Join us each month for a series highlighting the unique career journey of employees.
This month, we talk to Boston Office Partner and National Financial Services Practice Lead Errol Yudelman.
1. When did you start with Centric? Tell me about your career path.
I started working with Centric in June 2010 on a project for Harvard University Press. I was a temporary employee for six months before going full-time at the end of December 2010.
After completing my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and serving in the South African Navy for two years, I joined Arthur Andersen (now Accenture) in Johannesburg, South Africa. As a member of the computer consulting group, I developed systems using Cobol for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
This was a troubling time in South Africa, with riots in the streets and lots of uncertainty for the future of the country. So my wife and I decided that we would join my sister in the United States. We were not sure whether this would be a permanent move, but arrived in Washington D.C. and, given my consulting experience, I joined Arthur Young (became Ernst & Young with the merger), where I worked for two years.
Most of my clients were in the federal sector (Library of Congress, Navy Supply and more) and my focus was on IT strategy and systems analysis. But I was interested in broadening beyond IT, so I decided that an MBA would be the best way to go and was accepted into Harvard’s two-year MBA program (1989 to 1991).
After finishing my MBA, I looked into product management and consulting roles – and finally decided to go back into consulting with CSC Index, which was focused on re-engineering. It was a good fit for me because it allowed me to combine my IT experience and business background from my MBA to help companies transform their key processes.
After six years and a growing family, I felt that travel with CSC Index was getting to be too much, so I sought a role at a company with minimal travel. I joined Fidelity Investment’s internal consulting group, which was focused on helping the business units within Fidelity address organizational, process and strategic issues. I was in this role for six years at which time I joined the Fidelity Charitable business unit as the head of product development and planning.
2. How did you end up in consulting?
My education – a BSc and MSc in Engineering – and experience building things while at the South African Navy led to my decision to be in computer consulting, specifically software development.
It also helped that I had friends at Arthur Andersen, in the Audit group. They recommended that I explore the Consulting group. Given that it was a U.S.-based organization that would allow me to travel to Chicago a few times a year, it was a no-brainer.
What could be better than developing systems, traveling, and learning new things!
3. If you had to pinpoint a definitive moment in your career, what would that be?
When I was at Fidelity’s consulting group, I helped build the Retirement Income Program in the early 2000’s. Many insurance companies had developed products and service models to address the high number of baby boomers who would need to convert their retirement savings into income and, because of Fidelity’s dominance in the Retirement accumulation phase, they needed to establish this program to be competitive.
We formed a new cross-functional team as part of this program. I really enjoyed building this new capability. And that’s when I realized the more I could do of this type of work – building – the more I would enjoy my work.
This contributed to my decision to help grow a relatively small business unit at Fidelity (Fidelity Charitable) and then later to join Centric Consulting’s Boston office (which has almost tripled in revenue in the seven years I have been in the group). This is also why I have enjoyed projects such as building out the digital capability for Harvard University Press and establishing a governance and controls group for the Cybersecurity organization within a large Financial Services company.
4. How does your current role fit into your career path/goals?
I am currently a Director at the Centric Boston office, where I manage our key strategic accounts, help to grow our business in the New England region and serve as the National Financial Services Lead for the company.
My role fits well with my career goals and passion, which is to build new capabilities for clients, grow our business through great project work, and expand our relationships.
5. What are some unique, funny or interesting stories you can share about your career journey?
I’ll share two stories with you – one includes some career-related advice, and the other one is just too good of a story not to share
When I was working at Fidelity, one of the executives provided sage advice about managing careers – a career path is like rock climbing. Sometimes one climbs up and at other times one needs to go laterally or down to be in a position to move forward in one’s career.
Who would have known I would be a Patriots Fan? When I was working at Arthur Andersen in Johannesburg, one of our partners was from the U.S. It was 1986 and he thought it would be fun for his team at the company to watch a tape: the XX (20th) Super Bowl (for the 1985 season) between the New England Patriots and the Chicago Bears.
We knew nothing about American Football in South Africa as the big sports were rugby and cricket. There were no international cable channels back then, so we got together at his house and watched this strange game. All I can recall is that the Bears had this awesome player with a hard to forget nickname – William ‘The Fridge” Perry. The Bears won the game 46-10 that year….. Fast forward to 1989 and my wife and I move up to Boston, still knowing very little about American Football, but both avid sports fans.
Living in Boston, it is hard not to get caught up in the sports culture – and over the years we have become ardent supporters of all Boston sports teams. But we had to wait until 2001 for the Patriots to win a Super Bowl title against the St Louis Rams (20-17). I guess we can say I’ve come full circle – from the day in Johannesburg where the Arthur Andersen partner brought us the Super Bowl tape to now.
6. What motivates your career and drives you to keep going?
So many things motivate me on a daily basis, but here are three that drive me the most:
Making a difference by delivering results with my clients – Typically, clients have a need for external consultants because they have a challenge that needs to be solved – for example building out a technology solution, program managing a complex cross-organizational initiative, or re-engineering their key processes. There are typically numerous points of view at a client that need to be resolved.
What sets Centric apart is our focus on execution, which, in most cases means that we have delivered something tangible for our clients. The key to being successful in execution is our ability to facilitate discussions among key stakeholders to get to the appropriate alignment and buy-in for moving forward.
Building our team in Boston – In the seven years I have been with Centric, we have grown from four to 25 full-time employees in our local business unit. Bringing new members to our team and helping them grow and develop is one of the most rewarding and motivating aspects of my work.
Building new products and capabilities for clients – I love to get involved in the early stages of an initiative, where there are many different aspects that need to be brought together with a plan for the build-out. Let’s go back to my example from earlier, where Fidelity wanted to develop a Retirement Income Program for investors looking to get a steady stream of income in retirement.
We had this idea and needed to bring together a cross-section of key stakeholders from across the company to develop a plan that included life insurance, investment management, distribution (i.e. how this new product would be distributed to current customers and prospects), marketing and retirement income tools. Over a period of months, the team was formed, products were developed, and the program was launched.
7. Please describe consulting at Centric. What is this job like? Describe what your typical day looks like.
My day starts out with an early morning run, which provides me the opportunity to think about the day ahead and what I should focus on. After my run, I will quickly check my email to see if there is anything important to take care of before heading to one of my local clients, where I typically oversee a number of projects. At my client’s office, I meet with our team to get updates on the projects we are working on, help team members with deliverables or plans, and attend meetings with the client (on a current project we have two team meetings a week and daily touch points with our client lead).
In addition to supporting my clients, I will meet with prospects in the Boston area about their challenges and whether they need the help that Centric can provide, whether that be in business consulting (e.g. process improvement, change management, strategy development, etc.) or technology consulting (e.g. data and analytics, implementing collaboration solutions, digital strategy, etc.).
I really enjoy these conversations as they provide me with insights into the problems that companies have that need to be resolved. I have found that it’s important to listen intently and ask lots of questions to develop a deep understanding of how Centric can potentially help.
As the lead for our Financial Services practice, I may get an email or call from one of my colleagues in another city about a question they have from a client they are working with or a prospective client they are talking to. This role keeps me connected to the broader organization, which is great since we are a geographically dispersed company.
Since the company, and our Boston office, continues to grow, we are always looking for great consultants to add to the team. I like to network with former colleagues to see whether they may be interested in working at Centric and will also interview candidates who are considering a role with us.
I enjoy the opportunity to do a number of different things during a typical day – it makes the job interesting and rewarding – providing many opportunities for learning new things as well as sharing insights with clients and networking with colleagues and potential employees.
8. What did your recruiting process look like? Did you find Centric, or did we find you?
One of my colleagues from CSC Index, Russell Brackett, had joined Centric about six months before I started as a temporary employee. And our recruiter, who I also knew from CSC Index, had posted an opportunity for a Program Manager for a project at Harvard University Press on LinkedIn.
It seemed like a good opportunity for me and also allowed me to experience what Centric was like before committing to a full-time role.
9. Is your practice currently hiring? Or, is the company currently hiring for roles like yours? If so, what positions are open?
Very much so. We are currently looking to fill a number of roles, including business analysts, project managers and senior managers – and are actively looking for experienced consultants who can help us grow the Boston practice. Check out our job postings here.
10. What mix of skills, personality, and values do you find most important for a consulting role like yours?
I’ll break it down to five skills that are most desirable in consulting:
- Listening skills – In our business, we need to pay close attention to our client’s needs and help them with those needs. A recipe for failure is to come to clients with a strong point of view about how they should do things without understanding their pain points and what it will take for them to be successful.
- Knowing how to think before you do – Consultants should use good judgment when confronted with a problem and not immediately jump to conclusions. They should take time to consider the facts and to get feedback from clients and their peers before reaching a decision.
- Flexibility – It’s important for consultants to adjust their work style to accommodate the schedule, budget and overall requirements of the project. This is particularly true when needing to ensure high quality of deliverables within finite time and budget constraints.
- Involve Others – Being able to say “I don’t know, but I know people who do know” is a very good answer to a question. Consultants are not expected to know everything. As an example, if your client has a question related to finance issues, consult with a financial expert to help your client solve the problem.
- Outstanding Communication Skills – Consultants should have excellent oral and written communication skills. Since we are hired to help influence the organization and are often viewed as subject matter experts, consultants should be able to effectively communicate with all levels of the client’s organization.
11. What tips would you share with future Centric recruits?
Be yourself – Transparency is important at Centric and open communication is key. Share the issues that you are concerned about – you will get the support needed to help address these issues.
Take full advantage of the opportunities that Centric has to offer – Centric is an entrepreneurial company and the relatively small size of each team allows for everyone in the business unit to be creative in a way they can make a difference. Whether that is in delivering projects, developing new business or leading practice management initiatives (or a combination of the three), there are many ways to add value to the organization.
Plan to learn new skills – We are in the change management business and it’s important to stay current on the latest trends, technologies and new ways to help our clients
12. Given that Centric values work-life balance, please share some of your hobbies or special interests outside of work.
Long distance running is very important to me. In fact, I ran my 100th marathon (including 17 ultra-marathons) last April in the Boston Marathon. Check out my website to learn more about my road to 100. Read this article where I am featured for running my 100th marathon.
I also enjoy traveling with my wife and three daughters and gardening.