Conversation with Cartesian

I recently had the good fortune to talk briefly with Adam Fraser who is a Business Analyst at Cartesian.

Cartesian is a specialist provider of consulting services and managed solutions to leaders in the global communications, technology and digital media industries.

Please read the edited transcript of my discussion with Adam below. This will be of particular interest for students and recent graduates who have an interest in the telecoms sector.

Tom: Adam, nice to finally get a chance to talk with you. What is your role at Cartesian?

Adam Fraser: I’m a Business Analyst at Cartesian. I have been with the firm for about 5 months, joining straight out of undergraduate. I work with a variety of companies, typically in the telecoms industry, who are looking for help in formulating strategic approaches to problems; for example, a company looking to enter a new geography or improve their internal procedures, et cetera.

Tom: Cartesian provides consulting in strategy, execution and managed solutions to clients in the global communications, technology and digital media industries. Are graduates expected to pick an industry specialisation?

Adam Fraser: No, nothing like that. You just get involved with everything. They don’t get you to pick particular projects. If you have a preference you can state it, but I think it would be dangerous to limit yourself professionally-speaking.

Tom: Cartesian has offices in Boston, Kansas City, London, New York and Washington.

Are there opportunities for consultants to work with different offices or transfer between offices?

Adam Fraser: On occasion, yes, moving from London to the U.S. has been done, and sometimes people will go to work on a project for a few months at a time. However, there is not a lot of overlap in terms of personnel between the U.S. and London offices. Typically, interaction with an overseas office will involve working in tandem on the same project, without the transfer of personnel to foreign offices.

Tom: What kind of training and mentoring can graduates expect to receive at Cartesian?

Adam Fraser: There is a two-week [on-boarding] training process, followed by Brown Bag sessions (internal training) and external training. Cartesian uses various software packages for analysis, one of which is called Alteryx, and the training teaches you the basics of the software. They will also teach you PowerPoint and Excel skills, and teach you about the key clients that we tend to deal with, for example, companies in the telecoms industry. Beyond this, you receive a great deal of on-the-job training.

Tom: How much client contact can business analysts expect to have at Cartesian?

Adam Fraser: At the business analyst level, you have the opportunity to engage with, and present to, clients and have quite a bit of client interaction, including traveling to client sites.

Tom: What is the firm’s travel model? How much time do Cartesian’s consultants spend on-site with the client?

Adam Fraser: At the business analyst level, not a huge amount of time is spent on-site, it’s mostly in the office. It depends on the particular project you’re working on, though. Some projects may require you to travel to another country and be on-site every day.

Tom: What would you say distinguishes Cartesian from other management consulting firms?

Adam Fraser: I would say, firstly, that the people are really nice, and there is a positive atmosphere. People are interested in what you want to do with your career rather than progression within the organisation itself.

I don’t know anyone here who doesn’t have a good work life balance.

Cartesian consists of strategy and execution departments and the majority of employees are involved with execution and managed solutions. This means that the work atmosphere is probably very unlike other consultancies, like McKinsey or Bain.

Tom: How many graduates is Cartesian looking to hire in the coming year?

Adam Fraser: In the next round of intakes which will be in summer between July and September we will probably take around 2-3 business analysts. We will take any number of experienced hires. It depends on when we find the right people.

Tom: Which universities do you recruit from?

Adam Fraser: The firm will accept applications from anywhere, but they tend to focus on Oxford and Cambridge in the UK for their recruitment processes. However, other Universities are also heavily weighted in terms of judging someone’s academic performance. The firm puts weight on your academic background and you do not have to have experience in the telecoms industry to be hired at the entry level.

Tom: When is the next round of application deadlines?

Adam Fraser: We will begin the new process of recruiting with careers events in October. The application deadline typically falls in around November time.

Tom: Does Cartesian use the case interview in its recruitment process? How many interview rounds are there?

Adam Fraser: Yes, they do. They give you a situation and ask you to do some form of analysis which is mostly quantitative. However, the candidates are not fully judged on obtaining the correct answer, but rather the methodology with which they approach the scenario.

There were two rounds of interviews. Within two weeks of each other. The process is fairly quick.

Tom: Does Cartesian employ an “up or out” policy?

Adam Fraser: No, we don’t have that philosophy.

Tom: How are consultants reviewed?

Adam Fraser: There is a 6 monthly review process.

Tom: What exit opportunities have Cartesian’s consultants pursued in recent years?

Adam Fraser: Different things. Many will move on to the telecoms industry, because they have an expertise in the area. Others may start their own company.

Tom: Is there any additional information that you think would be helpful for candidates but which I haven’t covered?

Adam Fraser: If you are unsure about which consultancy to choose, the one thing you get at Cartesian is daily exposure to experts in the telecoms industry, including Cartesian employees and clients (operators, engineers, et cetera). It is one of the best consultancies if you want to become an industry expert at the same time as learning the consultancy craft.