Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Evolving from Software Engineer to Consultant

By Trinidad Grange-Kyner, SDM ‘08 Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

As a kid growing up in Nigeria, I always liked building things. When my parents needed help putting together something like a stereo, I was the one who helped. I liked learning about technology and became pretty savvy at an early age.

When it came time for me to enter college at the University of Lagos I actually wanted to study astronomy, but because no degree programs in it were offered, I pursued electrical engineering. After I received my B.Sc., I worked as a software engineer for several companies in Canada and the U.S. However, I realized that in order to advance, I needed to learn about management and how business decisions are made.

Like many of my technical colleagues I considered pursuing an M.B.A., but that didn’t feel right for several reasons. First, I didn’t want to leave my technical experience behind. I wanted to update and enhance it, while complementing it with management education. Second, because I’d been employed for many years, I wanted to learn from my peers as well as from my professors. It was my experience that MBA students generally had limited professional experience from which I could learn.



Trinidad Grange-Kyner, SDM ‘08
Photo courtesy of Deloitte Consulting LLP


SDM addressed both of my concerns. Its master’s degree in engineering and management helped me add managerial skills while enhancing – not replacing – my technical expertise. What better place to do this than MIT, which has one of the finest engineering schools in the world?

In addition, SDM admits only professionals who have several years of work experience. Therefore, my cohort consisted of successful mid-to-senior level managers who came from bricks and mortar industries, dotcoms, consulting firms, and more. They had worked in a wide range of functions, including software architecture, manufacturing, and supply chain management. Many had managed large, complex projects. This diversity made the SDM learning environment very rich. I felt that I could learn from -- and with -- my fellow students and I was right.

All of this expanded not only how I thought about business, but also how I could evolve. For example, one case study we discussed in class focused on how Dell assembles and ships computers so inexpensively. This opened my eyes to areas that I’d formerly found intimidating, like supply chain management and finance.

After graduating from SDM, I joined Deloitte as a senior consultant. My SDM degree gives me a unique advantage because, thanks to my SDM cohort and the program’s team-based projects, I’ve had exposure to many industries and the collaborative work environment. Moreover, my SDM learnings in IT governance, technology strategy, and financial accounting are very much related to the services that Deloitte provides to its clients.

For example, I’ve been working with a small team of consultants over several months on a series of client assessments related to regulatory changes in how information is transmitted to and from health plans. Ultimately this will mean a technological transformation for health plan companies whose IT systems have been around for a while. We’re assessing what they need to do to make this transformation and what it’s going to cost.

To accomplish this, I have to understand the processes and technologies they’re using. I must assess how this impending change will impact them and the potential risks. I need to summarize findings, provide clients with roadmaps, and prepare the communication of these plans to upper management in these large client organizations. To succeed, it’s essential for me to understand beforehand how the company is structured, with whom it is necessary to communicate, and what questions to ask. The courses I took at SDM gave me an understanding of how the market drives business structures and what language to employ to communicate this effectively.

As importantly, SDM helped me develop a comfort level with ambiguity – which is ever-present in today’s economy. Because so many of our class projects were based on teamwork, I realized that one person – that would be me – doesn’t have to have all of the answers all of the time. The collective power of the team, especially if its members bring diverse experiences to the table, can surface solutions to ambiguity that no one person could create.

It would have been difficult for Deloitte to hire me before I earned my SDM degree, because my experience was so narrow. SDM enhanced my knowledge and skills and opened the door to consulting at Deloitte for me.

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