As a new hire, it is important to think twice before taking action while on a project or performing non-billable work. The truth is that you are new and inexperienced and the only factor that is going to change those two things is time. Whether you were born to be a consultant or may not be cut out for this line of work, people are going to be able to tell almost immediately how fresh you are to the industry, company, general workforce, and life. Remember this, as it will help you understand your audience when addressing and working with people on the client side and at Capgemini. The better you understand your audience’s perspective, the more effectively you can communicate with them, solve problems, and, ultimately, deliver.
That said, your audience thinks you are a rookie and that is not always a good thing. In my experience, working with other Capgemini team members as a “newbie” has, more often than not, been great. Our senior members love to teach their skill sets and see the value-added in working with inexperienced new hires. However, there are times when they will grow busy or impatient and it is up to us to recognize when we need to pull back our curiosities and attempt to solve our own issues. While on a project, you will be dealing with this dynamic as well as the client-side dynamic, which is not always warm. Put yourself in their shoes (empathize with your audience). They are paying good money for any/all consultants to be staffed on their project and they can feel slighted when they see an inexperienced or young resource brought on versus an older and experienced figure with whom they can more easily identify with on the surface. Now, we know that Capgemini has to have a certain amount of young consultants on each project and that the client signed-up for a certain amount of resources of various levels, skill sets, and prices located all over the world, but that does not change the fact that a client may not have a ton of confidence in anything a staff consultant communicates or their level of capability. This discomfort is the core of most issues clients may have surrounding the utilization of young consultants on their projects. If you can understand this viewpoint, then you can improve upon your communication skills with the client and begin to increase your credibility as a novice and maintain the prestige of our brand and the client’s confidence in our team.
Once you can make this identification on both the client and Capgemini side of your project, you can begin to remedy the situation and work within the psychological confines placed on you by your elder co-workers. While I am still learning and trying to craft a perfect methodology for dealing with these constraints, I have found a few simple rules to be effective when coping with this issue. First of all, know your “personal” scope. Identify what you are personally responsible for within your team and what areas another teammate from the client or Capgemini side could reasonably question you on if they were in need of information. Once you identify these areas you can prepare to confidently and accurately answer questions that are likely to arise. Client side questions do not tend to be too difficult to answer if you know the basics of your area (you do not have to be an expert (yet) to create the impression that you are one). If you are questioned on something outside of your area, then you can easily refer the concerned party to the team responsible. This may seem simple but more treacherous paths can be taken if you did not, initially, identify the dividing lines between your team and other project teams. You may over commit to something that is infeasible or out of scope, or provide incorrect information that is taken as truth and used to develop new, flawed solutions. Any of these outcomes is likely to cause angst between the client and our teams and also hurt you credibility and performance in the eyes of the client and your superiors.
Secondly, keep your ears open and radar up. If a client is consistently asking how old you are, what college you went to, how your first project is going, etc. then they are probably aware that you are very young and for whatever reason (meaningless or treacherous) making a point of bringing it up. It is okay to answer these questions if asked, just do not advertise these answers ahead of time and keep in mind that your age and/or experience level are on their radar.
The only remedy to this awkwardness is time, but if you can identify what client and Capgemini members are expecting of you and your team, then you can guard against this issue and speak confidently to any experience level about what is in your realm of control and what answer/information is available to you.