Jeremy James (Fr 2007) is a Management Consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. He has had an impressive and diverse career, working at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, before launching Australia’s first 30 under 30 for LGBT+ in 2019. Jeremy talks to us about how his time at St Andrew’s helped to shape his career focus, offering insightful advice about the job application process for current Androvians.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from originally and where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sydney and attended Sydney Boys’ High. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs we would dream up new business ventures for fun. This, combined with my family’s strong value for education influenced my appetite for new ideas and experiences. Regularly we were told “your education is your inheritance”.
Why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College?
I wasn’t aware of the colleges until my first year at Sydney University when Michi Cohen (Fr 2006) invited me to the Highland Ball. I was in awe of the community and the potential of such a nurturing and vibrant environment to live out your early twenties and applied to join the following year.
What parts of College life were you involved as a student? / What would you say was the best thing you remember about your time at College? / How did St Andrew’s College help you achieve your goals in life and or in your career?
College was an incredible opportunity to experiment in a safe space, extend myself, and grow. My fondest memory is working with peers such as Dom Reardon (Fr 2007) and Chaanah Crichton (Fr 2006) to launch initiatives such as Drewtopia and Oktoberfest. Growth experiences such as these gave me the confidence to trust my instincts and explore new ideas.
Students at St Andrew’s had a global view and appetite to get out and see the world. This mindset encouraged me to think more broadly about my prospects after graduating from Sydney University and I applied to the Guggenheim Museum, New York. At the Guggenheim, I was in the team that acquired the art collection for the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and a think tank focusing on urban innovation that travelled from New York to Berlin to Mumbai. I received phenomenal mentorship, including encouragement to pursue further studies in the USA.
You completed a two-year masters in property finance at Harvard University in 2018. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience there?
Harvard was a transformative experience. I applied to go there to round out my commercial skillset, in reality it was an education in personal growth and leadership. Courses such as negotiation, the art and science of persuasion, the art of communication, mastering strategy execution, and authentic leadership development exposed me to world views and enabled to me to develop my personal leadership style.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far – career or otherwise?
Launching Australia’s first 30 under 30 for LGBT+ in 2019 to shine a light on the next generation of LGBT+ role models. This was to help counter the disappointing Israel Folau episode and Anglican School letter. In response, we wanted to recognise and celebrate the extraordinary contributions of young LGBT+ role models from across the country. The initiative was led by me and a peer from my company, BCG (it sponsored and hosted the event), and Out for Australia. The initiative continues today.
What is the most challenging thing about your job as a Management Consultant?
The long hours and stress can feel extreme but learning to deal with these challenges has also been the driver of much vocational and personal growth. You learn to time manage by focusing on what is critical to solve the problem at hand, navigate ambiguity, and remain cool in challenging environments.
What do you enjoy most as a Management Consultant?
Developing and using the consulting toolkit: rapidly grounding yourself in an ambiguous/challenging situation and being able to quickly identify and drive for value. I feel enabled to have meaningful impact in areas that are important to me (e.g. I’m consulting the board of Carriageworks, one of Australia’s more cutting-edge cultural institutions, on a revenue growth strategy).
And do you have any advice for current students looking to pursue this career path?
Invest heavily in the interview process. At Harvard they calculated successful candidates that join one of the major management consulting firms invest ~50 – 80 hours preparing on average. I would find 2 – 3 friends to complete a practice case with each week across 1 – 2 months and invest ~10 hours preparing your story e.g. Why do you want to do consulting? When is a time you failed and what did you learn? When did you influence a group? Why you (vs other candidates)? etc.
What do you like to get up to when you are not working?
Fostering community is at the heart of much of what I do and brings me immense joy. Having lived and worked in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Mumbai, I returned to Sydney in 2018 to be with family and friends (many from my time at St Andrew’s) – long lunches with friends over an afternoon is a particular favourite. I am actively involved with Carriageworks, The Bread and Butter Project, and North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club – all of which have a strong sense of community.
Extended treks in nature and rowing on Sydney Harbour are important down time activities for me. I find being outdoors to be meditative, where I can best think creatively and process any new ideas or experiences I’ve had.
What words of advice would you give to young Androvians?
I have three recommendations:
- Start now – during the university summer break undertake a 2-3-month internship each year. This is standard practice in the USA and will give students exposure to different industries, help them discover what they are passionate about, and prepare them for when they graduate. It will signal to many employers that the student is motivated and help to separate them from the pack for competitive roles.
- Think global – apply to stellar institutions in the field you are interested in. You will learn best practice, be exposed to and get the opportunity to inform ideas that are shaping our world, and receive apprenticeship from people at the top of their game. Many Australians underappreciate how competitive we are on a global stage when we graduate (this edge diminishes with time for a few factors).
- Go broad – invest time, early, to understand the landscape of opportunities available to you (graduate programs, start-up incubators, internships etc.) and apply to as many opportunities as excite you knowing that only one in ten applications will land and that’s enough to set you on your way (it’s a numbers game).