I have been working at Altman Vilandrie & Company full-time (More than a year)
Great place to learn and progress rapidly
Variable work hours often leading to long hours
I worked at Altman Vilandrie & Company full-time
- Strong exposure to high level clients
- Extensive experience with Excel and Powerpoint
- Extreme involvement in B2B telecom
- AV&Co. sells itself as a TMT firm, but many will only be exposed to B2B telecom projects
- Cliquey culture and favoritism determines staffing and opportunities for growth. For example, post-MBA consultants are routinely treated much worse socially and professionally than those who join out of undergrad and work their way up
- Directors have expectations that staff working on projects will be available every night (including weekends) until the wee hours. Saturday morning client meetings are not unheard of
Advice to Management
Figure out how to ameliorate the favoritism issue. This is tough since it is ingrained in your most high level and successful people, since it got them to where they are. Other people (looking for a meritocracy) leave
• Emphasis on attention to detail and application of more quantitative rigor than most consulting peers give AV&Co. a well-earned reputation for quality work throughout the industry
• Entry-level staff are asked to build sophisticated models in Excel, a responsibility that would be reserved for more experienced consultants elsewhere
• Low travel policy enables close camaraderie among peers; strong attendance at company-sponsored happy hours and events strengthens the sense of community
• Alums go on to coveted positions at impressive companies
• A typical workweek is ~65-70+ hours, with the extremes pushing 90-100. This has appeared to improve in recent months, but there also seems to be a cyclic nature to work life balance pushes, improvement, a pat on the back by leadership, and a return to the original hours. Compensation is typical for consulting, but you'll consistently work closer to investment banking hours.
• No matter what is reviewed on here, there seems to be a crop of eager, intelligent new hires itching to join every fall. Leadership knows this and manages junior staff ("resources") accordingly, fully expecting to burn through newer hires in under two years.
• This ambivalence toward retention is felt at every level of the firm, as evidenced by several high profile management committee departures in recent months and near-complete turnover of analyst classes every two years (the factor retaining the vast majority of junior employees for even that long is not job satisfaction but rather the absence of enough free time to apply to and interview for other jobs). In spite of this known retention problem, hastily made hires are routinely pushed out by management (i.e. left unstaffed for several months with the expectation that they'd seek employment elsewhere).
• The knowledge that all of this is inevitable combined with a prioritization of client satisfaction over employee satisfaction and misaligned incentive structure (management is compensated on commission, not effective leadership) may help explain the inefficiency of work and consistent late nights.
• One of the founders' disdain for junior employees (or perhaps all employees) is often palpable and his attempts to relate are obliviously tonedeaf; everyone without exception has a horror story in this regard. The other founder is revered but rarely around.
• The firm positions itself as a meritocracy, but quality of project experience and quality of professional advisorship varies significantly, rendering a fair comparison across employees impossible and favoring those with lower pressure projects or stronger personal relationships with leadership. An empty promise of promotion is often used as a bargaining chip for retention.
• Leadership is almost entirely male (there is one female principal), making it difficult for women to find role models/mentors and envision themselves growing at the firm.
• The firm has grown from a once close-knit community to a larger organization, but office gossip has remained strong. It may once have been innocent, but now it's far more insidious; personal and professional matters that should be kept confidential are indiscriminately spread among leadership.
• The firm pitches itself as focused on TMT, but be aware that in practice this is much more of a 60/40 split between private equity due diligence work on tech/telecom infrastructure (think fiber, cell towers, data centers) and everything else.
Advice to Management
• Find a way to message to your staff that they are valued. Thank people for their hard work always, not just after complaints of all-nighters and major personal sacrifices. Do not minimize their requests as whining; do not complain that they are expensive (this is a common occurrence and very inappropriate behavior).
• Incentivize good leadership, not just project sales; support leadership in walking away from bad clients.
• Either be more selective in hiring or stand by hiring decisions and invest time and energy in training/professional development; stop flailingly hiring en masse and then lazily labeling people as underperformers - it's not as sneaky as you think and it's bad for already low morale.
• Invest more in mentorship and build out your alumni network.
I have been working at Altman Vilandrie & Company full-time
- Generally very high quality work, feel good about giving accurate, impactful insights and recommendations. It's the top TMT-focused strategy consulting firm in the US because of their high standards for their work
- Supportive peer culture; incredible people that want to help you learn the ropes and will become some of your closest friends
- Invest in people; they spend a lot of time, effort, and money on employees: company sponsored happy hours every Friday, ski trip, special events, etc. as well a concerted effort over the past few years to improve the day-to-day experience with committees focused on W/L balance, the Analyst program, professional development, etc. and some pointed policy changes and initiatives that have made a noticeable impact
- Variable experiences; especially within your first year, employees will have very different experiences depending on who they work with, what types of projects they are on, etc. Some of this is unavoidable, but more can be done to even it out.
-Long hours; There are very high expectations here for high quality work, which can often lead to long, unpredictable hours. The culture of "overdelivering" is slowly changing, but it will always be there somewhat - not 100% a bad thing
-Operational inefficiency - despite its preeminence in TMT strategy consulting, this is not an old, established company that has all of its policies and procedures solidly nailed down. Right now, management is in the midst of implementing new policies, changing procedures and programs, etc. so there is some organizational uncertainty that can be frustrating to some people. It's in the flux stage between a start-up and an established professional services firm, and still trying to figure out its identity
Advice to Management
Figure out what you want to be and how you want to get there, tell people what that plan is, and then hold everyone to it.
I worked at Altman Vilandrie & Company full-time (More than a year)
The junior consulting staff (analysts and consultants) at AV&Co. is comprised of brilliant and witty people who can become invaluable life-long friends.
AV&Co. will force you to develop skills (e.g., Excel modeling, Powerpoint slide creation) that will allow you to succeed in your next job.
Overall, it is important to consider that the average tenure of analysts and (post-MBA) consultants is ~18 months; feel free to ask current employees for this metric during your interview process. While many people consider 2 years the norm for consulting, it should be informative to potential employees that the vast majority of new hires are gone before 1.5 years. The discerning applicant may realize that this is why AV&Co. has recently enlisted several headhunting firms to help source "off-cycle" hires.
The quality of life at AV&Co. is vastly worse than at other peer consulting firms. On the average project, one can expect to receive requests around midnight each night for new work. While workload necessarily varies from project to project, on the whole AV&Co. directors are unable or unwilling to push back against client demands and scope creep.
There is extreme favoritism and a culture of gossip within the firm, perhaps due to its small size. Concerns mentioned in confidence to HR or staffing by junior consulting staff are routinely "accidentally" mentioned to the management committee. Staffing is handled by one woman who will publicly mention to other staff that certain individuals are "under-performing."
Quality of life varies widely from individual to individual, and changing this is beyond one's control. As mentioned above, favoritism and unchecked politics leads to wide staffing discrepancies. It is not uncommon for one employee to repeatedly find themselves on 3-week diligences and averaging >75 hour weeks until they leave the firm, while another will routinely be staffed to months-long qualitative projects requiring 45/hours of weekly work. Please note that the employees in the latter group are likely to stay longer and thus be the ones present at "sell day" type events, sharing their positive experiences with prospective hires.
There is 1 female member out of the ~30-member management committee. While one could argue this is an industry-wide problem rather than an AV&Co. specific issue, it's not clear to me that AV&Co. has taken any action to support female employees. On the contrary, this gender dynamic can create some 1950s-era scenes (think all-female admin staff delivering lunch to male managers' offices). Female prospective analysts should consider how this ratio may effect their ability to find a mentor with whom they identify; having a personal advocate is important due to the political nature of AV&Co. staffing, reviews, and promotions.
Bright, interesting people; competitive pay and benefits; casual and entrepreneurial environment. Generous company events, lunch 2x. a week.
Infrastructure still evolving - company is at inflection point but some good leadership work is on the horizon.
Specific industry focus, boutique experience, smaller firm size and lack of travel lets you get to know your coworkers better
Narrow industry focus and boutique experience can be either a pro or a con. Longer hours than my peers in consulting, but better than banking. Culture could be better.
Great company. Salaries on par with the big names. Interesting projects, especially for those who are interested in TMT and don't want a generalist role.
Brand name is less known outside the TMT industry.
Advice to Management
I worked at Altman Vilandrie & Company full-time (More than 3 years)
If you can handle the hours (see cons below), then AV&Co. is a great place to work. In particular, I think AV&Co. provides likely unparalleled runway, opportunities, and pace for professional development.
Before I dive deeper into the professional development piece, here are some other quick hit pros:
- Low travel: You'll likely average ~2 trips of a couple days each for most of your projects. Rarely will you find yourself on a classic Monday to Thursday management-consulting style travel project. In addition to the benefit of actually getting to live in the city you chose to be in, this also means more opportunities to build relationships with your coworkers, from peers up to the most senior-level members of the company, including the founders
- Industry focus: There's plenty of variety within TMT (even with AV&Co's heavy emphasis on telecom), but the focus still means that you'll more quickly develop area expertise (which translates to more respect and engagement from clients) and avoid the risk of a generalist firm that you get staffed on something you find truly boring (assuming you find technology interesting)
- Strategy focus: AV&Co's 'Strategy'-focused nature means that you're almost never working on internal efficiencies, cost-cutting initiatives, BU-reorganizations, or process improvement projects (read: real 'management consulting' is about firing people) -- instead, you'll generally be working on questions like "should we launch this product, or buy this company, or enter this market" or projects focused on a more limited scope within this vein (e.g. competitive research, growth initiative business cases, customer data analysis, network deployment planning)
- Analytical bent, and dedication to quality work: Let's be honest, AV&Co. has a bit of a chip on its shoulder as a challenger to big-3 consulting firms for client business (frequently goes head-to-head with Bain/McKinsey/BCG, and frequently wins depending on what the client is looking for). When combined with some fanatically detail-oriented senior leaders, this means a serious dedication to high quality work. AV&Co also has a strong analytical bent, and which means you can be confident that anyone who makes it to senior analyst has real chops (including you, if you can cut it). You will become an excel expert, and probably become pretty proficient with large-data manipulation (either in SQL or SAS).
OK, on professional development: AV&Co has (IMO) a remarkably transparent and fair review process, and truly places no artificial boundaries to how fast you can move up the ladder -- at least up to the consultant (post-MBA) position. If anything, the risk is the opposite: the expectation is that you will be constantly reaching for stretch opportunities technically above your role's definition, and there will be disappointment if you're perceived as resting on your laurels. You'll get formal project reviews after every project (multiple for projects that are over 6 months), and unlike the big-3's 2 or 3-year, time-oriented up-or-out approach, promotions at AV&Co. are evaluated every 6 months regardless of tenure.
AV&Co loves promoting senior analysts straight to the consultant ('post-mba') position without an MBA. Making Manager may or may not be more political (there are more obvious potential math problems there on the ratio of managers to other staff, but I have no hard evidence of someone getting their promotion unduly delayed, and in one cycle a perhaps irresponsible number of manager promotes were made at once). Making it to partner/director level is a tough transition: there's an unfortunate inverse relationship between time/effort being a good manager and time/effort one can devote to selling projects, which is the required next step for principal.
I wish I could have started with cons, because it's pretty simple: The hours can be long, with high variability and short visibility. A slow week is ~50 hours. A standard week is ~65 hours. A bad week is ~75 hours. A terrible week (on average, a handful of these per year) is 80+ hours. 'Beach time', very rare if you're performing well, is of course a different story. So, not as bad as your I-banker friends, but not easy.
If you've never worked hours like this, I encourage you to do some simple math in your head: a normal 65 hour week, if you're starting work at 9am, you're not working the weekend, and you're getting out at ~5pm on a Friday, translates to an average of ~11:30pm Monday-Thursday.
If the trade-off of benefits (pros listed above) vs. long hours is worth it to you (it certainly was for me), then I can't recommend AV&Co. more highly.
A bit more context on hours, lack of beach time, and AV&Co's general issues: AV&Co. has never had a problem selling projects and growing revenue each year. AV&Co. has had perennial problems hiring and retaining enough folks at a rate to match their annual increase in business. So, over the past few years, each year's 'peak season' would get longer and longer, with less and less 'beach time' across the organization, and more and more cases of unfortunate overlap between projects (below manager level, all consulting staff is on a single-project staffing model). These are great problems to have from a business perspective, but not great from a work-life trend perspective. However, as I was leaving AV&Co, awareness of these issues among the management was coming to a head, and I believe they've taken earnest steps to rectify the situation in the start of this year with a hiring push. I can't speak to the results of that effort.
Advice to Management
Most of you are aging-out of cultural participation. This is going to have long-term negative impact on the cultural strength of the company (think happy hours and ski trips with only analysts in attendance). This is compounded by the insistence that Boston remain the 'main' office, when most of your culturally active junior leadership isn't in the Boston office. Also, let's be clear that this isn't a one-off thing: it's a fact of life that, ceteris paribus, most of your young, motivated, smart folks are going to prefer NYC or SF to Boston (I'm not one of those folks, but it's true).
I would encourage you all to make an effort to stay engaged (make sure that a management committee member is at every happy hour if possible), and stop fighting the inevitable that NYC and maybe even SF should be the 'starter' office for most new hires within 5 years. Otherwise, you're just like our more dinosaur-like clients fighting/denying the impact of the latest big technology trend.
I have been working at Altman Vilandrie & Company (Less than a year)
I have had a great experience during my time at this organization. This is the first time I have ever written a review regarding my employer. From the top the vision is transparent; you are invited in the "circle of trust" on day one; getting to soak in intellectual knowledge from industry leaders. Secondly the meritocracy they promote is real; I've consulted for Amazon and Facebook and Apple.... all these companies talk about a merit based environment but few implement it. If you are looking to blend in - join fidelity - but id you truly seek to make a difference and have your voice hear AV&Co is the place for you.
I would love to see some type of presidents club award given to top performers company wide. Where the recipients are given a week trip on the firm.This isn't even a con; its more of a suggestion box item.
Advice to Management
Keep up the good work. We solve problems that some of the greatest companies in the world believe are unsolvable.... and we have fun doing so. Thank you for providing such an engaging environment and quality coworkers, it makes work fun each day!
This will replace the current featured review for targeted profile. Are you sure you want to replace it?
Are you sure you want to remove this review from being featured for targeted profile?