Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘Q & A’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

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An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on Vault.com–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on Vault.com is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on Vault.com soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

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Career Path Q&A: Legal Recruiting

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It’s no secret that the law sector has taken its share of blows amid the economic uncertainty of recent years. Yet, the industry remains on its toes due in part to its multifaceted range of services, and the expansion of recruitment and guidance resources. One professional familiar with this is Jennifer Bird, who has seen both sides of the industry as an attorney and a legal search consultant. Bird, a graduate of Yale Law School, practiced law at White & Case‘s New York headquarters before transitioning to a career in recruitment. As vice president of Empire Search Partners, she now advises attorneys at all levels and conducts workshops for candidates exploring their career options. In an interview with Vault, Ms. Bird discussed the route that brought her to her present position, the challenges facing law professionals in the current economy, and much more.

VAULT: Prior to entering the legal search field, you were a tax and trust and estates attorney at White & Case. What prompted your shift from practicing law to recruiting?

JENNIFER BIRD: I really enjoyed the practice and the people I worked with at White & Case, but over time I found myself drawn to the relationship-building aspect of the business. When I left the firm, I took some time off to explore other options and was attracted to recruiting because it allowed me to utilize my knowledge of the law and law firms while focusing on relationship-building and career advising which I love. At the same time, I get to continue to work with lawyers, which is a lot of fun for me and also very rewarding.

V: In addition to direct consultation, you lead workshops for legal professionals. As the industry undergoes a period of instability, what are some of the frequent concerns you address for attendees?

JB: The workshops I have led with good friend and career coach, Suzanne Grossman, have primarily been for attorneys who are thinking about the next steps in their careers, whether it be moving to another firm, the government, the nonprofit sector, going in-house or leaving the law altogether to pursue another path. A common concern for attendees is “how do I figure out what I want to do next?” In the workshops we encourage attorneys to explore internally and externally, examining who they are and what they want out of life and identifying possible career paths by networking and talking to professionals in different industries. We also spend time advising attorneys on how to position themselves to get the careers they want once they figure out where they want to go. The current economic climate has made transitioning more difficult, but at the same time has provided a great opportunity for attorneys to take the time to explore and figure out what they really want.

V: Your background includes experience in legislation, social aid and even the Australian judicial system. Did you approach each of these ventures with the expectation of launching a career, or with intent to broaden your skill set for an eventual career elsewhere?

JB: I’m not sure if I was entirely aware of the benefit that the array of experiences would eventually have on my career. I adopted a sort of trial and error method in terms of trying on different kinds of jobs, with law as a common thread among them along with a desire to help others and have an impact. With each position, I was able to explore a different aspect of the law and to both learn more about the field and whether it might be a good fit for me long-term. What I’ve found through all of these experiences is that finding a good career fit is definitely a long-term process. I often advise candidates that although a position may not be perfect, every experience, every interview, provides an opportunity to learn more about what you like and don’t like, eventually helping you get to where you want to go.
Read the full interview here.

Career Paths: Career Development Counselor

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Much is written today about the perils facing this year’s graduating class. They leave college to enter an uncertain job market seemingly rebounding from the recession, but dense with competition for what new jobs are trickling in. The students expected to succeed in this environment are the ones who took the initiative well before donning their cap and gown, and sought guidance from career counselors like Marc Goldman. For nearly two decades, Goldman has participated in a vital element of the college tradition, ferrying students from academia and into the real world.

Marc Goldman headshotMr. Goldman has steered Yeshiva University’s Career Development Center since 2007, as Executive Director at two New York City campus offices. But it was at NYU’s Wasserman Center that he honed his abilities and rose from a “neophyte counselor” (as he puts it) to the role of associate director, before accepting his current position at Yeshiva. No stranger himself to the uncertainties of charting a post-college career, Marc lends his experience and administrative prudence to best serve those just starting down their career path. In the following interview, he shares with Vault the myriad lessons he’s learned along the way, the impact of recent recessionary budgeting, and how today’s students could themselves become tomorrow’s career counseling professionals.

VAULT: You’ve made your livelihood in career counseling, dating back to one of your earliest positions at Suffolk County Community College. How did you come into a job guiding others to jobs?

Marc Goldman: During my undergraduate years at Cornell, I went through a number of career transitions myself, starting as a pre-med student and ending up with a psychology major, considering graduate school options. Additionally, many of my peers who I considered to be very bright and driven individuals were finding it quite challenging to secure next steps in their career paths. “Ding letter walls” were common monuments to the challenging job market in 1990 and the lack of preparation or savvy on the part of new job seekers entering the full-time workforce for the first time.

When I was in my graduate counseling program at the University of Maryland, I chose a practicum experience at the college’s career center because it gave me an opportunity to assist students dealing with transitional issues similar to those I observed and experienced at Cornell. What struck me most about my first practical experience in the field was the multiplicity of roles college career counselors get to play. Individual counseling, workshop development and presentation, event planning, employer outreach, and program management were just some of the hats worn by the staff I worked with at Maryland. The diversity within the student body and the various stakeholders involved with the career center, including employers, alumni, faculty, administrators and student leaders, also intrigued me. No day would ever be the same, and that keeps you on your toes.

V: Prior to taking the helm of Yeshiva University’s career center, you were a 14-year veteran of the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development. How would you describe your time at NYU, and what led you to make the move to Yeshiva?

MG: My years at NYU were an incredible learning and growth experience for me. I went from a neophyte counselor to an experienced professional and administrator in my time there. What an exciting, vibrant, and diverse institution NYU is, and the career center reflects that nature. I had so many great mentors and collaborators at the NYU career center, and eventually, I became a mentor and supervisor myself. My main focal points in my work at NYU were liberal arts students and career center technology in addition to the previously mentioned counselor supervision. But the myriad programs and initiatives I had a chance to create and participate in are too many to include in this response. I spent about one third of my life at the career center there, so it certainly was a huge deal for me to leave.

The move to Yeshiva arose from two well respected mentors of mine, Trudy Steinfeld and Manny Contomanolis, serving as consultants at Yeshiva regarding its career center. Following Trudy and Manny’s recommendations, Yeshiva sought a new director to reorganize and revitalize the career center, and I pursued that opportunity. It seemed like the next logical step for me, one that could prove both challenging and rewarding in many ways. I always pictured myself as a director at a smaller institution than an NYU because of the more tight knit community feeling one experiences. Also, Yeshiva provided me the chance to take everything I learned throughout the years and bring my own vision to a fledgling department in all aspects of the operation.

V: As both an associate and executive director, how much interaction do you have with the students your department advises? In addition to your administrative responsibilities, will you take an active role to provide guidance for certain individuals?

MG: When I was at NYU, I never dramatically decreased the number of counseling appointments I had each week until I was an Associate Director, and even then, I still saw a healthy number of clients. I felt it was important since I was training and supervising counselors that I also practiced what I preached and had a handle on the students and issues the staff was dealing with on a daily basis. I have tried to carry this philosophy over to my role at Yeshiva, so I still see students in appointments from time to time, but the vast majority of my position consists of overall department management, staff supervision, strategic planning, committee involvement, and serving as a liaison to various administrators as well as both internal and external stakeholders.

V: Describe the typical office culture and social atmosphere of a career development center. Is there a sense of hierarchy among colleagues?

MG: Career center cultures vary greatly depending on the institution, director, staffing, students, budget, location, and numerous other factors. Regardless of which division the career center falls under, whether Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Development and Alumni Relations, Enrollment Management, or a specific college unit, I find many career professionals identify themselves most with student services. First and foremost, career centers exist for the students. That is something I hold true and instill in my team. In that spirit, I think career centers are made up of staffers sharing a common purpose, producing a unique environment of professionalism and fun. The balance of professionalism and fun changes at different times of year and varies with different members of each team. Whether the career center exhibits a fast paced, corporate atmosphere or a slower, more casual setting, the staffs care deeply about their work each and every day.

Of course, in order to accomplish the office mission and maintain some sense of accountability and quality, staff hierarchies do exist, but colleagues I know from across the country share my belief that college career centers attempt to be as flat in structure as possible. And in this, I mean that everyone has a voice in the direction of the office and what it is trying to accomplish. This philosophy is demonstrated on a routine basis, in regular staff meetings, or at semester strategic planning retreats. It is truly a team effort. It’s funny, but when I started as an entry level counselor, I was always lifting boxes and moving them around at our career fairs, and now as Executive Director, I am still carrying boxes or water cooler bottles. Nothing changes!

V: On the topic of offices, you work out of two Manhattan locations: One office on 185th Street, and one way down in the Murray Hill area. How are your duties and schedules divided between these offices, and how rough is that commute?

MG: Yeshiva is rather unique in that it has a men’s campus and a women’s campus for the undergraduates. When I came on board, it was very important for me to spend equal amounts of time on each campus, favoring neither population and insuring quality service for both. Even though my team is spread across the two campuses, we are indeed one team. I believe I am the one responsible for making sure our message is consistently understood and portrayed by the staff on both campuses and communication is flowing smoothly among all team members for ideal collaboration and success. The commute is fine for me because I live geographically in between the campuses. One commute is by bus, and the other is by subway. Living in Manhattan, I don’t own a car.

V: Many schools are enduring sharp recessionary budget cuts, which have taken a particular toll on career development centers. How have you weathered these issues? What effect has it had on fielding and acquiring necessary resources for your students?

MG: Yeshiva has certainly faced budget challenges, and my office has not been untouched. For me, the human capital is the most important resource at our career center, and I would much rather lose technology or other resources than lose staff. We have had to cut back on certain aspects of marketing and events, and we have become savvy at doing more with less. This is common in career centers throughout the country during this recession. Creativity and collaboration become more important than ever in times such as this.

V: From your experience in different schools and departments, what have you observed as a common education track for career development professionals on the university level? What guidance would you give to a student who eventually wants your job?

MG: A Master’s degree in counseling, higher education, industrial/organizational psychology, human resources, or a related field is typical for counselors at college career centers. However, practical work experience combined with a less common graduate degree is also welcomed many times in the field, especially at schools that specialize in certain studies such as law, business, public policy, arts, etc.

Something that I recommend in hindsight is to become involved in a professional association early on in one’s career. I have been a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers for a decade, but I only really have gotten involved with the organization in the last few years. The networking I’ve done through my participation on committees and at events has enriched my own professional development dramatically, so I can only imagine how much I would have gained had I dedicated myself sooner.

I also would highly recommend new professionals considering this field to get some work experience outside of academia at some point. Basically, I have worked in higher education for my entire career. I did dabble in the world of theatre, so I have some knowledge of that industry firsthand, but I think it is a big plus to have some additional experience along the way to understand the world of work more fully.

Read more about the latest news and insights for student career development at Vault’s Admit One blog. Further professional development and job recruitment information can be found at the SixFigureStart blog.

Career Paths: Nonprofit Consultant

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There’s a limited perception of consulting as largely computative, focused on economical and technical concerns; in reality, the industry is a multifaceted outlet for countless aptitudes and interests. Ken Goldstein is an example of these diverse pursuits: as a consultant to nonprofit organizations, he applies a number of disciplines to the benefit of charities and foundations. His client roster supports such worthy causes as AIDS treatment, homelessness and the arts, for whom he provides services ranging from fundraising strategy to resource management. Goldstein also accepts temporary management positions to guide troubled or transitioning organizations through restructuring, mergers and even bankruptcy.

Ken Goldstein headshot
Mr. Goldman’s career has taken him through nonprofits and government agencies over the span of two decades, and led him to write his self-published guide Introduction to Fund Development Planning in 2007. In 2003, he went into business for himself under the shingle of Goldstein Consulting, where he offers his expertise with one simple principle of commitment: “I only accept clients and projects that I believe in. When I accept your assignment, your mission becomes my mission and I am committed to your success.” He was kind enough to share with us his insights on the economy’s effect on clients, his self-employed status, and the overlap between advising nonprofits and corporations.
VAULT: Describe how you began consulting for nonprofits. Did you get your start working in the nonprofit sector itself, or at a consulting firm?

Ken Goldstein: Before going into independent consulting, I had already been working in the nonprofit and local governmental sectors for about fourteen years. I had experienced a range of organizations and positions, including doing direct client service work and being an Executive Director, and had wound up as Silicon Valley Director for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. CompassPoint is a nonprofit itself, but one that serves other nonprofits through consulting, training, and research into the field. I loved learning about the different types of organizations that we served, and different approaches to social problems. It was, in many ways, a continuation of the education I received when getting my Master of Public Policy and Administration degree, and my preparation as a consultant, facilitator, and trainer. When it was time to leave CompassPoint, I also had many connections to get me started with consulting gigs. I love working with smaller organizations and projects that are too small for a CompassPoint or other large firms to take on, so I still get referrals from my old colleagues there.

V: What is the organizational makeup of Goldstein Consultants? Have you given consideration to expanding into an incorporated firm, or do you prefer to remain as an independent proprietorship?

KG: I still chuckle a little at the official sounding title of “Goldstein Consulting,” as it really is just me as sole proprietor, lead consultant, marketer, accountant and janitor. I network a lot with other sole proprietor nonprofit consultants, and we’ve talked about the pros and cons of joining forces, but I’ve always preferred to remain independent. I never want to get to the point where I’m spending all my time running my business (paying other people, more tax headaches, liabilities of taking others on …) and not helping my clients run their businesses. By sticking to solo projects I keep my red tape to a minimum, keep my schedule flexible, and can concentrate on helping the grassroots organizations that couldn’t afford the rates I’d need to charge as “a firm.” Of course, through my networking with other consultants, we do refer jobs to each other, and can share advice and best practices on how to survive as an independent, so I’m not out there completely on my own.
vault career guide to nonprofit careers coverV: Having served a wide range of nonprofit interests, including healthcare and the arts, what would you say is an area you have the most experience with? Is there a particular cause closest to your heart?

KG: If I had to summarize the type of organization that I’m most experienced in, I would describe it as “community resource center.” Locally-based, single-site agencies, with a budget of $1 to 2 million, focusing on providing basic needs assistance to their immediate geographic regions. Things like access to food, health care, and housing, but also early childhood education, parent education, and referrals for mental health, addiction, and job training. I’d also say that the basic needs items—food and shelter—are the causes that are closest to my heart, and are also the causes that I’m drawn to as a donor to organizations, not just as a professional working with them. As you pointed out, I’ve also enjoyed working with arts groups and environmental causes, and I’m grateful for the chance to have a variety of clients, but if I have to choose one area, it would be basic needs.

V: Conversely, have there been prospective clients whom you have had to turn away, either on professional grounds or out of a personal objection to their mission or methods?

KG: I’ve turned away clients based on availability, when I’ve simply been over-booked. And there have been some potential clients that I’ve strongly suggested go back and take a closer look at their own goals and plans before hiring a consultant (usually somebody with a “great idea” for a nonprofit, but nothing concrete yet). But I can’t recall ever having to tell a potential client that I can’t take them on because I object to their mission. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen, just that I’ve been lucky in that regard, to serve a region with plenty of causes that I do believe in.

V: The chief aspect separating nonprofit consulting from the for-profit field seems to be an emphasis on fundraising and specialized accounting; however, your resume lists efforts in everything from M&A to operations development. What are some vital for-profit practice skills that consultants could use to transition into nonprofit work?

KG: Probably the area of management consulting that’s most easily translated is HR. Labor laws are labor laws, regardless of the type of employer. Marketing is also easily transitioned, with just a little extra attention to deciding who you are marketing to, potential clients or potential donors. On the fiscal side of the house, things do get a bit trickier with the myriad of funding streams, the thousands of strings attached to most of those dollars, and the disconnect between income and demand for services. The social services world is one where the same forces that increase demand for services also lowers revenue. I think business consultants who want to take on nonprofit clients can best educate themselves, and serve the sector, by first volunteering to be on a nonprofit Board of Directors. That kind of immersion into the types of issues that the sector faces would be a great education that could then be turned into a line of work.

V: In the wake of the recession, what were the most significant effects you observed of both the nonprofit consulting sector and for nonprofits themselves? Did more organizations seek your services, or were you required to more actively pursue clients and projects?

KG: For better or for worse, when your profession is assisting organizations in trouble, a down economy can be good for business. I’ve been booked pretty solid for most of the recession, and only just this month enjoying my first “down time” in several years. The way the recession has hit some of my clients is as a magnifying effect.

Management and fiscal practices that were questionable when money was flowing become toxic when the money slows down and once strong reserves become monthly cash-flow nightmares. Managing in such an environment requires the willingness to make unpopular and tough decisions. As an “outsider” I have often been better suited to do that than a leader who is entrenched in the problem (or, perhaps, the cause of the problem).

V: Given that much of the nonprofit sector relies on the support of the government, what effect, if any, do you foresee the Obama administration’s economic and social initiatives having on nonprofits?

KG: For the right type of organization, some of the Obama administration’s initiatives can be a great boon, but that’s not without some cautions.

Federal dollars involve the most red tape, but rarely allow a realistic administrative overhead budget line to comply with that red tape. Federal contracts and grants can also be very slow to pay, requiring the agency to spend out of their reserves to provide services until such payment comes. And, always, we have to caution agencies about over-relying on any one type or source of income. A lot of the Obama initiatives are only for two or three years of funding; organizations that do receive this money need to plan from day one how they will support programs when the “stimulus plan” ends. So, yes, if you have the administrative capacity and overhead to handle a Federal grant, fantastic – but a well-diversified fund development plan is still required.

You can find Ken Goldstein on the web at the Goldstein Consulting website, or at his blog, The Nonprofit Consultant. His book, Introduction to Fund Development Planning, is currently available for purchase at Amazon.

For more information on careers in the nonprofit world, check out The Vault Career Guide to Nonprofit Careers.

Career Paths: Actuarial Consultant

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buck consultants corporate logoIn the wake of 2008’s economic meltdown, perhaps no single industry stood to gain or lose so greatly as the consulting sector.  Consultancies were forced to adapt dramatically as the ensuing budget slashing and stagnant spending threatened to stem contracts.  One such firm, Buck Consultants, has benefited from its stable of human resources and actuarial talent to develop products tailored to aid clients in enduring those rocky days.  Among them is Buck principal Chad Hueffmeier, who has specifically engineered solutions to preserve pension financing and clients’ benefit structures.

Prior to joining Buck in April 2009, Hueffmeier enjoyed a steady rise through the ranks—first as an actuary at top HR firms, then as leader of Morgan Stanley’s Global Portfolio Solutions group.  As an accomplished specialist in risk management, his credentials include membership in the American Academy of Actuaries and the Society of Actuaries.  In addition to writing and contributed to papers on the subject, including “Come the Revolution! A New Day for Pension Risk Management,” Chad is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world.  In a conversation with Vault, Mr. Hueffmeier elaborated on his accomplishments, and why he left Wall Street just in time.

VAULT: Prior to Buck Consultants, you were an executive director at Morgan Stanley.  With companies like Morgan and Goldman Sachs now under scrutiny and congressional hearings, how do you imagine the past year at Buck has differed from what you’d have experienced by staying on Wall Street?

Chad Hueffmeier: It was much less stressful!  In 2008, the failures of Bear Sterns, Lehman and essentially Merrill Lynch made it abundantly clear that job security on Wall Street was uncertain regardless of business success.  At the very least, this was a major distraction for almost anyone working on Wall Street.  Although the past year hasn’t been easy for consulting firms, we have not had to deal with the distractions of regulatory reform for our industry and public perception issues.  We have been able to focus on modifying our business strategy to reflect market opportunities.  This led to consolidation in the industry and the expansion of services provided to clients.

V: Buck Consultants isn’t your first foray in human resources consulting; before Morgan Stanley, you held positions with Towers Perrin, Mercer and Hewitt Associates.  What brought you back to HR?

CH: As I mentioned above, our industry has expanded its array of services.  Over the past few years, investment consulting and asset management worlds have began to overlap.  Many investment consulting firms have started manager of manager businesses—Buck is no exception.  Although the roots of the industry are certainly in HR, the growth opportunities in the corporate retirement space revolve around financial risk management for sponsors of defined benefit plans and participants of defined contribution plans.

V: For a relatively young professional, your resume is comprised of many top firms, and sports several distinguished actuarial titles and memberships.  Why did you first pursue consulting as a career, and how would you describe your first years at a major consulting firm?

CH: In a sense, I got lucky.  I grew up a mile outside of Linneus, Missouri—a rural town in north central MO—so I had very limited exposure to potential financial careers (e.g., accounting and commercial banking).  I randomly heard about a well paying field that pays you more if you pass math exams—the actuarial field.  I attended Maryville University in St. Louis, MO because they had one of the strongest actuarial programs in the country.  Friendly competition among classmates and the encouragement of the actuarial professors motivated me to get through about a third of actuarial exams while I was still in school.  I finished the actuarial exams a couple years later while I was working at a consulting firm.  During this time, I also took the CFA exams.  The combination of self-education, working with great people, and the evolution of risk management in the 2000’s allowed me to grow quickly in my career.

V: Your firm is an independent subsidiary of the renowned IT services firm ACS.  In a consultancy owned by a consultancy, how often does Buck collaborate on assignments with its parent company?

CH: We certainly collaborate to develop value-added products / services for the market place.  In general, our businesses complement each other so we have been able to provide value to several clients through comprehensive bundled solutions.  In addition, our target markets are complementary so we are able to provide value to a large array of clients.

V:  In addition to being a consultant, you’re also a frequent public speaker, and an author of several articles and white papers.  Are such extracurricular endeavors a necessity for those looking to pursue or advance their career in consulting, or are they more an extension of personal interests?

CH: There is a plethora of career tracks within consulting firms.  Taking time to write papers, speak, and participate on national committees are not required but pay dividends in terms of career and giving something back to the profession.

–Posted by Alex Tuttle, Vault.com

Career Paths: Futurology

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Ian Pearson, Futurologist

Dr. Ian Pearson, Futurologist

You could call Ian Pearson “The Man of Tomorrow.” Since 1991, he has made his livelihood by foretelling the future—in a manner of speaking—through meticulous analysis and research. His predictions have surmised the rise of social technologies and trends, including the earliest conceptions of now-ubiquitous tools such as text messaging, with a noted accuracy rate of 85 percent. But Dr. Pearson’s profession isn’t fortune-telling or clairvoyance; he is a prominent figure in the growing field of futurology.

A graduate of Northern Ireland’s Queen’s University, Pearson came to his current career while employed as an engineer for England’s BT Laboratories. In 1991, he began conceiving long-term progress trends in business and technology, and his job title accordingly changed to that of “futurologist.” After parting ways with BT in 2007, he went solo to found Futurizon, offering his expertise to a multitude of clients through consulting services and seminars. Dr. Pearson was kind enough to discuss his work, his rate of error, and his competition with a tech-savvy daughter.

Vault: When did you first become aware of the field of futurology, and how did you come to make it your career?

Ian Pearson: Well, I started my working life in design of far future missile systems, doing computer modeling and stuff (based on my Maths and Physics degree), then moved on to far future telecoms, and obviously in all that kind of work you have to spend some time thinking about the market you are aiming the products and services at, not just designing the technology itself. It was only later while in far future network planning in 1991 that I discovered that I could write about the futures bits all the time without my boss telling me to get back to work and get on with the engineering. I didn’t realize it was a proper profession till about 1993 when the media started calling me a futurologist. Much more fun than ‘executive engineer’, so I stuck with that title ever since.

V: Describe the general process you employ to conceive your theories. How much of your time is spent researching, versus the time you might spend purely brainstorming?

IP: I worked in computer modeling for a decade, so of course my first toolset for futures stuff was also computer modeling, but I soon found it was of limited use because you never know all the variables or equations, so it is better to use your brain, which is good at working with vague values and vague interactions. It helped that I was trained as a systems engineer and had a broad engineering background already when I started, so now I just use common sense, logical clear thinking, and occasional calculations. About a third of my time is reading and other research, a third thinking it all through, and a third sharing results with people.

V: Other than the inevitable misconceptions of being akin to a “soothsayer,” what are some typical false impressions of futurology that you’ve encountered?

IP: The most common one is that it can’t work—no one can predict the future. Ergo I must be an idiot and wasting their time. In fact, many things are quite predictable, such as progress in technology, and many of the impacts of that technology are pretty obvious too when you think about it. So actually although you can never get it 100 percent accurate, 85 to 90 percent accuracy over a 10-year timeframe is certainly achievable.

V: You’re most often credited with the invention of text messaging. When conversing via text messages, do you ever have the urge to tell the other party “You’re welcome” (or, more fittingly, “U R welcome”)?

IP: I try to avoid using short-forms, much preferring proper words and sentences, but I rely on my iPhone to put in the apostrophes automatically, I’m not that fussy about it. I like to irritate my daughter by being more up to date with tech than she is, and especially talking about future fashion and areas that teens think are their territory. But actually, though I am perfectly able to use new tools, I still much prefer email to texts or IM.

V: Since leaving BT, you founded Futurizon and began offering your services via consultation and speaking engagements. What motivated you to strike out on your own? Do you prefer engaging different clients to working in-house for a sole employer?

IP: There comes a point where you outgrow your office, like a bird thinking the nest is looking a bit dull these days, just before it learns to fly. I started doing lots of things outside BT and got to the point where my interests didn’t always run hand in hand with BT’s. Eventually, both of us decided it was time for me to go. And I’ve never looked back. I much prefer the freedom to work with different clients every day, sometimes several in a day. It never gets dull, and I never have to do corporate admin. But I think the feeling is mutual. I don’t think anyone would want to employ me full time now.

V: According to the Futurizon site, your predictions have a remarkable accuracy rate of about 85 percent-but that still leaves 15 percent unaccounted for. What do you consider your “misses?”

IP: Easy—I predicted in 1992 that by 2000 we’d be spending far more time in VR than watching TV. I also thought that by now we would have made far more progress in AI than we have. Most of the other misses were minor technology details like uses of reconfigurable logic. I won’t bore you, but I do happily admit I get it wrong up to 15 percent of the time.

V: Finally, how would you describe the career track for becoming a futurologist? Do employers expect standard levels of education and experience, or is it a less orthodox path?

IP: The ones I know have all taken quite different routes, and that’s fine. You can do a degree in futures studies, but I personally think it is more about thinking skills generally than any formal techniques, which work fine in nice tidy theoretical worlds in academia, but don’t work well in the real world, which is far messier and really doesn’t lend itself well to rigid use of tools. Experience in a field is essential; then, with clear thinking, you can figure out how that will develop. Gradually, you can broaden your remit until it covers a decent part of the futures landscape.
— Posted by Alex Tuttle, Vault.com

Career Transitions: From Wall Street to the Restaurant Business

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Luke's Lobster SignLucas Holden is a former investment banker, and presently the owner of popular New York eatery Luke’s Lobster. Luke’s may be a Cinderella story in the city’s restaurant scene: In just six months since its inception, the modest establishment has cultivated a loyal following and strong critical praise. The momentum has been so dramatic that plans are already underway to open a second location, way up north in the Upper East Side.

But while the rookie restaurateur may seem like an overnight success, his background in finance suggests that he’s no fluke. Even while he was entering the dining business, he kept one foot in the banking business—in the first months of operation, the namesake of Luke’s still held his old job in the lucrative (and, as of late, highly controversial) realm of investing. We spoke with Mr. Holden regarding his shift from finance to food, and where the two trades intersect.

VAULT: You’ve just left a career in investment banking to own and operate your restaurant full time. Which firm did you work for, and what was your position?

Lucas Holden: I was a third-year analyst at CS Capital Advisors (formerly Cohen and Steers Capital Advisors) before leaving to start Luke’s Lobster. The investment banking team specializes in M&A capital-raising and restructuring services principally dedicated to the real estate investment trust (“REIT”) space.

V: Many of our readers are students and graduates seeking careers in finance. Could you describe the path that led you to the profession?

LH:I did my undergrad work at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and I double-majored in finance and small business management. I developed an interest in finance through my coursework, and I decided to pursue investment banking after learning more about the financial service world during summer internships at UBS. During the first semester of my senior year, I went to on-campus investment bank meet and greets, and I decided then that I would prefer to work for a boutique bank over a larger bank. I felt that my personality and strengths would be better suited for a smaller team, and I found more value in working directly with senior-level bankers. I applied to Cohen and Steers Capital Advisors through the career services network at Georgetown.

V: Your departure from finance coincides with a decidedly troubled time for Wall Street. How would you describe the atmosphere around that industry in the time leading up to launching the restaurant venture? Did this lead you to pursue a new career as a restaurateur? Was it always a goal, or an opportunity which came along more unexpectedly?

LH:In December of 2008, Cohen and Steers Capital Advisors decided to buy the investment banking business from Cohen and Steers Capital Management and transition the team to CS Capital Advisors. This transition was during the thick of the financial crisis and I was worried that I would lose my job, so I decided to start thinking about contingency plans. I have always wanted to start and run my own business, but I never would have guessed it would have been in the restaurant world. In the spring of 2009, I brainstormed and then scrapped many business plans before I began to flesh out a business model for Luke’s Lobster. It made so much sense: I’m from Maine, my favorite job of all time was being a lobsterman during summer vacations, and I have a real passion and respect for the Maine lobster industry. Being able to return to that passion while working with my father (we buy all our seafood from his Maine seafood company, Portland Shellfish) was a no brainer. To build out the business model, I met with other restaurateurs, did a ton of market research to evaluate potential competition, and met with brokers to understand the rental market in NYC. Once I convinced myself, family and friends that the Luke’s Lobster concept was a viable business proposition, I started looking for locations and hired Ben Conniff to help with the start-up process. I found the spot in the East Village, at 93 E. 7th Street, in late August and we were open for business by October 1st. That month was hard, especially because the banking hours were ramping up, so it felt like the industry was beginning to rebound. It was not until April 2010 that we decided to open our second restaurant in the Upper East Side and I chose to dedicate 100% of my efforts to the restaurant. Response to the Luke’s Lobster concept has exceeded my highest expectations, so the timing felt right. Though we had a robust pipeline of deals at the bank, I felt, and still feel, that opportunities with the Luke’s Lobster concept are even more promising.

V: Thus far, how have you found the shift from one career to another? Has it been a smooth transition, or have you hit any unexpected bumps in the road?

LH: The transition has been smooth. There are lots of daily challenges to overcome when opening and running restaurants, but these hurdles provide the same kind of stimulation that always excited me as an investment banker. The hours are no different—perhaps even worse!—but I am very happy about my decision, and it’s been a welcome change.

V: Would you ever consider returning to Wall Street in the future, or do you feel comfortable in remaining in the restaurant business?

LH: I’ve only been “away” from Wall Street for a couple of weeks, so it’s hard to say. I loved my job and the people with whom I worked, so I am certainly not opposed to going back to finance in the future. But for now, my focus is on developing the Luke’s Lobster concept.

V: What are the chances that Luke’s Lobster might cater lunch at your old firm?

LH:We have already done it. I worked with an incredible team that is supportive of my decision to commit myself to Luke’s Lobster full-time. I have great appreciation for everyone at the CS Capital Advisors team, the experiences they provided me, and the skills I developed there.

V: Finally, what lessons have you come away with after transitioning from one profession to another? How did your background in finance and investing prepare you for starting your own business?

LH: Investment banking strengthens your critical thinking capacity. I really enjoyed working in small-deal teams because it gave me an opportunity to work alongside very smart problem solvers. Learning how to approach and break down enormous projects as effectively and efficiently as possible within a team environment is an extremely important skill set that I learned during my 3-year tenure, and it’s one that I still employ today, just in a different setting.

Luke’s Lobster is located at 93 East 7th Street in New York City, and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Sunday through Thursday) and 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Friday and Saturday). Local delivery is available. A second location, at 242 East 81st Street in the Upper East Side, is expected to open next month. You may find Luke’s online at www.lukeslobster.com, or follow their Twitter, @LukesLobster.

– Posted by Alex Tuttle, Vault.com

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