From Strategy Consultant to Strategy Manager
Reflections on my first year in the airline industry
By Andrew Middleton - Group Strategy Manager, easyJet
Linkedin notified me last month that I’d just enjoyed my first birthday with easyJet, having spent the previous 6 years as a strategy consultant. Anniversaries tend to be a good opportunity to step back and reflect on the year just gone – so here’s how I’ve found the transition…
In many ways, the nature of the work is very similar to classic strategy consulting projects. Whilst some of what we do as a team is continuous (e.g., providing the business with competitor insight on an ongoing basis), the majority of our work tends to be ‘project-like’ – looking at a specific business issue, over a set period of time, with an engaged and probing client (in our case usually the airline management board). In the past year, I’ve been involved in a wide variety of different projects which have given me a great opportunity to work with colleagues from every part of the business. That broad exposure has been most useful in bringing me up to speed in what was a new sector to me, particularly given how technical the industry is.
Yet while the nature of the work might be like your typical consulting project, what I find myself doing on a day to day basis is unlike any role I ever had in a consulting team. Rather, a typical day will require me to play parts of each of the roles I had whilst consulting. I might start in the role of analyst, completing some modelling, before taking on the consultant’s job of putting together draft output, whilst at the same time engaging with colleagues in other functions in the way that the consulting manager tends to do. In this regard, my 6+ years of consulting experience has proved massively useful and I’d encourage others thinking about following a similar path to invest in the time it takes to develop a well-rounded toolkit, rather than perhaps moving into an industry role too early.
One of the main motivating factors that encouraged me to look for a role in industry was that I wanted to see more of the impact our strategy work was having. The work I most enjoyed as a consultant was when I was working with long-term relationship clients, where we would roll projects over, where I started to develop a second layer of depth to my understanding of the client organisation and where I would still be around to see the wheels of change in motion. All of which made me think about the perspective of working on “the other side”. However, despite now being in this position I’ve had to learn that I still need to let my projects go. There’s a number of times when I’ve worked on a topic for months, driving insight and raising it up the corporate agenda, then the time comes to hand it over to a delivery team to take forward. Whilst I know that’s the right thing to do, it can still be hard to let go! At least I now have front row seats from which to watch the change take shape.
Whilst much of what I’ve described is likely to be reasonably similar across sectors, what I’ve learnt in my first year with an airline is that you never know what’s coming round the corner. I soon found out there’s no such thing as a quiet day at an airline – the days I’ve driven up to Luton expecting to be able to catch up on tasks I’ve been putting off have all, without fail, been sabotaged by a curveball coming out of left-field. Big industry news seems to have a habit of breaking on the day I start my holidays! But that’s exactly why I’m in the airline industry and I wouldn’t have it any other way.