Walking in his father’s footsteps, former management consultant and SMF Will Jones studied for his Sainsbury Management Fellows-sponsored MBA at INSEAD, an experience he describes as transformative. “The year completely changed my life. I was saturated with knowledge and exciting experiences. Both the good and the tough times shaped me and enabled me to forge an amazing new career at COMATCH,” said Will.
Like all Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMFs), Will is an engineer (MEng), an area he was drawn to from an early age. “My strength has always been around structured thinking and being very comfortable ‘playing’ with numbers and analysis,” said Will. After graduating from Warwick University, he worked in China for four year as a Manufacturing Engineer before becoming a management consultant with PA Consulting Group and then, to develop his career, studying for a Masters’ in Business Administration with a focus on international business.
Will explained: “I wanted to become comfortable with the business landscape. There is a steep learning curve when you enter commercial roles; if you go in totally cold it’s easy to become overwhelmed. I saw the MBA as an opportunity to familiarise myself with business concepts prior to stepping into a more senior role where I would be expected to know about areas such as marketing and finance.
“I saw what the MBA did for my father’s career. He worked across the globe in consultancy and was responsible for opening offices throughout Asia for one firm. His international career enabled him to travel extensively and he speaks several languages. From a personal perspective, 45 years after studying at INSEAD, he is still hanging out with people he shared experiences and bonded with at business school. This definitely inspired me but, of course, there were other reasons for doing an MBA.
“In engineering education, you are taught structure and process which is invaluable for any profession. But to be successful in the most senior positions, you also need to communicate well and be able to build relationships and networks. The MBA teaches you these skills along with business skills which makes you very credible in the business world. The MBA prepares you to deal with any situation or project that lands on you,” said Will.
After graduating from INSEAD, Will returned to management consultancy at Accenture Strategy Group. At that point, he was intending to work his way up the corporate ladder using his newly acquired business skills and acumen. But fate took a hand in his career trajectory when he was headhunted by COMATCH to build its UK office. This position steered Will away from the traditional career path in consultancy into a cutting-edge business that combines his passion for consultancy with the fun of building a team, a client base, and a business.
A New Kind of Consultancy Venture
Will takes up the story: “COMATCH is a marketplace that aggregates both consulting talent and clients from across the world. There are 10,000 consultants with diverse experience and background on the platform already, including some Sainsbury Management Fellows and friends I made whilst studying at INSEAD.
“COMATCH takes successful independent consultants who realise the strength of their abilities and connections – who want to work for themselves – and matches them with clients in need of this specific expertise. This enables consultants to work on projects they are passionate about and shape a lifestyle that suits them.
“On the client side, our consultants provide services that help to accelerate and transform established businesses and scale-ups alike. For example, if an SME wants to expand across Europe, COMATCH provides access to vetted top-tier consultants that they could not obtain directly through traditional routes.
“The scale of the platform is staggering, it enables us to work with clients globally whilst providing consulting support locally; it’s about matching the right skillset and work-style, combined with the best background, be it local expertise or global understanding. Even more interesting in these current times is that the consultants did not miss a beat, they are used to remote working already and that the clients are now less fixated on location. With the geographic shackles removed, clients can really benefit from receiving the best talent globally!
“What really excites me about COMATCH is the diversity and strength of the consultant network, the clients we get to work with, and that I feel I can bring significant benefit both sides. I frequently don’t have the answer to the client problem, but I know how to find it” said Will.
Will is responsible for building the UK team as well as developing client relationships and the independent consultant pool. The latter involves a two-step vetting process, whereby applicants are screened and then approximately 40% go onto interview stage, where Will can get a deeper understanding of their career focus and working style. The relationship building process also includes regular new joiner events where consultants get to network.
Will continued, “Building the UK office from scratch has involved many exciting challenges, from creating the goals, establishing the office and hiring a team of spirited people who share a vision for the success of the business and bring novel ideas to the table. I’m relatively good with people, I draw on what I learned at INSEAD to take a more holistic view, to feel comfortable in client conversations, and when I have to talk to our CFO about the P&L.”
Benefts of the MBA
The emphasis on leadership and communication skills during the MBA made Will realise it was one of his key attributes. He explained: “My meandering childhood with my parents meant that I developed an ability to quickly build networks; connecting people and ideas was something that felt natural to me, but I never saw the value in it. It took comments and nudges from people at business school for me to see communication as a key strength in my character and something I should maximise.”
Asked to cite the greatest benefits of doing an MBA, it was not the ‘tool kit’ of technical business skills that Will highlighted, instead he talked about how he can deliver results and networking: “I realised that there is a lot of value that I can personally deliver and that I should not settle until I feel I am achieving these goals. Secondly, I value highly the diverse network of truly inspirational people who are only too happy to help if asked in the right way.
“INSEAD was an incredible learning and growing experience. No matter what the day, what the module, or how intensively I had to work, I always ended the day knowing that in some way I had developed as an individual.”
“Leaving business school is actually the start of an amazing journey, not only because I moved onto an unexpected new career, but also because I am now part of the Sainsbury Management Fellows network; a large group of interesting individuals who work across a breadth of industries. We come together for organised events, can connect individually if we need help, and we also have the opportunity to meet young engineers as they look to advance their careers. Many of these are mentored by SMFs.”
Inspring Engineers on an MBA Journey
Asked for any words of advice for a young engineer considering taking an MBA, Will said: “In a world that values marginal gains, this is one of the strongest gains you can add to your skills set; it will develop you on a professional and personal level. Anecdotally, every INSEAD Alumni who came to present on campus said something along the lines of ‘this will be one of the best years of your life’ and I couldn’t agree more!”
The SMF MBA Scholarship
If you are a professional engineer considering an MBA as one of the stepping-stones towards a business leadership career, you could become be awarded a £50,000 scholarship.