A popular career move that we see here at The Commons is a pivot from consulting or finance into business roles in tech. We do, however, have community members with a myriad of backgrounds and the non-consultants or bankers often ask why so many business roles in tech have "consultant" or "banker" as a preferred background in the job description.
We also happen to have many hiring managers in our community, and they dove into this with us. 👀 They helped our community get to the bottom of why finance and consulting experience is desirable in tech, what skills or intangibles they are really looking for, and what you should highlight in your application to land a job in tech without a finance or consulting background.
Tl;Dr: When a job listing prefers consulting or finance expertise, there’s really a deeper set of skills that they are looking for. The hiring manager just knows that those with consulting and finance experience are more likely than not to have all or some of those skills given the nature of their professions.
Transferable Soft Skills
The following soft skills are frequently mentioned when it comes to Business Operations:
- Communication skills
- Emotional intelligence
- Organization and time management
- Leadership and team management
When working in consulting or finance, you often have to work on cross-functional teams and manage multiple stakeholders during projects. This requires soft skills such as communication, teamwork, emotional intelligence and leadership. Whether you come from consulting or finance, or another industry all together, try to highlight these skills in your application, as these are some of the soft skills recruiters are really looking for.
Ability to work in High-pressure, Performance-oriented Cultures
Consulting and finance are often high-pressure environments where employees are constantly being pushed to perform at their best (quickly & effectively). This type of culture can be found in many top technology companies. The fast-paced nature of the tech industry means that employees need to be able to work well under pressure and handle multiple projects at the same time. If someone has survived for three years in this type of work environment, it shows that they've already overcome several tough professional hurdles. It is typically a good indicator of their intelligence, ability to labor hard, and at least basic competence in self-directed professional growth and development.
Ability to break down complex business problems
As explained by The Commons community member,
"In all of these jobs, there is an element of solving complex and ambiguous problems using data, in a fast-paced environment where you will never have time to be perfect (or wouldn't even be possible to be perfect given the nature of the problems being solved), so you need structured, hypothesis-driven approaches to get a clear enough picture to make a decision as fast as possible. You won't know how to model everything so you'll have to make some assumptions and build proxies, you won't have data so you'll have to triangulate or make approximations, and there will always be a million more things you could add to your analysis so you have to be laser-focused on prioritizing the things that are "answer-changing" and not wasting time on anything that isn't." It's likely that, after having spent a number of years on banking or consulting, you've had to tackle this kind of problem solving a fair share of times.
Ownership and Results-Oriented Mindset
Those who are successful in consulting and finance take ownership over their work and have a results-oriented mindset. They drive projects start to finish, identify solutions to problems and all associated tradeoffs, and are able to prioritize initiatives in accordance with business needs. These skills are also very important at tech companies where resources are limited and every company is better served with a groups of employees ready to take ownership over the business’s complex and ambiguous challenges.
When tech companies are looking for employees with consulting or finance experience, what they are really looking for are candidates with many of the skills needed to succeed in these industries. Being able to highlight soft skills such as communication and leadership, the ability to work in high-pressure settings, break down complex problems, and take ownership over projects will go a long way in positioning yourself to break into business roles in tech.
And of course, if you're wondering, not every consultant or banker has these skills. Ultimately it might help them get their foot in the door for an interview, but they'll still have to demonstrate their chops in a series of behavioral and case interviews.
Want to tap into more advice like this and build reps solving complex, ambiguous problems (which doubles as interview prep!)? Join The Commons Strategy + Operations Sprint to level up in the most practical way possible and build your network with talented strategists and operators in tech.