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Inside View: Analysys Mason

James Weller, Talent Manager and Head of Recruitment at Analysys Mason, on hot topics in the TMT sector, what clients ask for and why he likes engineers with MBAs

Analysys Mason is a consultancy specializing in the Telecoms, Media, and Technology (TMT) industries. The firm has a global presence, with offices as far-flung as New Delhi, Singapore, Dubai, Madrid, and Dublin. James Weller is the Talent Manager and Head of Recruitment at Analysys Mason. Before joining Analysys Mason to lead their recruitment effort, James worked with Human Capital Solutions, Ellis Fairbank, and Berkeley Monroe. 

Analysys Mason is currently recruiting a Manager for its London office!

How did you first get started with Analysys Mason?
Since I’m Head of Recruitment, it’s a pretty different story from most of the consultants here. I’d already been doing recruiting for about 15 years when I started as Head of Recruitment with Analysys Mason.
 
What is an average day like for you, as Talent Manager and Head of Recruitment?
My function is twofold. One part is the acquisition of talent at all levels - from graduate to partner.
 
The other part is having a view on and advising the business on our resources. That means managing our human capital and ensuring we have the right balance of people around the business.
 
In order to ensure that our business structure is optimal, I have to look at headcounts and business forecasts. I have to look at the projects coming in and make decisions about how to deploy our people. 
 
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing right now in terms of hiring?
With consulting, the biggest challenge is really the quality of talent. That’s the most critical thing, no matter how the market is doing. We’re a niche player. We work in a limited market. There are only so many individuals out there specializing in TMT with significant exposure to this kind of business. So the more senior the position involved, the more challenging it becomes to find a suitable candidate. 
 
However, we’ve also been very focused on graduate recruitment because there’s a tendency to back off when the market’s tight. You can see the effects of these market downturns as a recruiter, particularly at the senior level. For instance, during the dotcom crash of 2000 to 2001 there were young people then who should have become managers now, but didn’t get the experience because hiring had tightened.
 
So paying consistent attention to graduate recruitment has paid dividends for us. Our graduates move up really quickly so we don’t need to focus as much on consultant recruitment.
 
The rest is really down to reactive hiring: reacting to growth, particularly at senior management levels.
 
Are you expanding anywhere in particular?
We tend to just recruit an entire pool of talent, and then our offices select from that pool. We’re talking about 10 to 20 graduates, maybe 20 per cent of the total consulting population. That’s a decent number of hires. We’ve always had more in London, due to the structure of the firm.
 
A graduate may spend maybe one to two years in London before deciding to move to a different office. Of course, with the new border regulations, we’ve had to be more mindful about London recruitment. But each office takes on a batch of graduates. We’re active in Delhi, Singapore, and Dubai right now, as well as in other European capitals. 
 
How valuable is an MBA degree to Analysys Mason? And in which kinds of roles?
This is a really complex thing. MBAs are a great tool for changing your career. If you’d not gone straight into consultancy as a graduate, an MBA can potentially help you move into consulting. I think MBAs are massively valuable in teaching some of the consulting skillsets to people who haven’t had the experience.
 
However, a graduate with an MSc from a top school, e.g. a Masters in Management from LBS, who knows something about telecoms, is much more valuable to us than an MBA. It's because that graduate has already picked up the skills necessary to work in a consulting environment and it will be much more challenging tfor an MBA to come in and start from scratch.
 
Where MBAs are most useful to us is in the more quasi-technical positions. We have a need for people involved in network optimization, network rollout, 4G LTE, 3G infrastructure, and that sort of thing. We need people who have that level of technical expertise, but wrapped in a commercial package. We want the technical guys who’ve gone some way to becoming more business-astute.
 
There are applicants who’ve done some engineering, some telecoms work, who finish an MBA and want to jump in and become consultants. That’s difficult because they’re competing with guys who already have a consulting background.
 
So I think an MBA is a worthwhile idea, but don’t assume that finishing it will automatically get you into consulting. Firms like McKinsey or Bain like generalists, but we’re specialists. For us hiring a generalist MBA for a consulting job is like hiring a graduate, but for more money. It may not be in our best interest to do that!
 
Which business schools do you hire from regularly?
We work with INSEAD a lot, particularly in Asia. A lot of our guys who want to do an MBA will go to INSEAD as well. We’ve also just hired two people for a research unit who did their MBAs at Bradford and Manchester. They were software engineers and business school was like finishing school for them - it worked out very well. 
 
How can candidates impress you?
When candidates come to us, we believe that they should know about our market. We’re looking for people who are actually interested in what we do, and can validate that. 
 
If I ask you about what’s happening in a market, I expect you to know the particular drivers of what’s going on in that market, the value chain in that market, and who the players are. I expect you to know how to respond to questions following your initial statement.
 
There are some people who come in and say that the iPhone 5 launch is a really interesting TMT event, but then struggle to answer any questions beyond simple statement-making. But if you apply for a banking job, they’d expect you to know your financial statements. If you apply to a derivatives team, they expect you to know how derivatives work. If you’re looking to come in here day after day, progression here is based on building your expertise and being able to use it effectively with clients. From a recruitment and HR perspective, that’s absolutely vital.
 
What are some of the hot trends in the TMT sector that MBA students should know about?
For me, personally, the overall topic of convergence is massively interesting. Essentially, telecoms infrastructure has both wireless and fixed systems. Previously wireless networks were meant to deliver telephonic services - voice services, basically. Now, people are increasingly using data services and data transmission. Voice is falling away. You’ve got super fast transmission now, with 4G networks under construction that can deliver a whole range of services.
 
You’re seeing new players entering the market which is fundamentally changing the structure of the market. There are shifts in power going on right now that are just phenomenal and this trend towards digitalization is really affecting people on a daily basis. Just recently, Netflix did a deal with Disney to exclusively distribute Disney content directly to consumers. With this deal, they’ve effectively taken out the middlemen, just completely removed a layer from the distribution business. What’s the role of a broadcaster going forward, for instance, if they can’t get the fastest access to new content? Certain firms have essentially lost their business. It’s pretty fascinating. 
 
When most people think of telecoms and TMT, they think of telephones and see it as pretty archaic stuff. But it’s a much more dynamic and a much more fragmented market. There are all kinds of political, economic, and social implications and interrelationships in the TMT market and that’s what keeps this business interesting. Just think of all the most exciting brands right now: Facebook, Twitter, Samsung…that’s all TMT!
 
What are clients asking for that's different to three years ago?
Fundamentally, clients are always asking the same questions. But the answers are always different. For one thing, the markets in TMT always move so quickly. Or the questions could relate to a different market. The questions are always: How we can make money? How we can add customers? Why are we losing customers? Technologies change and markets change. It’s about unraveling that change and interpreting it.

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