Career Profiles in OR/MS: Steven Gould Answers Reader Emails

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Email from Dameon Ming:


I read you profile article on the INFORMS page, and found it very interesting. I have a few questions and hope you can find time to answer them.

1) Why did you go into the field of consulting?

2) Do you have any advice for a young professional going into the field consulting?

3) How can consulting related work early in one's career be beneficial in later stages?

Thanks for you time,

Dameon Ming

Steven's Reply:

1) Why did you go into the field of consulting?

It's something that has always interested me. In consulting you can gain a wide variety of experience, in many different companies and many different industries, but maintain the stability of single employer. Contracting opportunities are few and far between in OR (though there are plenty in the Computer Science arena). Besides, contracting tends to be very short-term and you end up jumping from one thing to the next often without a sense of completion on any one project. I soon discovered that my combination of a strong CS background along with my MSOR skills was indeed a rare combination. This makes me particularly valuable to clients.

2) As a young professional going into the field consulting, are there any advice? In particular, how does a someone young and new to the field benefit from an older envirnoment?

(i) Begin with an established company. Don't expect to go out on your own and immediately start as a consultant. Contractor maybe, but then you won't gain the recognition you need to help you move forward in your career later on.

(ii) Diversify. I don't know what your background is, but I would strongly recommend having strengths in more than one area. OR is great, but (unfortunately) many people in business don't understand it or what it can do for them. Pure OR consulting tends to be a hard sell, unless you've already established quite a reputation. You're other area(s) of expertise does not have to be CS (though that has been very helpful for me). You could focus on a particular industry, though in this case you may be better off staying away from consulting to begin with. Work for a company in that industry, get somegood experience, then (possibly) re-consider consulting.

(iii) Think long term. If you have an area of expertise, could you present a paper at a conference? How about write an article or column for a trade magazine? Or get much more involved in an industry group (such as INFORMS). These will all help improve your credibility long-term. They also help keep you up-to-date with the latest developments.

3)How can consulting related work early in one's career be beneficial in later stages?

It tends to be more the other way around. However, like I mentioned in #1, consulting can give you a wide variety of experience in a variety of industries. This keeps your options open later on in your career.

Career Profiles in OR/MS
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