Don’t go into consulting as your first job posted on 11 March 2024

When I graduated from Centrale Paris (aka CentraleSupelec, one of France’s top engineering schools), most of my classmates who studied computer sciences went to do consulting. Being an anomaly 😅, I moved to the Silicon Valley to work for a startup instead. This was an amazing decision (even though it happened by sheer luck).

The main reason I’m advising new grads against joining a consulting company is that you won’t have the chance to own a system – you will own a project at best. Shipping a project is fundamentally different from owning it – you can take shortcuts, write poor code and design brittle systems without too much of a (short term) consequence

From there, the experience and knowledge you will gain will be shallower than if you were working in an engineering company. You will keep building/shipping new solutions without the chance to look back and learn from it – which is what allows us to grow. This is similar to how job hopping or constantly switching teams isn’t always what’s best for one’s growth – you have to stick a bit to your work to understand its weaknesses.

My limited experience with candidates coming from consulting companies is that

  • They struggle to get a job in engineering first companies (e.g. Google, Meta, Databricks etc.) because they lack the relevant experiences during the cross functional/tech fit/design interviews
  • If hired, they seem to struggle because the expectations are different – e.g. the quality of your work matters much more and peers will call out technical limitations of your proposal/work regardless of how well you can sell/present it. I however do not have enough data to say that this is always true, but if someone has more than anecdotal data, I would be interested to peek at it.

Last but not least, I think the joy of being an engineer is to care for something you built – how many of us have spent way too much time perfecting an open source project just because it was our “baby”? You can’t find this pleasure if you switch companies/projects every 6 months.

For folks in my network doing consulting, I would be interested to hear your take on this post! I may be missing some perspectives/insights

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