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Opening doors with the CMC

Thirty-six year old Deborah Swann is British and lives with hert Consultant (CMC) profiles, Sarah Taylor interviews Deborah Swann FCMC who is based in the UK and works for Pegasystems. husband, Eddie, in a 300 year old house in Ashampstead, Berkshire. When not working she enjoys doing up the house and garden, travelling, skiing, scuba diving, giving dinner parties and going to the cinema. In addition to a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science from Bristol University she speaks some French, Italian and Portuguese having lived and worked in the USA, Canada, Hawaii, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland. She is one of the few female consultants to become a Fellow of the UK Institute of Management Consultancy.

What is your current position?

I work for a software and consultancy company called Pegasystems. My title is design manager and I am responsible for designing and managing IT projects for various large banks and financial institutions in Europe including Cedel Bank, Bank of Ireland and GE Capital. The office is based in Reading, Berkshire, but I spend most of my time travelling to client sites in London, Paris, Leeds, Edinburgh and Dublin with other trips to prospects or trade shows throughout Europe.

What did you do before you were a consultant?

I worked as a systems analyst for Esso Petroleum and then as a business analyst for Goldman Sachs.

When and why did you move into consultancy?

In 1986 I joined KPMG (Peat Marwick McLintock as it was then). I moved into consultancy because I enjoyed the variety of work, the travel and the opportunity to combine my technical and business skills.

How did you acquire your consultancy skills?

While at KPMG I benefited from their excellent training and learnt a lot from more experienced management consultants. I then joined Early, Cloud and Co, a small call centre consultancy, where I continued to develop my consultancy skills.

How long have you been a CMC?

I have been an IMC Member for six years and became a CMC when the qualification was introduced in the UK in 1993. I have recently become a Fellow of the Institute, and so I’m now FCMC!

How important has the CMC qualification been in your career?

Potential clients have noticed the CMC on my business card and spoken to me about the IMC, and in that way I think it has helped me win business.

Attending IMC events has also been very worthwhile as I have made many useful business contacts.

What were the decisive points in your career?

Firstly, entering into management consultancy with a large firm was a very beneficial move for me. Secondly, moving to my current employer, Pegasystems, has been a good decision as I prefer working for a smaller company.

What do you enjoy about consultancy?

I like the variety of work and the opportunity to combine my technical and business skills. In particular, I enjoy working for Pegasystems as it is a smaller company with a great working atmosphere and a good company culture. My colleagues are fun to work with and the work is always challenging.

I have a certain degree of autonomy in managing my clients and my own workload and I get a great sense of achievement when a project is delivered and meets the customer’s needs.

What are your strengths?

Good planning and project management skills, attention to detail, enthusiasm to take on any task no matter how difficult or challenging.

What are your weaknesses?

Lack of diplomacy at times, “not suffering fools gladly”, and handling “difficult” customers or colleagues.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career?

I know it sounds corny, but my husband and my parents, who have always encouraged me to try to achieve whatever I wished for.

What has been your greatest professional challenge?

Working on projects where we have won a bid competing against the client’s internal IT department. It can be a challenge when we then have to work as a team with the very people who lost the bid.

What’s it like being a woman in the world of consultancy?

Personally, I have not encountered much sexism in my career (apart from one previous boss) and I haven’t hit the “glass ceiling” yet! This may have something to do with the fact that I am very assertive but my then clients are paying for me to be effective and forthright. Consultancy often involves a great deal of travel (I’m often away two to four nights a week) and that obviously makes family life difficult. However, at Pegasystems I don’t always have to be on site and am able to do a lot of work from home. I am fortunate to have a very supportive partner, who in spite of working long hours himself, does many of the domestic chores.

What are your career plans?

To be a key player in the management team at Pegasystems as the company grows and expands throughout Europe.

How do you keep your skills up to date?

I attend internal and external training courses and seminars relating to technology, management and the business areas of my clients.

What would you say to anyone considering management consultancy as a career?

I would recommend it because it gives you an interesting and challenging career with opportunities for a variety of work, different projects and lots of potential to travel. It gives you a range of skills and experiences that will be useful wherever you work in the future.

How do you see the future of international management consultancy?

I think the need for international management consultancy will grow, particularly with the euro and the other changes happening in Europe.

Are you involved in your professional institute?

Yes, I attend meetings and AGMs when I can and I was chairperson of the IT Special Interest Group for a while. However, the geographic spread of my current clients means that it is difficult for me to be actively involved in the IMC at this time.

Are you involved in the training and development of less experienced consultants?

On projects at client sites I help to develop the skills of new consultants through on-the-job training.

The CMC qualification is recognised in the 24 member countries of the International Council for Management Consulting Institutes. The Institute of Management Consultancy (IMC) is the only awarding body for the CMC qualification in the UK.

If you have at least one year’s management consulting experience, five year’s management experience or an approved qualification at Masters level you can join IMC as an Associate member and start preparing for the CMC assessment.

If you apply before 15 December 1998 you will benefit from a special rate of #105 for Associate membership until January 2000 with no joining fee (normally #20).

For an application pack please call IMC on 0800 31 80 30 or fax IMC on 0171 831 4597.

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