ALEX, STRATEGY, TRANSFORMATION & ANALYTICS DIRECTOR
Please tell us a bit about your early career.
After graduating I joined LEK Consulting in London, which was a terrific foundational experience. However, being right in the middle of the financial crisis, salaries and bonuses were frozen, so after a little over two years the step-off into in-house strategy was quite appealing. A better work-life balance at that point became more of a priority, too.
I was offered the opportunity to join Gazprom’s Marketing and Trading business in their Group Strategy function, where I had some great exposure to M&A, finance and broader commercial functions.
After three years there I joined Inchcape, the leading global independent automotive distributor and retailer, where I was effectively a Group Strategy team of one!
And what has your career path been at Inchcape?
The opportunity at Inchcape was great as it gave me direct exposure to the Group CEO, with whom I worked closely. It was originally framed as an opportunity to come in, understand the business and then get farmed out to one of the business units in a more operational role. As it happened, I worked in strategy, customer experience and innovation roles for around 5 years in our UK HQ before the opportunity to move into a business unit came up.
In early 2017, I moved to our Asia-Pacific Regional HQ in Singapore to help the new Regional CEO implement and communicate the regional strategy we had co-designed. Over time, this became more operational in nature and included some operational management roles in Singapore and Hong Kong.
From the start of this year, I set up and am leading a ‘centre of excellence’ for the region that covers process automation, advanced analytics & data science, data management, and global supply and demand planning. It is my first step into a wholly ‘functional’ role in the business.
What’s your best piece of advice when it comes to hiring?
It’s probably not revolutionary, but I believe it’s most important to hire for enthusiasm and aptitude. You can teach the rest. For a company like Inchcape with a lean team, we look for self-starters and a growth mentality.
From a screening perspective, we don’t do in-person case studies. I don’t believe that’s the way how people work and operate in the real world. We ask candidates to explore a problem ‘open book’, and come back to us in a few days with a worked answer that we can discuss during the interview.
What’s your best piece of advice for consultants looking to move into client-side roles?
From my experience and that of my peers, there are a few observations that I think others may find valuable. First, moving from strategy into an operational role takes time. Hiring managers will say it takes two years; yet all the evidence I’ve seen suggests it takes more like 4-5 years, and usually takes 18 months of planning/searching/aligning within the business. It’s understandable: you’re an expensive resource with (usually) limited operational experience, so finding the right role isn’t always straightforward.
Secondly, you need to make the opportunities happen. In most companies you can’t rely on your Manager or HR to make opportunities happen. It is their responsibility to facilitate and enquire, but it’s down to you to build the relationships, get the exposure, and make suggestions. There’s no substitute to you actively planning and plotting your own progression path in the organisation.
Unless you wish to stay in a strategy role, you need to really make your own opportunities and push for operational exposure where you can get closer to a P&L and feel like you are having more tangible impact on the business.
How did you find out about Movemeon?
I can’t actually remember! I must have heard about it and joined when I was thinking about leaving LEK. When you’re in the industry, you tend to hear about these things. So most likely at the pub!
What have you liked about working with Movemeon?
Ultimately, it’s the calibre of the candidates. Movemeon seem to have the best network of top-tier strategy consultants. Speed of turnaround and the level of support is also very good.
How did you find the experience hiring through Movemeon?
We hired an excellent freelancer through Movemeon for a 6-7 week project. The speed at which Movemeon picked up our brief and worked to shortlist candidates that were on the money was really impressive. Our freelancer did a great job, even though she was 100% remote – a sign of these COVID times!
How have you enjoyed working in Singapore?
Singapore has been fantastic. It’s a wonderful place to live and you meet so many interesting, international, colourful people along the way. It can be a bit transient as people come and go; but that just means you end up with friends all over the world! Working in the Asia-Pacific region where there’s such diversity has also been really stimulating on the professional front.