In this life, we have a responsibility and an obligation to help our fellow human beings. Whether that’s donating some of our inter-generational wealth, paying our taxes proudly, or even sparing a few coins for the homeless busker’s empty hat. This is the first thought we have when it comes to being charitable: the literal charity of giving money to those less fortunate than yourself. However, there is one further, often overlooked way of giving: giving your time, and devoting a portion of your skill and ability (however humble), to those in need.

I often feel annoyed when I see a middle class pensioner helping out at a soup kitchen, putting in hard and often freezing hours to help those homeless and unfortunate people who don’t have any food, while at the same time, young people in their prime (who could really handle a late night in the cold without a further thought), strut on by, in their tailored suits, out on the town for post-work drinks late at night, celebrating the signing of some huge deal or contract. Then I realized, it is the same annoyance I have at those who do not donate even a tiny bit of their huge wealth.

Now, it’s fair to say that people who are busy with their work may not have time to share with others, as their job is demanding, but if they are earning a lot, then there really is no excuse, they should be donating some of those funds.

In my freshman year, I always looked upon the big consulting firms (McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, Deloitte, etc) with a sort of distrust, and a sneer. And if I’m honest, a bit of jealousy. I always felt that it was a highly competitive race, run by highly competitive over-achievers who are out to get the high paying job and obsess about their work hours. It just seems heartless and not connected to helping their fellow human beings, down here on the bedrock with the trees and the animals.

However, my eyes were opened when I met a few consulting types, they were genuinely cool and down to earth people (though I know not all of them are). What surprised me the most was that they often “donated” part of their time towards helping charities, or community organisations. So this made me realize that it’s possible to work 80 hours a week and fit the stereotype perfect, but also to have a heart.

Here are a few examples of pro-bono consulting that an Accountant, a Senior Analyst and a Solicitor shared with me:

  • Every year, a group of auditors (along with my accountant friend) offer their services to help a small accountancy firm in a developing nation (e.g. the Philippines, Tanzania, etc) that does not have access to the same technology budget as us. They offer them a week of pro-bono consultancy to help them with their company accounts and financial systems.
  • A senior analyst and data scientist at a Big Four firm is also the president of a non-profit that helps underprivileged students get into the best universities in the country (e.g. Harvard, MIT), by helping them with their applications, etc./ Even though their main skill (data science) is not at all related to the way they’re helping the students, it provides so much value. Simply by sharing their life experience, guiding those students down a path that is both familiar to them as a consultant and completely inaccessible to those without a privileged background, that they’re able to completely change the lives of many more people than just themselves
  • A Melbourne-based solicitor who I met some time ago (travelling for work, of course) does pro-bono work for a not-for-profit organisation that helps refugees and asylum seekers to resettle in Australia. I was equally shocked to hear that this solicitor not only eschewed business class flights, but personally forked out their own money to purchase a carbon offset for double their flight’s carbon emissions. Not everyone is able to afford this choice, but if a consultant is earning enough and they decide to put the money to the betterment of the environment, then I say; all power to them. 

I really do admire those people who put their heart and soul into helping others. It is a noble cause that I would like to become a part of someday, but unfortunately I formed my pessimistic (and wildly inaccurate views) of the consulting world early in my university choices, so I fear that I have started down a path of higher education that does not align well with landing a high-paying consulting gig. Now that I have learned a bit more about the world, I wish I had taken more of certain subjects, and less of others. So if you (like I did) held the view that all this consulting stuff was for die hard capitalists, well, I suggest that you turn that view around. I thought to myself, why not stay the course of my college degree, and concurrently, skill up and enroll in a data science course and put those skills to use, giving back to the community at the same time.

I am already on the lookout for possible pro-bono consulting opportunities (junior data science only), not only to add to my resume and CV (which I am furiously trying to catch up on polishing, in preparation for consulting interviews after I graduate) but to add to the list of good deeds that I carry in my heart.