We are all consultants with brains and heart who know our handiwork
We can best illustrate who we are with personal statements from some of our colleagues. Their open and honest answers not only give tips for newcomers, but shed light on different aspects of our company culture as well.
George: The entrepreneur
You founded your own company while working as a consultant at h&z. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I started ICONSPEAK along with two friends. It’s a start-up that deals with communicating through icons. We became sort of famous with our “World Edition” – a set of 39 essential icons available on different textiles that help travelers communicate with the locals in any part of the world. The concept went totally viral for a few weeks and our shirt was the most-discussed shirt at that time.
Does your experience as a consultant help you with your work in your start-up?
When ICONSPEAK really took off, I had already been in consulting for about one year. The experience I have gained helped me to structure projects and subprojects. I was also able to use my consulting experience when it came to communicating and cooperating with the employees. But it goes both ways as well. As a startup, you are incredibly flexible and agile, and impulses from the area of agility or tools that we use for communication and controlling within a startup can be the beginning of a new generation of project management for a consultancy.
Die h&z support you in the foundation and development of your own company?
h&z was very pragmatic and flexible when it came to supporting my work hours. For a long time, I hardly spoke at all about ICONSPEAK internally, but the sales development and the media presence that we had created led to a certain amount of fame, even within h&z. When talking to my mentor, we quickly found a solution for how I could use certain hours during work for ICONSPEAK. Of course the flexibility is limited if we are at the client’s location all day, but if you are looking for a 9-to-5 job, then consulting or entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you.
What advice can you give others who want to realize their own business ideas parallel to their job?
Just do it. Building a startup out of consulting can work very well. Due to the project related work, you may be able to schedule time off or leave with your employer relatively flexibly – you can always come to an agreement in such situations at h&z. Building a startup as a part-time venture however also creates a dilemma between risk and commitment. Of course the risk is lower if you have a solid work contract; but it also means that the commitment is not the same as if you were to quit your old job and put everything in one bucket. This is undeniable. But I don’t see this as a big problem for us – we are three founders and some of us exclusively work for ICONSPEAK.
ICONSPEAK h&z CPO Special Edition
Of course, a special ICONSPEAK edition was created for h&z, which specifically addresses the activity of a CPO. Together with h&z, a set of 39 icons was developed that helps the modern CPO to master everyday life and successfully manage high-tech topics such as digitalization with a low-tech answer.
Katja – Combining consulting and family individually
You’d already worked at h&z before and have been back since 2016. What happened in the meantime and what motivated you to come back?
Something great happened in the meantime: I had two children. They’re two and four years old now and bring us so much joy. But my job brings me a lot of joy as well, so I worked off and on as a freelancer for h&z on other projects. That was ideal while my children were still very young. I very much appreciated. At the end of 2015, however, I felt like something had to change and I talked to h&z. Thomas Zachau untangled the knot in my head and asked me if I would like to return to h&z part-time. I thought about it for a few weeks, but then I realized that I would accept the offer. Since March 2016, I’ve been working at h&z three days a week.
How does h&z help you to combine both your professional career and your role as a mother?
h&z gives me the unique opportunity to be able to work on very challenging and exciting tasks as a project manager, and to do it part-time. The variety of project and tasks means my three days are pretty full. But it’s also important to me to stay in the loop on the other days. I try to keep Monday and Friday afternoon completely free for the kids and I enjoy this time immensely.
What makes h&z special to you?
At h&z, I’m always given the feeling that they’re happy to have me and that they’re grateful for what I do every day on behalf of h&z. This, paired with the certainty that my family can also come first in emergencies, means that I have two “full power” modes. First, my family, and second, h&z, but sometimes the sequence may be reversed for a short period of time.
Hans-Martin: The lateral entrant
After several jobs in large corporations and founding your own consultancy, you decided to come to us last year. Why?
I want to make a difference in my job, I want to improve something. I want to make systems work well. That may sound a bit technological, but it describes my creed pretty well, which is: If it’s not working, it often means that people are in the wrong place. With my experience and my knowledge, I can consult in h&z projects and significantly improve the way things work. h&z provides a very good framework for this. When it became clear during discussions with h&z that the topics I focus on—technology and innovation management—would be expanded, it was a done deal for me. I have the opportunity to improve my area of competence and was promoted, so it had both an internal and external effect.
Before you came to h&z, you worked in the areas of medical technology, healthcare and consumer electronics. Which parts of your previous activities help you in your daily work as a consultant?
Definitely the high quality standards. But also working in areas of conflict such as long life cycles, and small quantities like, for example, in medical technology. And another thing is very similar: industries with a strong focus on technology are highly dynamic, but at the end it is about using the technology “correctly” – and for that you need a team that works. It’s the same in consulting.
What do you like best about h&z?
The work at h&z is characterized by tremendous respect for each individual, much more so than I’ve experienced in other companies. That’s a lot of fun. At the end of the day, you always have to ask yourself if you are comfortable as a person within a company, especially if you work a lot, which I do.
Is there something that you wouldn’t want to do without any more after one year of consulting?
There’s a lot of emphasis on individual responsibility here. That’s something I’ve not experienced in this form in other companies.
Silke – The climber
What made you consider a career in a management consultancy?
I realized that I wanted to work in consulting while I was still in college. Through my professor,I had the opportunity to participate in several consulting projects and was able to gain experience directly in consultancies and large corporations. That’s when I realized that I’m good at project work, and I thought it was a lot of fun.
Did you worry that life as a consultant might not fit the lifestyle you wanted?
No. I chose a job that I like and that I have a passion for. You need passion in your job. I would recommend to anybody to make their decision based on that. Don’t try to analyze everything strategically and weigh the pros and cons, but listen to your heart. The question you must ask yourself is: are you willing to go the extra mile in this job?
What character traits help you most in your professional life?
First and foremost, you really have to do a good job. Not just understand the topics very well, but reflect yourself in your work. Especially in consulting, a customer- and team-oriented approach is very important. Everybody needs to pull together – with clients and colleagues – to be successful in a project.
How much of this must a new entrant have, and what does he or she learn on the job?
There must be a strong willingness to work in a team, but in the first three years especially coaches and project managers are very important in consulting. After that, a lot of it’s about reflecting on your work. The task of coaches and project managers is to show new employees what’s important in project work. For example, most juniors make mistakes during their first number and factor analyses because they work too quickly. That’s completely normal. What’s important is what they learn from it. And this is where the experienced consultants come in. They need to show them where the pitfalls are and help them out. I myself have had very good coaches and project managers during my career, and I’m happy to pass on this experience as a manager myself today.
Are there personality traits that are particularly important for women so they can hold their own in consulting?
The differences between male and female consultants are less based on women versus men clichés, but more on individual character traits. One thing I’ve noticed though is that women in consulting tend to be more self-reflective than men. While men tend to be more boisterous, women tend to question themselves more.
Are mixed teams the solution?
Yes, in a way. Mixed teams are more relaxed. For example, I’ve often observed that men find it easier to show their “female” side in mixed teams and vice versa. A number of studies have also shown that mixed teams prove to be more successful. It therefore makes sense both from a social and business point of view to bank on mixed teams and to use their individual differences. You mustn’t forget that there are more women than men living in industrialized states. It wouldn’t make sense to leave more than half of the potential unused in consulting (laughs).
Women are a minority in consulting today. What needs to be done to increase their numbers?
Women also need to be approached emotionally. This, in combination with the technical aspects of a consulting job, is equally important to them. Consultancies such as h&z can’t change a whole lot about the facts of a consulting job, but h&z uses any and all opportunities to design the environment in such a way that women with a passion for consulting can continue to work with family and children, can have fun in the job and continue to grow. The same goes for male colleagues; h&z doesn’t make a distinction there (even if the offers are still used differently).
Do you feel a certain sense of camaraderie amongst the consultants at h&z?
What sets h&z apart from other consultancies is the respect that is afforded each individual in this company. To me, that’s a defining trait of h&z. It manifests itself for example in small, kind gestures at events like the off-sites, the Summer Fest and the Christmas party, or the office Fridays. Last Christmas, the partners and board members baked pralines together and presented them to the employees together with an individual letter.
What is the perfect work / life balance for you? Did you find it at h&z?
Well, that changes from one situation to the next. What’s important is that everybody creates the leeway they need for themselves. Depending on the project that may be more sometimes and less other times. If a project goes well and is a lot of fun, I need less of a break from my job than when it’s crunch time. Everybody must recognize their own indicators of exhaustion and take timely breaks so they don’t fall into a black hole. The employer can’t control what that point is for each individual, but he can create an environment that allows for these breaks, be they short or long, and h&z does that.