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I worked at Avascent full-time (More than a year)
Avascent is a great place to work for a variety of reasons. Most of the work is highly engaging, and the diversity of projects ensures that you'll rarely be bored (or if you are, then it won't be for long). The culture is collaborative, authentic, and supportive, and people genuinely enjoy working together. The expectations are high - but this is because the firm wants to achieve excellence, and this requires setting high standards. I also respect that its management supports civic engagement with numerous community service events every year - during the workday, rather than the more common "Yes, you should support the community...but on your own time."
The people are what make the company distinct though. I found my colleagues to be caring, driven, thoughtful, and intellectually curious. The relationships I built there are ones I'll value for years to come.
In my opinion, none of the "Cons" of Avascent are unique to the firm but are common challenges of small firms or of the broader defense industry. Like many entrepreneurial firms, staffing and personal growth can be ad hoc and relationship-based, despite attempts to add structure. This can make it harder for mid-career hires to navigate a path, though the firm has taken many steps to rectify this. And as with the broader defense industry, Avascent is not the most diverse at the top levels of the firm, though it recognizes this as well and is working to improve the situation. I credit its management with working hard to be self-aware of its shortcomings, and putting time and effort into fixing them.
Advice to Management
The improvements you made or were in the process of making while I was there seemed like the right ones. I appreciated the focus on continual improvement, and I suspect the current and future employees will too.
I have been working at Avascent full-time (More than a year)
Senior management is open to learning, hard working employees, interesting work
Still growing, shifting management styles
I worked at Avascent full-time (More than 3 years)
Caring Culture: Avascent is an outstanding company. While the professional benefits are exceptional, the core benefits stem from the unparalleled caring culture. From day 1 the Managing Directors know all of the employees by name. Not only do they know the name of the employees, but they also know their career aspirations and interests outside of the office. This caring culture fosters a collegial and productive working environment that makes leaving the firm so difficult.
Trust: Employees ideas are valued and management gives employees true responsibility. Early on in an employees career at Avascent, analysts are placed in-front of senior clients and asked to directly relay their findings. This empowerment and autonomy helps analysts find value in their work. Avascent does a great job at helping analysts understand the impact of their efforts. These personal client engagement opportunities help to ensure that the work extends beyond powerpoint and into client actions.
Professional Development Opportunities: Avascent staffs employees on multiple engagements simultaneously. This 'leverage model' exposes employees to a variety of different subject matters and client questions. Management does a great job at listening to employee requests and tries to align personal interests with project types. In less than 4 years I worked on over 60 engagements. This exposure helped me grow personally and professionally. Management did not pigeon hole me into one project type to ensure efficiency, but rather was flexible in letting me select my projects to ensure professional development. Additionally, all employees have an open door policy and everyone is on a first name basis. Employees who want to learn are given every opportunity to do so although the onus is often on the employee to ask for help / mentorship.
Demanding - but Flexible Schedule: No one looking for a 9-5 job should apply to Avascent. Rather, Avascent attracts determined, hardworking individuals. While Avascent at times demands long hours, the firm does a great job at acknowledging other non-work priorities / commitments. When working at Avascent I had a client meeting pop-up on a Tuesday at 2pm (well within work hours). I had been hoping to take the afternoon off to go attend a ceremony where my girlfriend was receiving an award. It would have been well within the company's jurisdiction to ask me to miss the ceremony and attend the meeting, but instead the managing director at Avascent called the client and asked if we could reschedule for the following day. The client was more than happy to make this accommodation. Senior leadership at Avascent knows its employees work hard and they want to do anything they can to help employees retain a life outside of the office so long as employees are willing to put in the effort.
Growth Ahead: The company experienced extreme growth in my short four years of employment, but did a great job at maintaining the core values and tight-knit culture. As the firm continues to expand it risks losing some of that 'small firm' feel. With global offices and more on-site engagements teleworking is becoming more commonplace. A huge advantage of Avascent is the office culture and management will need to determine how to secure that while still enabling growth.
Unclear Exit Strategy: Avascent operates much like a start-up and has not institutionalized a process to help employees off-board and pursue other career endeavors. While ~50% of the firm ends up at top business schools (Harvard, Wharton, Tuck, etc.) and much of the remainder goes on to brand-name firms (Google, Uber, ZocDoc) there is not a clear exit strategy and employees often feel like they need to pursue future career options in secrecy. Management is becoming more open to employees leaving, and hopefully will institutionalize a process in the near-future.
Advice to Management
Be careful about how much you give: The high employee turnover means that one-time events (e.g., full summer staycation, christmas break, ipads, etc.) often become expected. Avascent does a great job at rewarding its employees; however, management should be careful to ensure people are always grateful and gifts do not become expected.
Smart, competent colleagues and excellent CEO. Many opportunities for bonding with colleagues outside of work.
Long, unpredictable hours. Company culture might be off-putting to some. Experience may vary greatly depending on project assignments.
Advice to Management
Create a better system for helping junior employees meet their professional development goals.
I worked at Avascent (More than 3 years)
I worked at Avascent for almost four years before leaving this spring for a strategy position at a DC-based media/information services company. In almost every respect, I found it to be an ideal first job for an analytical and self-initiating college graduate, and it prepared me incredibly well for my next step in terms of both skills and experiences.
--Skill Development: Avascent is truly unique in its opportunity set – after a year, I had developed financial modeling skills that surpassed friends at M/B/B; after two years, I was briefing director-level clients; and after three years, I was managing the execution of complex engagements that directly informed strategies for Fortune 500 clients. Rather than throwing its employees into these experiences unprepared, Avascent offers a balanced combination of training and opportunity that enables junior staff to feel confident taking on ever-expanding levels of responsibility.
--Management Experience: Unlike two-and-out peers, Avascent offers the opportunity for its analysts to grow into engagement manager roles. This experience is truly unparalleled – at age 25, you may find yourself directly responsible to a director at a Fortune 500 company with limited top-cover. In order to transition its Consultants (junior engagement managers), Avascent offers a comprehensive course focused on developing managerial skills, which is tailored to personal strengths and weaknesses. Likely because of this early-manager experience and training, I have seen several close friends develop into excellent managers as well as true thought leaders and experts in their fields (cyber, healthcare) while at Avascent. I’ve also seen peers transition into top business schools (HBS, Wharton, Kellogg) as well as strategy roles at innovative companies (Google, Uber, Palantir).
--Work/Life Balance: For a leading consulting firm, the work/life balance at Avascent is excellent. During surge weeks, you may end up working late nights or early mornings; however, even at the Analyst level, Avascent employees are expected to be goal-driven, strategic, efficient and self-regulating. Provided that your work is done well and on time, there is no mandated or expected after-hours time in the office. I found that while juggling a normal (2-project) load, I was frequently able to meet deadlines early by focusing on efficiency and front-loading conversations about anticipated roadblocks or strategic decision points with my supervisors. I also found that, generally, my supervisors and peers were highly accommodating of personal time and obligations, including regular workouts, dinners with my partner or friends, family emergencies, 3-day weekends, and vacations.
--Culture: Culture is truly a differentiator of the Avascent experience. Because of Avascent’s collaborative atmosphere, I developed personal relationships with a wide array of colleagues, many of whom remain close friends. I was truly touched by the level of effort senior management made toward developing my skills and building mentor relationships with me. Many of the managing directors are among the most empathetic and talented leaders I’ve ever met, and the influence of these personalities is evident throughout the company.
--Gender: One critique frequently levied at Avascent is its lack of gender diversity at the top. However, as a woman, I never got the impression that my gender was in any way holding me back at Avascent. I had two highly influential female mentors who provided strong role models for my career development, both as an analyst and as a manager. And due to management’s eagerness to promote gender diversity, I felt confident in my future potential at the company, and never doubted that men and women alike were committed to my success, particularly after I entered a manager role.
--Review Process: My only significant critique of my time at Avascent was that I felt at times the review process could be a bit political and feel slightly "fratty" -- certain outspoken managers would advocate heavily for average-performing employees, while stronger performers were occasionally overlooked due to the happenstance of having worked with quieter voices. However, the company has recognized this issue and when I left, leadership had made significant strides toward "quantifying" the review process to make it more objective.
Advice to Management
--Recruiting: One of Avascent’s great enablers to date has been its ability to recruit “the 1%” of college graduates. I’d encourage management to continue to focus on quality control in the recruiting process—as the company has expanded, I’ve noticed that standards for candidates may have tilted away from raw talent/trainability and toward “interest in the defense industry” or “potential for longevity at Avascent.” To maintain its differentiated human capital position, the company should dedicate focus toward continuing to attract individuals with intelligence, ambition and horsepower, not on ensuring that they’ll stay forever.
--Developing Junior Leadership: At times, junior leaders (e.g., Senior Associates / Principals) do not seem to be appropriately coached for shortfalls in downward management, which can, in select instances, create a negative atmosphere among project teams. I’d encourage the promotion of a “culture above all else” mentality. Specifically, Senior Associates who have strong numbers but negative upward reviews should be mandated to develop these skills prior to consideration of the Principal role.
I worked at Avascent full-time (More than a year)
I left Avascent when I moved away from DC for personal reasons, and I can honestly say that I miss it and wish I didn't have to leave. When I was going through my job search, my criteria were basically: "I want to find a company just like Avascent in this new city." I feel so lucky to have found this place right out of college! Not only did it set me up for success in my career skills-wise, but the down-to-earth culture and people made my time there very happy. I am still best friends with some of my coworkers from Avascent. Some of the best things about the company are:
- Avascent lets you grow at your pace and build the skills you want: The culture there is very flat (the Partners don't travel as much as at other firms, so you get to know them as people), so you can take on as much responsibility on projects as you want. This prevented me from getting bored, since as soon as I got good at research/modeling, I could take on more managerial roles. On a project level, managers are also responsive to what you say you want to work on, so I was able to develop my modeling skills and avoid tasks I didn't like as much.
- Avascent's community is one-of-a-kind: While there, I really took for granted the mentorship system (you get a Buddy who is your peer, and an Adviser who is higher up). I felt like I could be completely open with both of my mentors, and even talk about tricky professional situations. My Adviser went above and beyond to help me develop skills, even suggesting workshops in the area and running through practice client briefs with me.
- Avascent is flexible and responsive: One of the most important things in a job for me is having autonomy over my time, and Avascent is the only company I have worked for that offers that. The culture is that as long as you get your work done well, how and when is up to you. Especially in the consulting industry, finding a firm that values your work/life balance is near impossible. All my coworkers there had lives outside of work and got to explore DC, which I think is invaluable to have happy employees.
One of the most frequent questions I got asked my Avascent applicants during interviews was about a woman's experience in a defense consulting firm. To be completely honest, I think that being a woman actually helped me at Avascent. Yes, there are more men than women (because it is defense and more men than women are in the field), but Avascent is actively trying to empower women. I felt like my career path there (if I had been able to stay) was more secure because I was a woman, and the company is trying to retain women. There is even a "Women in the Workplace" initiative - founded by one of my friends - where people in the company gather to discuss professional topics (e.g. how women feel in a room full of men, how to speak more confidently...)
As with any consulting firm, a lot depends on the personalities of the people there. I was able to find my place, but the culture can get a little fratty and some higher ups do indulge in favoritism. My only other critique is with regards to the staffing process. Occasionally, I would be staffed onto projects out of the blue - or even pulled off an existing project - which was stressful. I think the company still has to adjust to its growth phase, so there will be some kinks to iron out on the processes side (e.g. staffing, reviews...)
Advice to Management
It is hard, but finding a way to combine the "we're not a two-years-and-out" mentality with "it's normal to have some turnover" philosophy could go a long way towards staff feeling more comfortable when there is a surge of people leaving in the spring every year. Right now, people still kind of freak out whenever someone leaves, but the truth is that it is totally normal. Even though it is not a two-years-and-out place, some people are going to naturally want to move on and that has nothing to do with the company.
I worked at Avascent full-time
- Excellent Opportunities: The best summary of the experience I can give is that Avascent gives you enough freedom/independence to test/push yourself, but enough support to help you if you stumble or if you hit a roadblock. It is the perfect mix for someone in their "first" job. Out of undergrad, I was excited and anxious to start my career. Avascent proved to be the best place to begin. As a smaller consulting firm, I was quickly relied upon to become the "expert" in whatever I was researching. In my first six months, I had opportunities to sit in on and actually brief clients (which are typically the business units of the largest A&D contractors in the industry). I was also a key part of new internal initiatives, which was rewarding and helped me gain an insight and appreciation for working in a small, entrepreneurial environment. When I started, we were about 70 people full-time. Now, we have grown to almost 120 and that growth has brought on new internal challenges that the traditional/larger M/B/B firms have already figured out. There are certainly more challenges ahead for a young company, but that provides motivated,
- Dual Staffing Model: At Avascent, analysts are typically working on at least two projects at a time. Personally, I enjoyed the model because I always felt in control of my time and experience. Anytime I felt exhausted with researching a specific topic, I could pivot over to my other work and re-engage later. Professionally, the model taught me a lot about managing time; I would often have to come up with a plan for the week to meet various deadlines and team check-ins across two teams. In that same vein, the model also taught me very quickly about how to upward manage. If something pressing came up for one project, I had to communicate that to my other team/manager, and we would have to develop a plan to incorporate the new reality.
- Phenomenal Post-Avascent Roster: While recruiting in undergrad, I would say that the majority of folks I met at every consulting/finance networking session were excited to do interesting work but also use their first job as a stepping stone to their next job or career goal. One thing few at Avascent mention is the excellent doors it opens through giving employees a wealth of experience in strategy consulting and working in a (relatively) small and entrepreneurial environment. Since my start date, we have had Avascent alumni go onto great graduate programs (e.g., HBS, Wharton, MIT, Dartmouth Tuck, Kellogg, UVA) as well as great companies (e.g., Google, Uber, Palantir). Experienced/seasoned employees have also found opportunities within the A&D sector working for $1B+ prime contractors. So, for me at least, this company gives you responsibility/exposure unlike a bigger firm might be able to offer (e.g., briefing clients right away, project manager role very quickly into your career), does NOT force you to leave after 2-3 years (e.g., many friends have transitioned to the PM role and now execute the day-to-day management responsibility of projects which has expanded their professional toolkit and will certainly help them in the future), AND those who do exit go onto top-10 business schools, great companies, or clients. If you're an undergrad student wondering if starting your career at a small consulting firm won't let you get into a top business school, I would ask you to seriously consider that position and get in touch with someone at the company who can tell you about what they've seen in their peer group.
- Great Culture: I strongly believe this is the hardest place to leave. I have built lifelong friendships and great professional networks while at Avascent. We don't travel to client sites M-Th like some other firms, so I was able to grab lunch or drinks after work with people that weren't on my case teams. I was also in a long-distance relationship, and my managers were always accommodating to my personal travel schedule. And, in the last two weeks, I had a series of informal "exit" interviews with the Managing Directors and seniors at the firm. I cannot articulate how stunned I was when some of the MDs who I had only worked with a few times knew such detailed parts about my Avascent career, my personality, and my professional growth and development here. From top to bottom, everyone at the company took an interest in me and made me feel like a part of the team.
- Challenges Ahead: I think the biggest "con" for someone considering a job at Avascent is there is uncertainty and unforeseen challenges ahead. As the company grows, there will be new growing pains. I would not recommend someone looking for a 9-6 job look here, because the truth is sometimes you will have to stay late or pick up extra work.
- Getting Caught in a Cycle: I think that all too often, the same people got staffed to the same projects/teams, which shouldn't be the case when we have a dual staffing model and want to give people new experiences. See Advice to Management for my recommendation.
Advice to Management
- "Term Limits": I think there should be some sort of staffing protocol instituted so that no analyst is on the same project team for more than X projects (3 in my opinion). As an analyst, it would have been difficult to say to a project manager/senior that I wanted to try other things because of the relationships I am building and the hopes that the person can set me up for success in my career reviews. I think term limits would reduce the burn out on projects/subject matter that might not be as interesting to an analyst.
- Promote Post-Avascent Success: The company should leverage this more in reaching out to undergrads at top schools. Especially the business school placement, but also the fact that the experience can be transferred to other companies in other industries is very important to message to potential recruits.
I have been working at Avascent full-time
Senior management exhibits a constant drive to improve the both the work environment and advancement opportunities for their employees.
Work/life balance can be tricky to maintain; working late seems to be a regular occurrence for employees from mid level management on down, across the firm.
Advice to Management
Keep listening to junior staff about growing pains, and thank you!
I worked at Avascent full-time (Less than a year)
-Avascent provides a very generous salary to its employees, and yearly bonuses are also large
-The projects are one works on are challenging
-Avascent's office is in the center of downtown DC near Farragut Square
-Strong focus on aerospace, defense, and government-driven projects
-Everyone working at Avascent is incredibly intelligent
-Work-life balance is very poor; unless you are very good at setting boundaries and influencing a project scope you will find yourself working 60 or more hours per week as a rule
-Analysts and managers are not motivated by understanding new topics but rather by money and a fear of failure
-Quality of project managers is very uneven; some make Analysts feel valued and others pay more attention to the Powerpoint deck than their team
-Project managers and senior management are often at odds regarding the goals or priorities for specific client projects
-Difficult for new employees to feel like accepted members of the team
Advice to Management
As Avascent works hard to have a different culture, it should be much more clear about its cultural values. Candidates should be familiar with the most salient positive and negative aspects of the culture. The consulting staff who interview potential Analysts for a job should focus on finding clear cultural fits for the organization, and not just on sector knowledge. This might improve employee retention.
I worked at Avascent as an intern (Less than a year)
- Caring, friendly, smart people. Nothing beats a work environment in which you are surrounded by extremely intelligent individuals who motivate you to do better while being extremely collaborative and wanting to get to know you. Avascent truly seems like a great team, even outside working hours.
- The nature of the job. Whether you're interested in government, business, or anything in between, you will always be able to carve out a phenomenal, personal professional experience that sets you up for success. It is a truly mind-opening environment.
- Responsibility. Being a relatively lean, dynamic, start-up-like consulting firm, if you work hard you can quickly gain ownership over a vast array of work. Unparalleled by many other firms.
- Small cons are attributed to growing pains or the state of development of the firm, thus cannot be truly attributed to any deliberate flaw.
Advice to Management
- Expand the international footprint of the firm, both in the US and other locations.
- Expand recruiting efforts to really project an image of the firm that shows how competitive it is, even in comparison with the big three or other larger advisory firms.
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