expected to. So I decided to try something different and switched to Kugler Maag Cie. And in fact consulting comes much closer to what I wanted to do. Working here I can give people guidance and ideas on different ways to improve their work.
Agile working means reacting proactively to the continuously changing environment around you.
Some aspects I still benefit from today. I wrote a bachelor’s thesis on life-long learning and while I was working on it I spent a lot of time looking at how people actually learn. That’s working to my advantage right now, because my job as a consultant is to help people learn new things. Not only that, I also learned to look at things from a bird’s eye view. Developers are often deeply involved in their topic so every now and again it helps to have someone say, “Hey, step back a bit and look at it again from the outside in”.
However, I have to admit that although I learned a lot at university, there were only little bits that immediately prepared me for work. Some of the specifics on leadership and coaching methods – I had to learn those on the job. But that only works if you enjoy what you do. What’s important is that you need a lot of empathy and you have to be willing to improvise when things are unfamiliar.
There are some big differences in the way people look at things, although that doesn’t just apply to these two areas – it’s the same on a general level within industries or departments. If you google ‘agile working’, you find lots of different definitions. Usually they’re about an organisation or person in charge of something taking certain parts and cherry-picking the ones that suit them best. But often that means that the big idea gets forgotten.
Agile working means reacting proactively to the continuously changing environment around you. This applies to teams, departments or entire corporations. Every time I make a plan, I have to be aware of the fact that the conditions around me can change continuously – so I may have to deviate from the plan again in a moment. What this also means is that people need to be given a framework to work within to add stability and provide focus. Once organisations have internalised this idea, they can remain calm and focused even if things do get rocky. They don’t have to go straight to red alert. This allows them to keep delivering in the long term – without burning out employees and teams.
The onboarding process at Kugler Maag Cie is tailored to each individual. At the beginning I was given two direct contacts, an operative manager who I could ask about administrative issues and a mentor to help me with the consulting side of things. At the beginning, I always went with my mentor to client meetings. At the same time, I also took part in a lot of client training sessions myself, but not as a coach. That gave me a bit of training on the methodologies we use, so I didn’t have to actually deliver on anything from day one. That was really good for my professional development.
That it’s fun going to work every day. Not only that, but there’s a strong concentration of expertise here so we learn a lot from each other. The amount of support you get from colleagues is phenomenal. I’d never experienced that before, or not to this degree.
We all made a conscious decision to pursue a career in consulting. There’s no point trying to pretend that doesn’t involve a lot of work and a lot of time away from the office. But on the flip side, we do have a lot of freedom when it comes to how we get the job done. We also get to choose hotels and travel options ourselves. I was also allowed to go on my honeymoon during the probationary period and that’s certainly not the sort of thing you see everywhere.
That we should never underestimate the impact our environment has on our behaviour. We humans are not uniform machines. To those on the outside, our behaviour might seem illogical or strange; it can’t always be explained by what’s going on in the inside. If you change what’s happening on the outside, you might see a completely different side to people. If something isn’t working properly in a team, it’s often useful to look at the things around them that may be affecting the individual members of the team.
When the things other people do somehow seem inconsistent, it’s usually because you don’t know something about an underlying reason. The way people behave is usually intrinsically understandable but it always depends on their personal background, the things around them and their beliefs.