Why I traded the corporate path for a career in consulting

I was convinced I wanted to work at large corporations, until I realized a smaller consultancy felt more like me.
Line drawing of a white road on teal background

Introduction

When I was growing up, I daydreamed of living in the corporate world where things seemed seamlessly structured by a hierarchy where everyone knows their place. I grew up listening to my parents and older members of my family talking about the corner offices and their journey climbing the corporate ladder. Power suits and such!

In college, I was a media student majoring in publishing and advertising. I quickly got the taste of big media and publishing houses during my internships — getting my picture taken on my first day, key card access to huge buildings, and a parking spot! So it felt like an easy choice to turn down my first “big girl job” offer at a small advertising agency of 20 employees as a junior art director, and instead accept a creative executive position at the biggest publishing house in my area with more than 1,000 employees.

Later, in graduate school, I focused on organizational culture and learned to lead global teams. I joined another large corporation, this time in retail, hoping to climb the ladder. But then, at that time in my life, the wind changed, and I went on to start a new era in my career at a small design-build agency. That led me to Pixo, a small but mighty software consultancy, where I’ve been a project manager for nearly two years.

Why did I get off the corporate path?

After more than four years in the small agency life, I asked myself why? What happened to my corporate dreams? My answer is simple: I want to spend my career in an organization whose values align with mine.

I am better in an organization that has space for:

  1. Advocating for others. At Pixo, we exist to serve our clients and our industry. No matter what position we hold in a project, we all advocate for our clients, and we want to do right by them. We genuinely want to implement technology and ideas that exceed the industry standard, and most importantly, build websites and software that work well and are accessible for the people who use them. 
  2. A variety of challenges, with no one way to solve them. Consulting is a fast-paced life filled with deadlines, diverse clients, and challenging projects – that’s what makes it interesting. No one day is like the other. I am not one for reliving Groundhog Day! Yes, we have structure and processes in our organization — we’re running a business here! — but we’re not stuck in the old ways simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Plus, agencies are often trailblazers in topics like work-life boundaries, company culture, and work methodologies, probably because they’re just the right size to try something new. At Pixo, I get to experiment with different tools and approaches for managing projects, and I feel like I can say no and advocate for my own needs as someone who works within a team.
  3. Learning opportunities. Due to its small size, Pixo has also provided opportunities to be involved in the daily problem-solving process. Most agencies have a horizontal hierarchy instead of the traditional vertical ones, so I get to see the life of a project from ideation to closing. This means being in an agency lets me see all angles and perspectives of the business and the software development industry.
  4. Healthy communication in a supportive community. I’ve found the communication style at this consultancy to be more casual, with a lot of care and respect. While seniority is well-respected and celebrated, it is not toxic. The door is wide open to new voices, and there is not a lot of red tape keeping me from sharing ideas or raising concerns. Pixo encourages collaboration, and this leads to healthy relationships with coworkers. We challenge each other, bond, and are able to get to know each other well, especially when it comes to cross-discipline learning. Ego does not thrive at Pixo. We work plenty hard (and of course smart), but we also know how to have fun — whether it’s through games, memes, happy hours, or work parties.

Small consultancy, major growth

I’ve seen myself grow as a whole person when working at a smaller consultancy. As part of the 25-person team at Pixo, I advocate for myself and my needs better, and I’ve become incredibly well-organized and great at time management. I also see clear opportunities to advance in my role (that’s what happens when you learn so much — you grow!).

P.S. A bonus: I get to embrace who I am when it comes to what I wear. The dress code is still professional but more casual, which I appreciate, because there’s greater emphasis on the work than what we look like doing it.  Plus: I do have a corner office with my own climate control system and coffeemaker — because I work from home in my comfy joggers!

Last modified on March 1, 2022