Alumni Series - In Conversation with Connie Quach: Consulting, COVID-19, Coding, and More!
Welcome to SCC’s first blog post in our Alumni Series, where we hope to discuss unique aspects of the consulting industry with Schulich alumni currently in the field. To kick off this series, our VP of Member Development, Nain Mehta, had the opportunity to speak with Connie Quach, a Technology Consultant at Deloitte, who graduated from Schulich in 2019 with a specialization in Marketing and Organizational Behaviour. They will be discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the consulting industry, how to leverage your passions to land your dream job, and more!
NAIN: Hey Connie! Can you please tell us about yourself, your time at Schulich, and your role as a Tech Consultant at Deloitte?
CONNIE: Of course, my name is Connie, and I graduated from Schulich in 2019, and have been working at Deloitte as of last August as a Business Technology Analyst in the Tech Consulting division. I love to travel and spent my last semester on exchange in Singapore. My most fond memories of Schulich would be JDCC and UBS. Although I specialized in Marketing and Organizational Behaviour, I've always had a huge interest in technology and was able to translate that passion into my career. Since I started at Deloitte, I have been working on a long term project which is expected to continue on for some more time. Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to travel with this project I’m currently on, and every now and then I fly back and forth from Montreal. However, due to COVID-19, I am no longer travelling and have been working from home.
NAIN: Awesome, and if you had to summarize what you do in one sentence, what would you say?
CONNIE: Essentially, I work with companies in different industries to help them implement technology and identify the best strategies that work with their company. .
NAIN: How has your role and client-facing work changed over the past few months as you transitioned to working remotely?
CONNIE: So I’m going to be a little vague here just because of the whole NDA thing, but essentially my client was definitely impacted dramatically by COVID-19. Due to COVID-19, they had to shuffle around some of their employees, so a lot of the people I worked with on a day-to-day basis, I don’t get to see anymore, and someone new has come in and taken their place. That was an adjustment in itself. Personally, I do not travel to Montreal anymore. We were actually travelling even until early 2020 and then we had to stop, so in that aspect, we don’t have the same connection with our client; going out to dinners and whatnot. However, we do try to maintain that client relationship by chatting with our clients about non-work stuff via virtual socials. Fortunately, the shift to working from home wasn't a huge transition for me, since at Deloitte we do have Flex Hours, and if you do need to work from home occasionally that option was always available. The only major difference was the shift from working from home occasionally to working from home permanently.
NAIN: It’s good that those sorts of structures are already in place at Deloitte to facilitate work from home and to make the transition easier. To add to that, did you feel better equipped for this digital shift given your role and background in technology?
CONNIE: I definitely think that it’s a factor; because I’m very familiar with the different software and technologies available, I don’t find myself having a lot of technical issues. If I do, I always know how to troubleshoot it and if not myself my peers are also quite skilled with technology so I would just give them a call, but that usually doesn’t happen too often. Deloitte equips their employees quite well technologically; I have my own phone and laptop, so the equipment I need is definitely there. Deloitte also had a really supportive approach throughout this pandemic, so I felt that as an employee I was quite prepared for this shift.
NAIN: How do you see this pandemic impacting the future of the consulting industry as a whole? Similar to the 2008 economic recession impacting the housing market, do you believe there will be any substantial changes in the consulting industry following COVID-19?
CONNIE: I feel that to an extent we will see an increase in companies willing to go ahead and implement tech-related things. Looking at it from a tech consulting perspective, we may see a slight decrease in the near future as companies adjust to the pandemic. However, maybe within a year, I suspect to see an increase in companies going digital, figuring out how to move onto Cloud Technology or AI. Companies are really trying to foresee the future a little bit more and prepare better for unique scenarios. Perhaps COVID-19 was a wake-up call for companies as it forced them to go digital. For jobs where people always assumed “You can’t do that from home,” you’re forced to now. I think companies who want to do it right will try and implement technology effectively and efficiently and they’ll be using tech consulting firms to do so.
NAIN: For sure, the pandemic really pinpointed structural flaws in different companies. Now that we're forced to go digital many companies can’t support this shift. However, Deloitte has been investing in AI, data and analytics technology, etc. for the past decade. How was this beneficial to the firm in the midst of COVID-19? Did it put you in a stronger position and allow the firm to adapt and offer diverse services to clients?
CONNIE: I am working very closely with the Cloud Transformation team, so in regards to Cloud infrastructure, there have been a lot of benefits there. Deloitte knows how to implement that well and support clients shifting to Cloud systems. I know that a lot of the clients who are adapting to this Cloud infrastructure due to COVID-19 have been able to use the knowledge at Deloitte and work together with us to make sure that they can implement these technologies well.
NAIN: Deloitte’s response to the pandemic has been proactive and action-driven. Many reports discussed how crucial the next transitionary period will be for companies across all sectors. Specifically, recovering from this disruption, and ultimately thriving. What in your opinion are the most important steps for companies to take moving forward?
CONNIE: So in regards to how companies should respond to COVID-19, other than investing in diverse technology, I think it’s very important that they put their employees first and they make sure their employees feel very valued. Especially consulting firms, their employees are essentially their assets. For these firms, their employees are essentially their “product” in a sense, so it’s important to make sure that their employees feel valued and are happy. This is a time no one is familiar with, and it's important that companies value and acknowledge their employees so that they continue to feel motivated to do good work.
NAIN: Going forward, what type of projects are you looking forward to working on in a post-COVID world?
CONNIE: Considering I specialized in marketing, I would like to continue pursuing a project marketing related. In the future, if not that I would love to do something in the healthcare industry. I think because of COVID-19 I feel like that will be a really good opportunity to be in right now.
NAIN: A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that you shared information about Deloitte and Schulich’s joint initiative -- the “Data & Analytics Fundamentals Academy” which really emphasized upskilling employees digitally, post-COVID. Considering this is going to be crucial in their careers, how can Schulich students and future consultants begin this journey now?
CONNIE: A large part of it depends on what kind of consulting. I would always ask Schulich students, “What is it exactly you want?” because if they are interested in the tech side, they need to pursue different things than those interested in management consulting. From a tech consulting perspective, if they want to shine more in this field, I would say find what you’re most passionate about. So for me, I was very passionate about the UI and the UX design aspect of it, and I knew a little bit of coding, so through that passion, I went to Hackathons and was able to put what I learned and the skills that I gathered toward a future goal. During the weekend, I would work on creating a project with a small team, and was able to leverage my knowledge and skills to develop a product. It was an amazing experience, and that was definitely something I was able to talk about during my consulting interview.
NAIN: Like everything else COVID has disrupted, I’m sure this will also significantly impact consulting recruitment. What tips do you have for students recruiting this fall to foster connections and succeed in the recruitment process despite everything going on?
CONNIE: My advice is, find something to differentiate yourself from other applicants. How are you going to find that passion and make it actionable, having something to speak about to showcase your skills will make you stand out. Even in the interview, if the interviewer can see how passionate you are about something, that’s very relatable and that can really help you stand out. You aren’t only talking about something you are passionate about, but you’re highlighting how you took that passion and made it into something tangible. Ultimately, if you find something you’re actually interested in, it will motivate you to capitalize on that even more. It won't be I “need” to do this, but rather I “want” to.
NAIN: Just to end it off with a fun question! Over the past few months what’s been your favourite quarantine pastime?
CONNIE: Oh, I have a FoodGram. I really like food photography. Especially when I went on exchange, I had a whole lot of food photos, so I really love sharing all of them.
NAIN: Nice, I’ll be sure to give you a follow! Thank you so much for this insightful chat Connie, I’m sure all our readers will learn a lot from our chat.