• Editorial

External Relations - Adriano Marini

Written by: Elizabeth Jun

As seen in the January 2019 issue of Lazy Faire magazine

Hello! My name is Adriano Marini, and I have been with Ernst & Young (EY) for almost two years now as a Senior Technology Consultant. I graduated from the University of Alberta in 2017, with a Bachelor of Science with a specialization in Computing Science, and a minor in Business. While I was at the U of A, I worked and volunteered a bunch for the Students’ Union, specifically with Week of Welcome.

Is consulting what you've wanted to do since your first year of university?

In my fourth year, I really started to consider consulting, as I wanted to do something different with my degree. I was attracted to the idea of dynamic work that challenged me in new ways every day. I loved the idea of having to learn more and more as I went. And, frankly, I liked the idea of being able to help a bunch of different organizations excel.

Pretty much as soon as my last semester started, the large consulting firms had their information sessions. I learned a lot about what consulting meant and wanted to apply. However, applying to them felt like a throw-away – but I told myself that I needed to at least try, even if it only was to get the experience of applying.

Then, I got an interview.

With only basic ideas on how to do case interviews, I went to the office. I was surprised; EY was completely different from what I had imagined. I got excited, but was still not confident, as the person I sat across from in the lobby seemed a LOT more qualified for the job than me.

And then, I got the offer. 

That’s my way of saying: I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I started university. My successes, failures, and experiences during university shaped a vague idea of what I wanted my career to look like. By taking the chances that I never thought I would have, that vague idea somehow translated into where I am today – and I couldn’t have ever asked for a better opportunity.

Is the consulting industry as competitive as everyone thinks it is? 

One competitive aspect of consulting is getting hired. Is this a thing? Absolutely. The number of highly qualified people that get in versus the number of highly qualified people that apply is usually a large difference. But, is this simply a function of consulting? No. This happens in a lot of industries, but I think consulting ends up getting a bad rep for it due to the visibility of these firms in the marketplace.

The other aspect of competitiveness in consulting is the between-firm competitiveness. There’s a lot of this type of competition, which is natural given our industry. Consulting is built on the backs of firms’ ability to compete. Without healthy rivalry, we wouldn’t innovate or grow, and we wouldn’t be compelled to focus on providing quality solutions that truly make a difference to our clients. I think that this competitive culture works to the benefit of consultants, and to the benefit of our clients.

Cornerstone to the competitive nature of the industry is knowledge sharing between firms that drives innovation. The services we provide in the market are varied and unique. Therefore, the information that a firm obtains about what other firms are doing helps them develop and provide the most cutting-edge services to their clients. It’s not uncommon to hear about people who have moved between firms, or that have ‘boomeranged’ back to a firm. This is one way that firms get information to cultivate their services, style, and ultimately their competitive advantage.

So, is consulting competitive? Yes, sure. But, how do we approach competitiveness? We learn to become effective at differentiating and selling ourselves. Firms do it, and, as professionals, we need to do it.

For example, when EY approaches a sale, we don’t do it by bashing our competitors. We sell ourselves by presenting how we are different and how our experience has equipped us to serve our clients. On a personal level, I believe that it comes down to the same attitude. When I sat down in the lobby of EY for my interview, I wasn’t focused on proving that I was better than the person across from me. I was focused on how I could ‘sell’ myself and prove that my experience made me a good candidate for EY.

Competitiveness shouldn’t scare people. It shouldn’t turn you off of an industry or be this insurmountable aspect of your dream job. Competitiveness is a motivator to be better more than anything, and this industry is the proof that a healthy level of competitiveness drives us all to be better.

What's your favourite and least favourite thing about working in a high-pressure situation like consulting? 

My favourite thing is the growth I’ve experienced, both as a professional and as a person. The pressure that consulting places you under – the pressure to perform, and more importantly, the pressure to learn – forces you to continuously challenge and push yourself. I think that’s a big driving factor behind why consulting is so dynamic. You might be doing something like what you did the day before, but your experience makes it different. 

My least favourite thing about consulting is building PowerPoint presentations – ESPECIALLY WHEN MY DIAGRAMS REFUSE TO ALIGN PROPERLY. I’ve gotten a lot better at it, but I still have got a long way to go before I’m truly comfortable with it.

How did your undergrad years prepare you for the competition in the real world? 

I really credit my business courses with teaching me how to focus on my own impact, and then relate how that impact changes the people and organizations around me. This was a lower-level SMO course, but I found that really impactful and I think, ultimately, it helped me develop my strategies to sell myself and, as well, helped me improve my collaboration with my peers.

However, I think the biggest thing I took away from my undergrad in terms of competitiveness is the idea of ‘selling your knowledge’ – I had a lot of opportunity to work with instructors in a variety of courses outside of traditional assessment boundaries to prove how I knew what I knew. It really opened my eyes to how a ‘sales pitch’ made a difference in the outcome of a scenario.

What's your tip for how to stay on top of the competition? 

In order to be effective at selling yourself, I think there are three principles that you’ll need to focus on:

  1. Be confident – but not cocky. Your experience means something, so own it and figure out how it makes you better. Ultimately, this means that you need to believe in your experience. Selling a product that you don’t truly believe in is not as compelling as passionately demonstrating why that product is truly the best choice – and, in this case, you’re the product. But don’t over-play it, there’s a fine balance to be struck, and going too far can make you seem full of yourself.

  2. Be creative. One of my biggest paragraphs on my resume is about my work at Home Depot, where I mixed paint. How does that apply to consulting? My biggest challenge was figuring out how it did. But it did, and it’s a unique piece of experience I used to show my abilities.

  3. Put yourself out there. Like I said, competition makes us all better. The best way to get an edge? Throw yourself head-first into competitive situations you never imagined. That’s one of the best ways to really get comfortable with competition, and one of the best ways to get better at it.

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