San Francisco, California, the city where you will not find “California” weather due to its infamous microclimate, the city where lots of millionaires and billionaires walk around with their Silicon Valley made dollars and live in houses up Russian Hill because “bums are too lazy to walk all the way uphill”, the city that is located on top of a ticking time bomb (the next big earthquake, already made into a film called San Andreas) that will presumably destroy the wooden-built highly expensive houses and cause a new era in San Francisco.
Well, enough realism and/or sarcasm for now from my rona rig. San Francisco, “Ahs Ahf” for locals, was a blast. Participating in the Global New Horizon program (or GNH in TLA terms) has given me the chance to live and work in downtown San Francisco for three months from April-June 2019. As I am working in the EY-Parthenon office in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), I was able to be placed in my preferred EY-Parthenon office in San Francisco. At the start I was located at 555 California Str, later changed scenery to be closer to the mother ship at 560 Mission Str.. What a great experience this has been to get to know the American culture from up close (even got a Social Security Number; SSN), meet colleagues from across the pond to see what we can learn from each other in professional as well as social terms (or a mix like getting ICE-ed in the office, some trend we have had in Holland around 15 years ago) and enjoy day/weekend trips to the most beautiful and relaxed places like (not exhaustive): Wine Country Sonoma, Big Sur State Park and Highway 1, weekend in San Diego and finally a weekend trip with the team from my first project in SF to Las Vegas (!).
About work. There are a lot of similarities and differences between my Dutch office and the SF office but I will only mention one of each here.
Similarity: young, fun, intelligent and diverse group of colleagues. Though a few nuances have to be made still. Young in the Rotterdam office means that you capture around 75% of the office between the age of 24-30, where in the US/SF associates start working as soon as they finish their bachelor at ~21 years of age. I even had an associate on my team that “officially” wasn’t allowed to drink during office drinks and team outings. Fun needs a bit of nuancing too, will come back on that later. For intelligence, my feeling was that the school you graduated from had a strong influence on how smart/good/intelligent people thought you were, although colleagues in both SF and Rotterdam are quite smart. If someone in SF told they graduated from Harvard, no further questions were asked and some instant respect could be gained. That’s different in Rotterdam where we do not take your background/education at face value. Lastly, both my colleague groups in Rotterdam and SF are quite diverse but in a different way. In SF I got to know more about LGBTQ+ in week 1 than I did in 4 years in Rotterdam (there was a lecture in week 1 in SF, maybe that helped). In Rotterdam we are diverse from a “where did you grow up” and “what did you graduate in” perspective but in SF the cultural differences were far more apparent and a joy to experience.
Although I’ve mentioned some nuance differences, here’s my one “larger” difference: dynamics within the colleague group. In SF there is a very strong bond within cohort/tenure group as they all start in fall of a given year. The bond between associates and consultants/manager is significantly less strong though. This could be driven by the fact that after 2-3 years of initial working experience, you’d typically go back to school for a(n) (2-year) MBA after which you can join or continue in consulting. Continuing is typically at another consulting firm than you first 2-3 years of experience. Therefore, the associates and consultants have no or very limited overlap in working experience and there is a large difference in age and stage of life (just allowed to drink and living downtown vs married and moving to the suburbs). In Rotterdam, however, we continually hire associates throughout the year, creating a more gradually differing group of colleagues through seniority that creates more common ground and a somewhat more relaxed way of working together. Furthermore, it creates a solid understanding of how to celebrate the weekend on Fridays (in WFH-Corona ánd non-Corona times) and hit the snow and après-ski during our annual skiing trip in the Alps.
Well, there it is. A somewhat short blog that does not tell you a lot about strategy consulting, but does give you some insight in my Rotterdam office and what to expect from an international rotation, especially in “Ahs Ahf”. If you want to know more about this program, other international opportunities at EY-Parthenon or (maybe) about strategy consulting as a profession, drop Sanne or me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.