Week in the life of an Associate Consultant
I joined The PSC 5 months ago. I’ve really enjoyed my time as an associate consultant so far - there’s lots of variety in the work we do, and it’s been great getting to know my new colleagues!
Generally, associate consultants tend to work on one project at a time. This can be in any area of the business, which gives you the opportunity to try out different types of projects and develop a broad skill set. Currently, I’m working with 3 other consultants from The PSC on a digital Alpha project with the UK Space Agency. Some previous work The PSC did with this client identified that there appeared to be demand for a UK-based space surveillance and tracking capability that would allow UK satellite operators to track when their satellites are at risk of colliding with debris (or other satellites) in space. This project follows on and aims to work out what the potential solution would look like.
We’ve created a ‘prototype’ product, which we will test with potential users to receive their feedback - this is how I’ll spend much of my week. Since our product is only a prototype at this phase, we can quickly change and iterate the design and content according to user feedback, while others in the team work on understanding the technical data requirements that will need to be in place to take the product forward. The end goal is that the UK Space Agency has a product they feel confident investing in to help operators reduce the risk of UK satellites colliding with space debris - it’s a pretty cool brief!
I start the week with a meeting with the other consultants on my project team. Between the four of us, we map the goals of each of our stakeholders - this helps us think about how we can meet the needs of everyone involved and hopefully make sure the project is a success. I spend the rest of the morning creating our interview guide - we’ll be doing our first round of user testing this week, sharing our prototype with satellite operators and gathering feedback. The guide helps us structure our conversations so we can compare different points of view, and make sure we cover everything we want to so we’re making the most of our interviewees’ time.
In the afternoon I watch and give feedback on a rehearsal for a pitch some colleagues are giving later in the week. I spent some time helping to write the proposal for this piece of work a few weeks ago – it would be an exciting project if we get it, so fingers crossed! I spend the rest of my time going through our prototype and drawing up a list of changes to make ahead of our first user testing session on Wednesday.
I cycle into the office and start with a short 10-minute meeting where everyone on the project team provides an update on what they’ve been working on and their plans for the day. We have these most days on project, they help to keep everyone informed of progress and what’s going on - especially useful when working remotely. I spend the rest of the morning doing some coding for our prototype, broken up by a coffee chat with a colleague I worked with on a previous project. We take advantage of the nice weather to go for a walk outside - it’s lovely to have a catch up on what we’ve been up to since!
I'm splitting my time between the client project and some internal digital work at the moment, so in the afternoon I meet with an associate who tells us all about a dashboard she recently built as part of an NHS project. I learn lots of useful information about what worked well, and also some challenges she encountered, and how these might apply to the internal work we’re thinking of doing.
In the morning a colleague and I interview the space surveillance manager of a large aerospace company. We share our prototype with them and set them some tasks so we can see how user-friendly it is, which is also good at provoking discussion about what they like and think we could improve. We get lots of suggestions for improvements alongside positive feedback about the work we’ve done so far, and they’re happy for us to talk to them again in a few weeks to share progress we’ve made on the design.
Head out for a quick run at lunch - it’s nice to break up the day and enjoy the sunshine! I spend the afternoon writing up interview notes from the morning, logging specific needs into a database and distilling these into a list of changes we can make to improve the prototype tomorrow. I also catch up with the other associate consultant on the project and compare notes from an interview she did this afternoon - it’s reassuring that we’re getting similar feedback from different operators (for now at least).
Back in the office! I don’t have many meetings planned today, so use my time to get stuck into coding yesterday’s list of changes into our prototype. I’m working closely with the other associate consultant, so we share ideas and split tasks between us as we go. In the afternoon we both join a meeting to discuss data requirements. We pool our knowledge from research and user interviews completed so far to work out a list of the data that the product would need, and where this data would come from.
Continue coding into the afternoon and finish the day feeling like we’ve made a lot of progress - it’s great to be able to implement the feedback from interviews so quickly, and we’ll be able to take the newly improved prototype to interviews with operators scheduled for next week. I hadn’t done any kind of coding before joining The PSC but was given the time to develop the necessary skills before the project started, and it’s been fun to successfully put them into practice! After work a few of us from the office go for a drink – a group will normally get together most Thursdays. Talking with some of our most recent new joiners makes me realise how much I’ve learnt over the last few months.
Start the day with a breakfast with colleagues on my team in the company’s sustainability challenge. Over the last two weeks we’ve been encouraged to make sustainable switches, and to submit photos of our efforts to win points. It’s prompted some great discussion (and action!) over what we can do as both individuals and as a company to lessen our impact on the environment. I spend the rest of the morning at a training session with the other recent joiners. We did most of our core training during our first week at The PSC, which covers the key skills we need to deliver fast and effective projects for clients. We have the remaining modules every few weeks (and lots of learning takes place whilst on projects too). Today we go through some excel modelling and discuss best practice - making sure that we leave models in a position where it’s easy for other people to understand what’s going on.
After lunch we have our first ‘Show & Tell’ session, where we share our progress on the project to our UKSA colleagues and wider stakeholders. It goes well - I give a live demo of our prototype and we share some video clips of our user research sessions. Following this is our quarterly team meeting, where we discuss the company’s plans for the new financial year, and we hear about some of the many successful projects that have happened recently and the impact that they’ve delivered – a great way to end the week!
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