Today was my last day with EY. It was sad. I don’t know the next time I will see all of my co-workers who have become so familiar over the last few years. Last night they had a dinner for me. Nearly everyone was able to make it, which was very nice. They also gave me a very generous gift which came in a card everyone wrote notes on. We also went for one last China Wok today. It looks like I’ve finally gotten people on to the spicy fish hotpot bandwagon.
I am going to miss being a consultant. It has been an excellent experience for me. I like traveling to new places, I like the flexibility, and I like how the project, the core problem underlying every engagement, changes every few months. Also, I think that my communication skills, project management skills, Excel skills, personal time management skills, and a host of other “soft” skills are immensely better now than when I left college. I wish I had them when I was the Head Counselor, and I certainly hope that they do not erode. I also worry a little bit that other people that I work with in the future (in the Peace Corps or elsewhere) may find me autocratic. In consulting the way we make decisions and divide and delegate tasks is quick and authoritative. We have developed the style because it is efficient, but other people may not be used to it.
If I ever go back to consulting I think there are some things I would do differently. First of all, health needs to be a priority while I am traveling. My weight was a rollercoaster over the two years I was with EY in no small part due to my different eating and activity levels while I was home vs. traveling. However, I do think that travelers need to make time away from their work a priority. A lot of travelers do not like traveling, and a lot of them are also always “too busy” to have a sit down lunch or dinner with their co-workers or friends. I think that is a big reason why they are unhappy about traveling. They wake up early and start working, and they literally do not stop until 10 PM when they go to sleep. Breaking up the day is important because it reminds you that taking time for yourself is important and acceptable even in a client-serving industry. It also sets reasonable expectations about when you are available to be working. If you respond to emails nonstop from 8 AM until 10 PM people will start asking you to do work nonstop from 8 till 10.
Something else I want to keep in mind for business travel is the harm it causes the environment. Air traffic is an enormous source of greenhouse gas emissions, which really do hurt people (anyone else read the article in the NYT Magazine about Kiribati? Rising sea levels is literally causing them to ingest brackish water contaminated with their own feces.). Now, even if one person chooses not to fly, the plane will probably still fly, causing the same harm. However, collectively, consultants are an enormous source of demand for air travel, which sustains the routes flown by the airlines. Consulting firms and clients ought to look into ways to eliminate the negative externality their travel is causing. One thing I can think of is purchasing carbon offsets. Compared to the total expense budget of consulting projects I think that carbon offsets could be absorbed by the clients fairly easily.
With all of these emotions about leaving EY I am also excited about going to Nicaragua (and somewhat nervous). Everyone from the Facebook group seems very friendly, and Mike Hendricks has told me loads of wonderful things about Nicaragua. And before heading down there I still have a ton of personal travel to look forward to.