Maddy studied for a BSc in Management (with Decision Science) at UMIST. She also has an MSc in Operational Research and Management Science from Lancaster University. She now works as a consultant in the operational research team at Capgemini Consulting...
While I was studying for my Masters a member of the Operational Research (OR) team at Capgemini visited Lancaster University to present to the course and conduct first round interviews. I passed the interview and was invited to a day-long assessment centre at the Capgemini offices in London. I received a phone call two days later with a job offer.
I have applied many of the specialist OR techniques taught at Lancaster including Monte Carlo simulation, forecasting and system dynamics. The soft consulting and problem structuring skills I gained during my MSc have helped me in every assignment.
My first degree in management has also been very valuable. Some of the specialist subjects I studied have been relevant to particular projects, while the transferable skills (such as communication and analytical skills) developed on the course are essential in every assignment.
Operational research roles usually have an analytical and/or modelling focus, often as part of a wider project team including specialists from the client sector and other capabilities, such as HR, finance, marketing, etc.
As a graduate on the OR team, my typical activities tend to include conducting interviews and workshops with the client team to understand the issues and challenges faced in order to structure the problem.
Modelling work begins by building conceptual models and testing them with stakeholders. I identify data requirements, obtain the data and cleanse it so that it can be used in modelling. Often we build models of a part of a client's organisation (using Microsoft Excel or other specialist software such as Simul8 or Vensim for simulation) and apply them to test scenarios and to support decision-making. The most important part of a project is the interpretation of model outputs and communicating the insights to a wide audience who may not be technically minded.
Although each project is different, with a new set of challenges, in general over the last two years my level of responsibility has grown as I have progressed from project to project. Increasingly, I am becoming more involved in project management and stream leadership, which includes responsibility for the scoping of work and delivery of the solution.
I have had client exposure from virtually day one, but I am increasingly working with more senior (CXO level) stakeholders on both the Capgemini and client side and identifying sales opportunities. I have learned to apply new tools, skills and techniques and developed expertise in specialist areas.
Within the next two years I want to be promoted to senior consultant where I will have responsibility for the delivery of a stream of work and managing a small team of consultants.
The things I enjoy most about my job are the variety of roles and sectors I am exposed to and the freedom to pursue my interests. I find the uncertainty around my next role and the opportunities to visit new places or try new things exciting. Often when starting a new project there is a lot of ambiguity around the 'problem' we are trying to solve (let alone the 'solution') so it is essential to be flexible and resilient.
The long hours, travel and staying away from home can make it difficult to keep in touch with friends and keep up hobbies, so I have to work hard to maintain a good work/life balance.
If you can take an operational research, management science or decision science module as part of your degree, that's the best way to find out if OR is the career for you. It will also enable you to demonstrate the skills that employers are looking for.
Communication and people skills are really important. Building a clever model of a business problem is great, but if you can't explain the insights it drives to other people, then most of the value is lost.
Doing an MSc in OR will equip you best for this career, although if you have studied an analytical subject (e.g. maths, physics, engineering or computer science) and can demonstrate you have the people skills, too, it is not absolutely necessary.
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