QVARTZ has been one of the hottest management consultancies in Denmark for the past years. This trend does not seem to be slowing down with their recent announcement of new offices opening in NYC and Hamburg as well as their acquisition of Vertical Strategy (majority stake). We sat down with Mark Christian da Silva from QVARTZ to hear more about his experience with QVARTZ, what he has learned and insights to any applicants considering applying for QVARTZ
“For me the big differentiator between QVARTZ and other big consultancies is the culture. I know this can be a bit of a cliche, but I truly believe that it is a huge differentiator at QVARTZ. We have a very unique culture which is build on Nordic values in contrast to some of our competitors that are usually based on American values.
Some of the ways the Nordic values are reflected is for example by having a culture which is build on trust in the individual and the individual’s abilities. We pride ourselves with having a flat hierarchy at work with an open office policy where everyone interacts with each other irrespective of title and seniority. It’s also deliberate that nobody has their own office and we do not have any titles on our business cards which emphasises our focus on our people and their capabilities and not so much the level they are at. Obviously we have hierarchy when we are working with clients as you need this to ensure you can deliver the best possible result, but once we are back in the office it becomes less important and not something we focus on as such.
In general there is a very deliberate focus from our management towards the people side of the business which really attracts me to QVARTZ. You might have noticed that we call ourselves a ‘civilisation’ instead of a company or an organisation. Our ‘People function’ is always very aware of the consultants’ well being and are often reaching out just to ensure that you are thriving both personally and professionally. Every week, we are answering questions in an app about our well-being at work and off work, and each project team has a dedicated session to talk about how we are feeling – it is not allowed to talk about the project in this session. This, I believe, are some of the many reasons our consultants stay in QVARTZ for four years on average, which I believe is double the industry standard.
We are very focused on creating a top tier management consulting firm which is fundamentally different from the other top tier companies. You will hear from our founders that the very reason for the establishment of QVARTZ was to change the way top management consulting companies are structured and operate.
I like to consider myself very ambitious, so ensuring my professional growth was a very important factor for me when choosing where to work. Only knowing our international competitors from an external point of view, I believe that they are great places to learn, and it’s my understanding that we are very much on par with them when it comes to learning and development opportunities – we solve the same tasks for the same clients and we have a very healthy and structured feedback culture. Many of our partners have a past with the competitors and I am sure they would agree that QVARTZ is an equally good place to learn and develop.
The final thing I would mention is the entrepreneurial spirit which exists in QVARTZ. I think it is inherently embedded in everyone in the company as we are in some ways still a young company. In essence, if you are a consultant in QVARTZ you are not only solving problems for clients, you are also expected to be part of building the civilisation at the same time. You have a possibility to change the way the civilisation works and grows, and with the growth we are experiencing this gives a lot of unique opportunities. Personally, I came from Nova Founders which is a venture builder and really enjoy the entrepreneurial spirit and culture we have here at QVARTZ. There’s also a good part of my colleagues (or ‘compañeros’ as we call it internally) who have had prior experience in various start ups and fast growing companies.
What is QVARTZ area of expertise?
“It’s funny you ask, as I wrote my thesis about QVARTZ and researched which industries our revenues were coming from. I guess that is a good proxy to understand where we have our expertise. What I found is that in general we are pretty spread out across most industries, which is also the way we like to consider ourselves, as having competencies and experience in most major industries.
If I were to point to areas where we are particularly strong then I would say Private Equity , but also within Industry, Retail, Transport & Logistics, Financial Services, Energy and the public sector – we are very evenly spread out across industries. If you look at our expertise functionally then I think we are one of the top consultancies when it comes to corporate strategy, commercial excellence, value realisation and digitalisation. One of the ways we ensure we are always at the forefront of innovation and ensure we are able to maximise value for our clients is through the partnerships we have established. For example with Designit and Microsoft whose expertise we can draw upon for our clients. We understand our limitations and having recognised industry experts onboard has definitely created a lot of value.
How is the professional development at QVARTZ?
“The learning curve has been as steep as I think a learning curve can be. When I look back to some of the things I worked on 1.5 years ago and then compare to the tasks I work on today I can really see how much I have developed and how much I have learned. I still remember my first day as a full time consultant where I attended a meeting with a big Danish company and their entire management team attended. That was an awesome first day and I was pretty star struck to be honest. QVARTZ is the best place I have ever been when it comes to professional development.
While most of the development has been professionally, I have also learned a ton about myself. We spend a lot of time understanding our own personalities and how we best work together with other consultants. This is very important to ensure the most optimal team structure and ultimately the best outcome for the client. We have all taken the Myers Briggs test to get more clarity around our own personal profile and who we best work together with.
Work life balance versus the big consultancies?
“As mentioned above work life balance is very important at QVARTZ and one of the reasons I enjoy working here. You have to be prepared to put in the hours and there will be peak periods where you will be stretched, but it is manageable. When you compare us to ‘the establishment’, our international competitors, then It’s my understanding that we all work a lot, but they might have a few more hours per week on average than we do. I try prioritise a healthy work life balance which I think I have at QVARTZ, but others might prefer a different balance – so it’s to a large degree up to the individual in QVARTZ, although you will most likely never get a standard 37-hour work week.”
How would you compare consulting versus banking or a graduate programme?
“It obviously depends on the individual and what he or she finds interesting. I think the unique thing about consulting is the toolbox you gain by working in the industry. Because the biggest asset for consulting companies are their people, the focus is on developing the people and their skills. From that point of view I think consulting is one of the industries where you will experience the fastest personal and professional growth. On top of this then you gain exposure to a lot of different industries, companies and people.
Compared to banking or a graduate programme, you will lack some of the financial skills that banking analysts develop in their job or the depth of company-specific knowledge which graduates who pursues a graduate programme gets. So as in many other aspects of life there are pros and cons.”
How would you describe the characteristics of top performers at QVARTZ?
“You need to have a strong drive and passion for the consultant profession. I think that is a key thing as it will ensure you are constantly motivated to learn new things and improve your capabilities. You need to be proactive in asking for feedback and have a very sophisticated approach to your own development and what you need to do in order to improve. You definitely also need to be good with people and know how to function well in a team as well.
What has been your best learning at QVARTZ?
“I remember when I first joined QVARTZ I was of the belief that as a consultant it was my task to tell the client exactly how everything should be – that I somehow was the expert. But I understand that the best consultants are those that can get all the relevant knowledge out of people in the company, ensure they are all part of the “journey” and create solutions that become embedded in the organisation – and of course contribute with any specific knowledge we have in QVARTZ, but that is most often not the key to solve problems”.
What kind of profiles are you looking for a QVARTZ?
“We are looking for a variety of profiles and backgrounds at QVARTZ. Not just Economics, Finance or engineering graduates, but also more classical educations. We have this word which we have developed in-house which is Uniquity.The word is derived from the words unique and diversity. We believe in having diverse and unique people in the civilisation. We are proud to have consultants with a wide spread of educations, personalities, nationalities, gender, and experiences as we believe it strengthens our ability to creatively solve problems for clients.
Advice for making it through to QVARTZ?
“First of all, if possible try to do some research of our civilisation before you apply, so you know whether QVARTZ is something for you or not. This might be through attending some of our events, reading through our website or reaching out to current/former employees to learn more about us. There are three things I would personally highlight when applying for QVARTZ:
- Why QVARTZ? You need to be interested in being part of the journey we are currently on, not just to use it as a stepping stone for 1 – 2 years – we are all here to solve complex problems for clients and build a cool consulting company, and we want you to want both of those things too. What drives you to want to be part of that?
- Why consulting? This is a bit of a general question, however, it is still super important that you are clear on why you want to work in management consulting.
- What is your X factor? Have you done something cool outside of traditional work or education? (For example,we have a former lympic swimmer and a couple of consultants with military experience, but you don’t need to have participated in the Olympics to have X factor! In general, we are just trying to understand who you are personally)
What would you have liked to have know back when you applied?
“My situation was a bit different as I started out as a junior consultant and then became a full time consultant afterwards. Firstly, everyone should know that it is okay to fail – nobody rarely goes through all the interviews without saying something wrong or making a calculation error. Secondly, in QVARTZ we expect candidates to be good case solvers, but we are even more interested in the person behind the application. Thirdly, one thing I often see applicants underestimate is learning to solve numerical problems in the cases. People become really good at making complex calculations by hand before the interview, but forget that we don’t tell you to multiply or divide two numbers with each other, we give actual problems that you have to solve (e.g. simple equations with an unknown). This is an important part of the interview and also the most stressful so it’s important to make sure you are well prepared. Lastly, remember to practice actual cases before your interview and start in good time before the interview day. I would say that you would be fine to start practicing cases between 2 weeks to 2 months before your actual interview and make sure that you also practice cases with people you don’t know to get as close to a real case setting as possible – there are various websites where you can find people from all over the world practicing cases.
Personally I probably spent around a month practicing cases before my interview and today I think the competition has increased slightly so make sure you are on top of your case game, but even more important; enjoy the interview day – in QVARTZ, all interviewers want you to succeed – and make sure to show who you are as a person, because that is what we are truly interested in.”
*Data is from the 2015 annual report