International consultants working on finding sustainable solutions for social-economic problems on the continent, are more and more often roles fulfilled by our own young and brightest.
Meet three young inspiring ladies from Kenya, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe who made their way into Dalberg – a firm that is rapidly expanding across the continent – to contribute to social impact and sustainable development through consulting work.
Edel Were is a Consultant and Co-Lead of the Youth Employment and Education Practice at Dalberg Advisors. The 27-year-old is based in the Nairobi office and has been in Dalberg for 3 years.
Within her time at Dalberg, she has built a range of experience in the youth employment and education space in Africa. Her work has supported the Conrad N. Hiltonn Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, Government of Rwanda, NGO’s and more.
Christelle Nayandi is 23 years old and she recently joined Dalberg Advisors as an analyst. Prior to this, she worked on different social impact-focused projects in Africa.
She was a research assistant in the Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics project in Kumasi, Ghana, where her and her teammates conducted research on Pediatric Tuberculosis in hospitals and generated ideas on appropriate point of care diagnostic devices using available resources.
Fadzai Chitiyo joined Dalberg as an Analyst in the Johannesburg office in 2017 and has made immense strides in her career, having been promoted twice in less than two years!
She is now Strategy Consultant at Dalberg, with broad development sector expertise across agriculture, financial inclusion, healthcare, mobile for development, impact investing and inclusive business growth. She has conducted several businesses cases and go-to-market strategies for banks in DRC, Uganda and Zambia.
In this interview, Edel , Christelle, and Fadzai share their tips of how to get your foot into the door with an international consultancy firm while in your twenties.
Tell us about the competitive route towards being hired by a global consultancy…
Chrisetelle: It involved a lot of hours spent on studying for case interviews, practicing and honing my structured problem-solving skills.
Fadzai: Next to the case studies, consultancies are hiring more and more for company culture and global fit, with some building relationships with specific clubs or faculties on university campuses.
It is a good idea to join some of these clubs, so you can gain exposure to current employees at the consultancy you are interested in, whilst also positioning yourself well to be a potential candidate
Edel:I had expressed within my network my interest to engage in actionable problem solving, especially in the development sector, therefore people gave me guidance and how to prepare.
I hadn’t really been exposed to consulting before, so resources such as this and this, but also videos like this one, really helped me.Before you become a consultant, practice the skills, apply for internships and if that’s not possible read up on case studies and how to solve them - Edel Were Click To Tweet
How did you land your job at an international company like Dalberg?
Chrisetelle: I got to learn about Dalberg’s amazing work through an information session at my university. I also got the chance to attend a talk hosted by a partner in one of the African offices.
I made the effort to reach out people who work in consulting to seek preparation tips, connect to people currently working in Dalberg and being very proactive about it.
Fadzai: A former Desmond Tutu Leadership fellow who saw my potential for a consulting career and introduced me to the firm.
The introduction was a first step, but I really had to prove myself in the interviews to land the job through three case study interviews with senior staff and partners from the Africa offices.
Edel: I met someone who worked at Dalberg and got interested in the company as it matched my desire to work in the social impact space.
Even though they didn’t have any vacancies at the time, I tried to build my experience by doing several internships and jobs in the development space and applied once a position opened.Want to work with an international consultancy firm while in your twenties? Edel, Christelle and Fadzai share some tips... Click To Tweet
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of life as a consultant?
Christelle: Working as a consultant is great because you get to work on many projects in different sectors and areas. But traveling often can be challenging because you don’t usually get a lot of time to spend with family and friends back home.
Fadzai: The exposure to some of the top executives and development leaders on the continent or globe position you well to take your career anywhere you like.
However, life as a consultant is also a life on the road. It is important you ensure you can achieve some work life balance and maintain the relationships that matter in your life.
Edel: Working with people who are constantly refining their problem-solving skills has helped me build my skills and knowledge quite quickly.
I work in a variety sectors (health, education, agriculture, energy etc.). At the same time, it can be difficult to specialize in one sector or practice area as you’re expected to a be a generalist.Life as a consultant is also a life on the road. Ensure that you achieve some work life balance - Fadzai Chitiyo Click To Tweet
Have you worked on any projects which contributed to the overall development of Africa?
Christelle: As I recently joined, I am working on my first project! The bulk of my work involves doing a market assessment for an international education institution here in Rwanda.
I do this in order to identify needs and gaps in the market and see how it can better position itself to address them.
Fadzai: My most exciting project was to design and develop a commercial business case and go-to-market strategy for a leading bank in Zambia.
They wanted to reach 30,000 small holder farmers with business financial services for them to graduate to emerging farmers. The bank is looking to implement soon which is exciting!
Edel: One of the projects I really liked working on was supporting the Mastercard Foundation and the Government of Rwanda. The project focused on rethinking 21st century skills training for your young people in the country by technical vocational training programs.
After involving young people, businesses and institutions in some of the most marginalized districts in the country, we recommended a couple of focus areas as well as an implementation plan. The project is being implemented as we speak!
What advice would you give to other young African women hoping to join an international consultancy?
Christelle: It is important to start practicing and become more aware of structured problem-solving. There is a wealth of material on the internet on how to improve this skill.
Also, networking is very important. Take every opportunity possible to meet up and talk to people in this industry.
Fadzai: I would suggest doing internships during your university holidays (either in a global consulting firm or any other professional services company) By doing this, you can prepare for the high pressure and fast work environment that consultants work under.
This skill will help you to start building some basic research and problem-solving skills.
Edel: With a focus on development consulting, I would say start familiarizing yourself with the sector, read up on important conversations and decisions being made in the space.
Practice the skills, try and apply for internships and if that’s not possible read up on case studies and how to solve them.Before I got this job, I made the effort to reach out to people who work in consulting to seek preparation tips - Christelle Nayandi Click To Tweet
How do you make a name for yourself as a young woman in a consultancy office?
Christelle: Be proactive in your everyday activities. The reason why you are there is to help the company fulfil its mission while you also aim for professional development in the process. So own it and be open-minded.
Make an effort to go out there and meet people who have been in the firm longer than you because they often have great advice on what you should keep in mind in your everyday activities.
Fadzai: You don’t go in trying to make a name for yourself! Instead, be willing to ask for help, fail fast and learn quickly. Identify mentors and advisors that can help you in your journey.
Most people tend to overlook the Project Managers and look for a Partner. But you will typically interact more with managers and they will have a clearer line of sight on your professional development.
Edel: I think you should follow the things you are passionate about. Volunteer in internal initiatives and topics that you find interesting. The people around you are a resource, try to engage with people on these topics across the firm, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Also, I’d say participate in industry events, try and get your thoughts and opinions published, and make people aware of your interests.
This article was written by Marthe van der Wolf
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