Why consider a career as an IT consultant?

Dan Mason, Senior editor
May, 2016

As an IT consultant you'll build strong relationships with clients and use cutting-edge technology to solve their problems and help them achieve their goals

The first thing to know about this career path is that you don't need to have studied IT at university to get a job.

'We are interested in hearing from graduates of all disciplines, as we want to recruit a diverse workforce,' confirms Stephanie Bishop, head of graduate and apprentice recruitment at Capgemini UK, which provides consulting, technology and outsourcing services to its clients.

For instance, Aaron Plant studied English at Loughborough University and is now an associate consultant in Capgemini UK's business technology solutions team.

Don't be afraid of coming from a non-technical background. Embrace it

'I've always had a keen interest in seeing what new and amazing technology is out there, and what effect this has on our day-to-day lives,' he says. 'However, I never pursued this interest educationally.'

When Aaron decided he wanted a career combining his background in language and communications with technology, he realised that IT consultancy was the perfect choice.

'I soon learned that consultancy is largely people-focused, with a heavy reliance on interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with a wide variety of audiences,’ he adds. 'Once the initial fear of being under-qualified disappeared, I couldn't imagine another job that suited me better.'

His advice? 'Don't be afraid of coming from a non-technical background. Embrace it.'

What do IT consultants do?

As Stephanie puts it, they help clients to achieve their ambitions through IT solutions, by analysing their current systems and shaping the right outcome for them. 'You will deliver IT-enabled business transformation and change, and support clients through the whole IT project lifecycle,' she explains.

Aaron gives a real-life example. 'I am currently working for Manchester Airports Group (MAG), collaborating with a variety of Capgemini teams on enterprise resource planning transformation to help improve efficiency and profitability across all aspects of the business.'

His daily routine starts when he gets to work at 8:30am to check his emails and agenda. 'I'll then begin working on creating user guides to help train MAG's employees in the new system,' he expands. 'I do this through PowerPoint, making the slides look as presentable and easy to understand as possible, and I include screenshots from the system to clearly demonstrate what needs to be done at each step.

'I'll then support the delivery of this training, working with the client team to train their employees. For me, this has been the best part of the role so far, as it is the culmination of the hard work you have done in creating the training materials. Now you have the chance to see how useful it really is to the employees you are helping.'

However, he emphasises that every day is different - depending on the project you're involved in, the solution you're helping to deliver and your position in the team.

Do I have the right skills?

While you don't necessarily need a degree in IT, there are certain skills and qualities that will help you stand out to recruiters.

For example, Capgemini UK selects graduates using a strengths-based assessment. 'It enables us and the candidate to find out if they will enjoy our culture and therefore thrive and meet their potential,' says Stephanie. 'We are looking for passion for technology - and by that we mean that you need to be excited by how technology is helping transform the world.'

She adds that you also need the ability to solve complex problems, work collaboratively with others, and come across as authentic and credible.

You can expect the recruitment process to be challenging. Aaron completed an online application form, a situational judgement test (also online) and then a telephone interview. The final stage was to attend an assessment centre, which included group tasks, presentations and interviews.

'The key to success is demonstrating that you are a good fit for the company, and the company is a good fit for you,' he says. 'Be honest - you will know very quickly.' He admits it was nerve-wracking but 'a brilliant experience and my opportunity to demonstrate why I would make a great consultant'.

How will my career develop?

Stephanie says that she would recommend a career as an IT consultant because it's 'exciting, challenging and provides a lot of opportunities for personal growth and progression'. You'll get the chance to work with clients across the UK and, potentially, abroad - in different industries and using different technologies.

'This variety and the constantly changing work landscape are incredibly exciting and mean that you are unlikely to become bored. You have to constantly adapt your style and approach to meet the current circumstances.'

She adds that building meaningful relationships in short periods of time is a challenge that keeps many graduate recruits motivated.

Being a consultant requires professional agility

There are other challenges. 'Being a consultant requires professional agility - the willingness to move location, change roles, meet new people and experience new environments,' Aaron warns. 'All of these things need to be taken in your stride. This is definitely the most enjoyable aspect of the role, but also the biggest challenge.'

Stephanie notes that people who have both interpersonal skills and an understanding of how technology projects run will always be an asset to any company - meaning there is lots of scope for career progression.

'There are senior employees within Capgemini who have been in consultancy all their careers, but have worked on diverse projects so continue to enjoy being a consultant,' she adds. 'We have seen people go contracting, set up start-ups and work for large banks or software companies.

'The great thing about a career in IT consultancy is that you can shape your career however you want.'

Aaron concludes, 'If you are somebody who enjoys meeting new people, having the opportunity to travel and working with cutting-edge technology, then there simply isn't another job out there that is more perfect for you.'

You can search for graduate jobs here.