Should I pursue a career in tech, finance, or consulting? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Should I pursue a career in tech, finance, or consulting?
I find it intriguing that we don't know if this question is coming from a man or a woman - and fascinating that all of the current answers are from men. Men have such a different perspective on work life balance than women. I am frankly not used to hearing guys speak up on this subject. I assume that is based on (historical) roles at home and (generally) much more limited care giving and household responsibilities which result in men having less to "balance". Regardless, I love hearing from men on this topic. And I wanted to put a woman's perspective in the mix.
So, as a woman and executive that has worked in tech and consulting - and has done some research on work life balance and helped to build a successful startup with a very progressive culture of flexibility, here are my two cents.
I'd suggest you optimize for work life integration in your career instead of work life balance. What that looks like may change over time. And will absolutely be influenced by your role in your family life. When you are young and single you may work hard and travel frequently for work and most of your social life may revolve around work. But by the time you have a family, thriving in your career and your personal life may require totally different integration points, like being home for dinner and being closer to home more often. Depending on your role at home, successful integration may look very different. For at least one parent, at some point being able to work from home when the caregiver is sick may be important. In all phases (before, during and after kids), success will be about seamlessly blending the lines (integration) between career and personal life rather than keeping work and self/family at bay (balance).
With regard to which career path to take, my perspective is that you don't have to take just one path. You might consult with a big firm right out of school to gain experience, then go into tech with a client and build your career and reputation as an operator, and then when you are interested in a more flexible schedule, leverage your reputation to consult independently. And eventually you might join a VC firm or become an angel investor and full circle your career into finance.
But what that path should look like for you is based on what you are good at and what you are passionate about. In all cases, the better your value and reputation, the more options you should have to exercise influence over your career and those integration points. I tend to believe that working at the intersection of opportunity, passion and talent will help you to create the most success. That's the long answer.
The short answer is that consulting firms are a great way to learn initially and an incredible business foundation. But the travel that's a part of the big firm consulting lifestyle is tough once you have a family. Whether you go into tech or finance mid career should really be dictated by your passions. And consulting independently later in your career can offer flexibility as an experienced professional.
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