John Dwyer of PwC wearing a suit and smiling into the camera.
John Dwyer, director of financial services consulting at PwC. Image: PwC

John Dwyer, PwC: ‘As a consultant, you can never have an off day’

20 Feb 2020

PwC’s John Dwyer gives us some insights into his work in the company’s financial services advisory division.

He may have started out studying agribusiness and rural development, but John Dwyer is now director of financial services advisory consulting at PwC Ireland.

Here, he discusses how his roles in management consulting have given him “the opportunity to work on many and varied clients and client challenges”.

‘You need to be outgoing to enable you to meet all types of clients’

What first stirred your interest in a career in this area?

I had always been interested in management consulting – it was the opportunity to work on many and varied clients and client challenges.

What experiences led you to the role you now have?

My undergraduate degree would certainly be atypical for consulting in that I did agribusiness and rural development, but it was during that course that I realised that the business part of the degree was very much my preferred area and I then went on to do a master’s in management consulting.

That really galvanised my interest in consulting. The strategy course was one that stuck with me as a true game changer for companies to impact and influence their strategic direction.

That has really stuck with me and as I work now with PwC, the overall vision to solve the most important problems for our clients really resonates.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenge is that as a consultant, you can never have an off day, as you are working with clients and they are expecting an expert to be with them. You must be on top of your game every day with clients, your team and your wider colleagues.

I’m not sure whether this is how I deal with it, but I manage this by having an incredible team who make it easy for us to be successful. And also, wider firm structures mean support is always there – from needing to have someone more senior to bounce ideas off, to looking for the latest trend in banking.

All of this makes it easier to manage challenges along the way.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

I don’t think it was one person, but one case study that I did really influenced me in terms of how to approach challenges and client issues. That was Komatsu’s strategy development.

At the time, Caterpillar was the primary large machinery manufacturer and had significant market share. In the development of Komatsu’s strategy to displace them, they had taken a very different approach based on beating Caterpillar or ‘encircling’ them. Their Maru-C strategy was born – [which means] literally ‘encircle Caterpillar’.

Everything they then did was focused on that – from the manufacturing of their machinery to the sales processes. The takeaway for me on this was the impact that setting clear goals and direction can have and that it is then ‘lived’ in all that you do. I have tried to bring this through my career to date and to set up all that I do with this in mind.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the variety, the challenge and really making a difference to clients and colleagues.

The ability to work with different clients and make a meaningful impact in partnership with them is incredibly motivating.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

You need to be outgoing to enable you to meet all types of clients and resonate with them in order to understand their challenges.

You need be resilient. It is a challenging career because it is inevitably the more complex client challenges that we get asked to deliver on.

Lastly, you need to be a self-starter and be able to work on your own to quickly work out the best way to address challenges and problems. Unlike a lot of other careers, there isn’t a set way of doing things or looking at challenges, so the ability to be able to look at things differently is key in how you approach all problems.

How did PwC support you on your career path?

The flexibility and trust the firm has in me is fantastic – it is a true meritocracy.

Everyone is encouraged to provide opinion and insight to all that we do – from our interns who never fail to bring new and interesting perspectives on things, to our deep industry experts who have knowledge across all facets of every industry sector.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?

It’s a really rewarding career, but it is hard work. I always think that consulting is three jobs in one. There is the client work, which has to be a primary focus for everyone and has to be delivered to an incredibly high standard.

There is the team and people management aspect, which is key as it is only through our people that we deliver client excellence, but also grow our business.

And lastly, there is the firm side of things where we have to ensure we are up to date with all market trends – and ahead of them at times – to ensure that we bring all of the new and interesting developments in the market to our clients.

Having said that, it is incredibly rewarding and offers great opportunities – for those that can manage those varied aspects of the job – to build a truly varied and interesting career.

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