Being employed by a Big 4 company is seen as something prestigious. You are successful, competent, hard-working, persistent, and will have a bright future if you excel.
So, why would someone want to switch careers and go from a Big 4 company to a boutique consulting firm? We’ve asked Jeroen Vanhercke who told us all about his history, choices and ambitions.
Jeroen, you were with a Big 4 company – what motivated you to switch and join ::projective?
Although I learned a lot from my previous employer, I did not feel in control of my career or growth path. I like to tackle challenges from multiple angles using novel approaches and tools, and this is not a career preference aligned with the specific and segregated Big 4 business model. Those companies specialise in groups of topics, which is great if you want to focus on a niche (for example specific regulations or reporting standards) but not so great if you come across something new and want to develop that skill or expertise.
I would often ask to enrol in a training programme or apply to achieve a certification only to be told ‘no’ because it did not exactly align with the business line or project profile for which I had been hired. But, I wanted to broaden my expertise and not only focus on one speciality. I realised that I would be much happier in a company where I would have more control over my career path and be free of these constraints. ::projective stimulates and encourages flexibility and freedom, and once I got in touch, it did not take long for me to reach my decision and make the switch.
::projective has a flat structure which means we don’t use titles and levels, so, what do you exactly do?
I am a management consultant, a generalist, sent in to resolve problems. The problem might be risk related or regulatory, it might be about compliance or operations or even team dynamics. I love the diversity of the challenges.
I assess what has gone wrong, and why, by analysing the root causes and then I come up with a solution. Sometimes this is where I leave a project – once the plans are in place – but at other times I stay to implement them myself. So, I can be a management consultant but sometimes also become the project lead or programme manager. In general, I see myself as a problem solver.
It must have been quite a challenge to change from a bureaucratic way of working to a flat structure. What does this mean to you?
For me, it means that I don’t need to weigh up my options and consider organigrams or reporting lines when I have something on my mind. Whether the issue is good or bad, I can simply call someone (it might be the Project Team, the Management Team, the Human Resources or Fleet team) to discuss our options and actions. This stimulates an entrepreneurial mindset and attitude and creates flexibility and adaptability.
If I have a question, I can talk to colleagues who may have either a couple of years-experience or as many as twenty-five. I don’t need to take this into consideration before I call them.
I too have considerable expertise about certain topics and my opinions are respected regardless of how long I have been with ::projective.
What is different from your previous employment at one of the Big 4 companies?
I really like the fact that I work on projects that are at the crossroads of business transformation. Topics involving change management, risk management and finance. I have been fortunate to experience accelerated growth during the last three years and now report and present my assessments and advice directly to our leading team. This would have been almost unthinkable during my time at a Big 4 where there would always be a director or partner to decide the ultimate approach; and take the honours for the results.
I still have a lot to learn, and I aim to continue to take advantage of the expertise and mentoring afforded to me. I am interested in advances in the Cloud and AI technology.
Together with other data minded ::projectivers & DTSQUARED colleagues, we are also focused on building up our data management service offerings to mainland Europe. This is next to my client work my main focus at the moment.
And what gives you the most satisfaction?
I love to learn new things, to be challenged and to have the freedom to re-orient myself based upon my new experiences. ::projective gives me this freedom and trusts me in my endeavours.
You are based in Brussels; do you work from the ::projective offices or from home?
Currently, this is fluid. A client can set priorities and ask you, for example, to work from their office one day per week. But apart from that, you have complete freedom. I go into the ::projective office on average once a week for business development meetings and to chat with colleagues, but if I preferred to work from elsewhere that too would be perfectly acceptable.
How has ::projective evolved over the past 3 years?
::projective, and the ProjectiveGroup, are very much focused on growth. This is organic growth through attracting new talent and internal business development and at the same time growth through mergers and acquisitions. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) are hugely important as is everything relating to data with data management and data monetisation very much at the forefront. We have grown from being quite a small company with a focus on project management, to offering full management consultancy and implementation management consultancy. No longer will we be the newest/smallest kid on the block.
There is a huge emphasis on the culture of the organisation, providing a safe environment where everyone can be themselves. As a ::projectiver, how is this evident?
There is a huge focus on the interactions between people, on the human element. During lockdown there were constant opportunities for virtual games, socially distanced outdoor gatherings and walking tours (in our bubbles). We also received several gift boxes to make the different lockdowns (aka working permanently from home) more bearable and comfortable. Now that we can go back to the office and see each other face to face, many new initiatives were launched to really feel included again and bond with our colleagues.
In general, a lot of time and funds are invested in social gatherings, some of them pretty elaborate, and sometimes our partners too are invited. Many ::projectivers run together in the Antwerp 10 Miles or JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. Padel and cycling are also high on the sports agenda and mental health initiatives such as resilience trainings or meditations sessions also happen regularly.
Furthermore, about 40% of the floorspace in our Brussels, Mechelen, Amsterdam and London office is taken up by our bar – with beer on tap, plus wine and mocktails which creates a nice environment for After Works. There’s a pretty decent sound-system too, and the place has a ‘start-up’ feel about it. People often go to the office, even when they don’t need to, because it’s a social and fun place to be.
Finally, what advice would you offer to someone thinking of joining the ::projective family?
Just do it – call us. The application process is streamlined, interactive and consistent. There are two or three one-hour talks to allow us to get to know each other. If we are not a match, you have lost no more time than it takes to watch a single film on Netflix. And if we are a match – you’ve just started writing an exciting new chapter in your career!