Former CEO of Deloitte, Alumnus on the Highs and Lows of Consulting

 Date Published: April 6, 2016

University of Dallas students often hear about the importance of critical thinking. Former CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP, Doug Lattner, MBA '73, recently told the university's Accounting and Finance Society how to leverage those critical thinking skills into a career as a consultant.

"What consultants do is help businesses solve complex challenges," he said. "But good ideas aren't enough. Those ideas have to be executable." That's where critical thinking comes in. Lattner explained consultants work with clients to drive positive change within the client's organization by assisting with financial strategy or mergers and acquisitions. Consultants transfer their knowledge to their clients, and businesses value the objectivity that accounting consultants bring to the table.

According to Lattner, consulting companies like Deloitte have changed their hiring process over the years. "When I started out," he said. "I went straight from undergrad to graduate school and then was hired by a consulting firm." Now, Lattner says, consulting firms would prefer that an undergraduate gain work experience before pursuing an MBA. "This way, you can draw on your experience during your MBA program to give more relevance to what you're learning," he said.

Preparing for an Accounting Consultant Career

When hiring entry-level accounting consultants, Lattner explained firms are looking for a number of things: strong academic performance, the ability to think critically about a problem, and a combination of qualitative and quantitative skills. "If you've focused mostly on accounting, take a business strategy class. If you have been focusing on strategy, make sure to include technology classes as well," he said. As far as personality traits, Lattner said that once a consultant gets that entry-level position, the firm will be looking to promote those who are hardworking and diligent. "They want someone who is always driving the ball," he said. "That's how you'll get noticed."

Lattner explained that as consultants move up the ranks at Deloitte, they gain experience in various practice fields that might interest them, in the same way a college freshman might experiment with different classes to settle on a major. "In the beginning, you may dabble in technology, energy, telecomm or healthcare," he said. "It's important to find an area that interests you and in which you can share your skill set." But as consultants move into management roles, they become subject-matter experts in their practice areas. For example, Lattner said that Deloitte has nurses and physicians consulting in their healthcare practice segment. "Imagine the credibility they could bring to a healthcare client," he said.

A Week at Deloitte Consulting

Lattner went on to describe an accounting consultant's typical work week. "Consultants spend four days per week at the client's site, then come back to the office on the fifth day," he said. But Lattner emphasized that a consultant's number one job is to meet the expectations of the client. "That means consulting is not an 8 to 5 job."

Although consulting can be a demanding career, Lattner has found it to be rewarding as well. "If you want to be in a cube all day, don't be a consultant," he said. "But if you want to travel and gain experience across a variety of cultures, consulting can give you that."

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University's mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence.

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