How are promotions handled at Altman Vilandrie & Company?
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3 February 2020
1. Rapid learning. Analysts ramp up on data analysis skills, hypothesis-based problem solving and TMT industry knowledge rapidly. After 1 year, most analysts are able to execute projects independently with occasional guidance from management committee (MC) members—a highly valuable skill set and mindset. 2. Valuable and frequent feedback. AV&Co. has a strong informal and formal feedback culture. If you are receptive to constructive criticism, you will improve rapidly (and the sky’s the limit). Generally, the feedback is fair and senior staff often give junior staff valuable advice and guidance even outside of formal feedback sessions. 3. Flexible work policies and low travel. Employees are generally not penalized for working from home, and there is little travel for junior employees, resulting in improved employee satisfaction and health. 4. Agile and receptive HR department. As the firm is relatively small, AV&Co.’s HR department is highly receptive to feedback and employees have the opportunity to directly impact and improve the work environment. Hopefully, the HR department can continue to improve the employee experience and commit to excellence despite the recent departure of the beloved HR head. 5. The people! Most people that work at AV&Co. are smart, kind and hardworking. It’s wonderful to have coworkers who genuinely care about you, and are also your friends. Everyone knows each other by first name, and when you travel between offices, you can expect to be greeted warmly by coworkers in every office. 6. Happy Hour. Perhaps its most tangible selling point, AV&Co.’s happy hours are weekly Friday affairs for employees to relax over food and drinks at a local bar or restaurant, across all offices. This is a great perk, though recent restrictions have made attendance less attractive.
1. Unbalanced work that is more often than not, tedious. While AV&Co. sells itself as a TMT firm, it is more realistically a telecom firm that does some telecom-related work in media (less common) and tech (rare). Work is heavily skewed toward due diligences on network assets or B2B (and the occasional B2C) telecom products/technologies. The remaining strategy projects skew toward regional/local customer targeting/marketing-type work rather than higher-level strategy. AV&Co. excels at “quantitative work”, i.e. intense number crunching and building complex models. As a result, the work is generally tedious, with a heavy focus on refining calculations/numbers that don’t necessarily make a difference at the end of the day. In addition, many aspects of the job outsourced at other firms have to be done manually at AV&Co.; analysts frequently spend time on mundane slide creation rather than actual problem solving, for example. 2. Poor work/life balance, though there have been recent improvements. Analysts can expect to work until 9-11p on average Monday-Thursday, with high-burn projects pushing hours consistently past midnight—on the higher end, even for consulting, considering the low-travel model. Teams are generally receptive to the occasional weeknight commitment, though it is rarely guaranteed and some management members have a poor track record of honoring these commitments. The poor work/life balance is exacerbated by management treating (and calling) junior staff “resources” to be used up. On the bright side, weekend work is now (thankfully) rare. 3. Slow career trajectory and potential to improve compensation/benefits. Promotion is slow at AV&Co. and gets slower as employees move up the ranks, perhaps as a retention mechanism. There are many promotion criteria, many of which are subjective, making the promotion process seem more political than necessary. Recent changes to increase base salary but decrease bonus percentage make the firm less competitive overall (as overall compensation remains the same vs. increasing compensation across major firms in the industry) and disincentivizes star employees from working their hardest. Benefits could be better (e.g. shift to full health insurance coverage). 4. Staffing imbalance. While there is an effort to ensure analysts get staffed on a variety of different projects, some analysts may find themselves staffed on the same projects with the same workstreams with the same people back-to-back as they get more tenured. This can limit learning and seems to be at the mercy of management “preferences” for certain analysts and their experience/skills, perhaps to improve project outcomes/margins on compressed timelines. 5. Poor knowledge management system. AV&Co.’s knowledge management is desperately overdue for a massive overhaul, though much improved from a few years ago. Previous work is difficult to find and results in consistent “reinventing the wheel”, which will only get worse as the firm grows. 6. Lack of respect for non-consulting staff. Management mistreatment of the analytics and admin teams is not uncommon. In order to be a leading firm, AV&Co. must focus on automation which involves building and expanding the analytics team and its capabilities, though efforts here seem halfhearted. 7. Lack of diversity. AV&Co. is heavily white male-dominated and contributes to the cliquey culture (more on that below), though there have been recent pushes toward recruiting more diverse talent (and results are currently being seen). However, support for diverse staff is nonexistent beyond lip service by HR. 8. Culture/gossip. AV&Co. is highly cliquey, with some analysts clearly closer to each other than the rest of their class. This can result in feelings of exclusion even within analyst classes, which is detrimental to morale. In addition, word has a tendency to make its way around the firm very quickly, resulting in constant gossiping, especially in the Boston office (including work-inappropriate topics), magnifying the disparity between the “in” crowd and other employees.
Focus on rewarding current employees (e.g. shortening promotion track) and being more attractive to prospective hires. The firm is bleeding in talent as more and more prospective hires and current employees enter either the tech industry for more pay and less stress or the finance industry for more pay and equal stress. The “work really hard and realize the fruits of your labor when you make it to principal/director” mentality is much less compelling nowadays when there are accessible, better alternatives for entry-level staff. With low brand recognition outside telecom, AV&Co. must be a leader (in employee experience, support and compensation) in order to attract and maintain the talent required to grow. The current strategy of moving in lockstep with other major consulting firms represents a reactive and lagging rather than proactive attitude, is not enticing to on-campus hires (the bulk of the firm’s talent pipeline) and will not work moving forward. Without quality on-campus hires, AV&Co. will have to resort to more expensive, less sustainable off-cycle hiring processes which limits analyst class solidarity and morale. Focus on expanding the analytics team and its capabilities (especially automation) and consulting staff attitude toward these highly valuable staff members. Outsource tedious manual work (e.g. slide creation, surveys).
Promotion is slow at AV&Co.
3 February 2020
Reviewed by: Analyst in United States (Former Employee)
1 English review out of 1