Winding up a nine month stint of working in corporate strategy in a global conglomerate and here are 10 things I learnt!
This post is meant for all the CA aspirants looking for Industrial Training. There are a lot of ambiguities surrounding the subject and I wouldn't help you to choose whether you should go for it or not but I shall tell you in detail about my experience and maybe you can decide for yourself?
“If we treated careers more like dating, nobody would settle down so quickly.” ― David Epstein
I was always sure that I wanted to join Industrial Training because I wanted to date a job profile (casually of course) and decide if I want it for the long run (elimination method you see - and I had eliminated Audit for a long time)
I was skeptical about which job profile to choose and somehow I ended up in Corporate Strategy.
1. Rule of 24
The first few months were grilling, shifting from excel to PowerPoint. Most of the projects in industry are concluded on presentations rather than excel as against working in Big 4 firms. We learnt a rule that you should ideally put 24 words on a slide.
It could be a matrix of 6*4 or 4*6 (as in 4 lines of 6 words each and vice versa)
(Ideals are too idealistic, but in essence cut the text, introduce the idea but don't blabber about it)
2. Cut the crap
Gunning Fog Index formula is a readability test for English writing. It emphasizes that short sentences written in Plain English achieve a better score than long sentences written in complicated language.
Working in strategy (that too in a conglomerate) will expose you to a new industry every day, keeping you on tenterhooks but all you gotta do is simplify, use boilerplate language and cut to the chase and eliminate the bullshit.
3. Build a storyboard
While we build a strategy recommendation deck- the flow of the presentation is important.
In most of the cases it starts with context setting - giving an industry overview, snapshot of the market - both Indian and foreign.
Moving onto identifying white spaces for a new entrant, what consumers want and what are the current offerings in the market.
We supplement is with consumer interviews and then build a strategy recommendation.
I learnt how to ARTICULATE things better, present them so that they tell a story.
"Humans think in stories, and we try to make sense of the world by telling stories." ― Yuval Noah Harari
4. Numbers tell a narrative
Numbers such as GDP, per capita income, population (current and projections) should be on your tips. As a strategist, your job is to research on numbers but if you don't draw insights from those numbers then you are simply assimilating information without digesting it.
I learnt to look at industry sizes, CAGR, segmentation of the industry and much more.
(NGL, I am good at making sophisticated graphs and charts now)
“Everybody loves a good story, but good storytelling doesn't come easy to everybody. It's a skill that takes a lifetime to master. So study the great stories and then go find some of your own. Your stories will get better the more you tell them.” ― Austin Kleon
5. Read. Research. Repeat.
Working in strategy is working as 'synthesizer of information'
There have been days when I used to read >20 annual reports in a day.
We were given random tasks to search some numbers, it's your job to figure out where can you find those numbers, back calculate it, crunch some related numbers on excel, make an estimate etc.
All of this requires an insane amount of research and reading.
I am glad that I have scrolled through hundreds of business websites and resource bases. I know trivia about businesses I didn't before. (It does make me feel intelligent, also good conversation openers)
6. PPT is a canvas
Now that I am good at point, I can never work without gridlines on presentations.
Alignment, indentation, spell checks, color scheme, legibility, font size and style - all of these are basics but so underrated.
Formatting is underrated.
Polish your presentation.
Relay the idea, be creative.
7. Pictorial presentation >>>>>>> Text
There's no denying the fact that a picture is worth a thousand words.
While making a formal presentation, you just can't afford to put ANY picture/graph.
It has to be self-explanatory, has to match the color scheme, has to be relevant at all times.
8. Preparation for perfection
One thing is to make a presentation but it is a Sisyphean task to present the ideas and have people interpret them the way you wanted to.
Practise dry runs before your presentation, keep it crisp, time it.
(Had to use Gordon Ramsay's meme)
You can easily tell when a person has prepared for a presentation, based on the clarity in their speech and the words they choose.
Don't be lax about it.
Only you can drive yourself, no one else will do it for you.
Shifting one junior role to another I did not expect that I would be given any serious responsibility.
But it turned out to be FALSE! (Geddit?!)
We were made accountable to business leaders and other seniors in the company. (No hierarchy, but a flat organizational structure)
The highlight of the stint was workshops organized by senior members of our team and oh boi it was a tornado of insights, discussions, new perspectives, honing our skills and what not!
Extremely fortunate for getting the opportunity to learn from some of the best leaders in the country.
10. Master of none will eventually become master of some
“Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. Our most fundamental thought processes have changed to accommodate increasing complexity and the need to derive new patterns rather than rely only on familiar ones.” ― David Epstein
On the whole, the stint threw a lot of curveballs, shifting job responsibilities from research to analysis to synthesizing.
The biggest advantage of working in a conglomerate is to be able to work across industries and businesses.
You can't avoid being 'a jack of all trades' and eventually becoming a master of some.
Learn the basics of what goes behind making strategies and executing them!
From building financial models, to questionnaires, LRSPs' to short projects, solving business problems, analyzing numbers, consumer interviews, research agencies, mergers, acquisitions, working in the metal industry to new age businesses, strategy will surprise you every damn day.