During my second year as an associate, I had the opportunity to go on L.E.K.’s SWAP program in London. As you may have learned from reading previous posts, the SWAP program is a unique program that allows a second year associate to essentially swap places with an associate from another office for six months. It was by far the most rewarding international experience I’ve ever had, both personally and professionally. What’s not to like about living in new country, meeting new colleagues and friends, traveling to other fun destinations in Europe—all the while getting paid? It’s almost like studying abroad professionally, because it is definitely a learning experience.
The Sunday I arrived, my counter-swap (L.E.K. London associate who was set to go to Chicago in a week) kindly met up with me for dinner, along with a couple of other colleagues. Having just gotten in earlier that morning on a red-eye flight, I was truthfully pretty disoriented for most of the dinner due to jetlag and being overwhelmed by the details: First, the accent took some getting used to. Everything was in pounds and therefore more expensive than it looked. Traffic went the other way. Credit cards were much more advanced in that they used chip-technology (two years later, Americans are still behind in this). But if I seemed distracted, my colleagues certainly didn’t hold it against me in the coming weeks!
I expected case work to be largely different from what I’d been used to in Chicago – primarily, Industrials and MedTech – but over the course of my time there, I was assigned to many projects in those same industries. For example, on a project for a Fortune 500 medical device company, we put together a fact base on key trends that will affect the European medical device industry in the near future, in order to assist the client in preparing for their European Strategic Plan. I learned a lot about trends such as hospital consolidation, eHealth and telemedicine, and payer dynamics on a country-by-country basis, and assessed the potential impact of each trend for the client.
The projects exposed me to differences in working with clients based in Europe, and everything else from secondary sources, primary research, presentation formats and wording, and different team dynamics in general. It was also interesting to hear about other longer-term transportation and government cases from my colleagues during our lunch breaks because those are industry cases that we don’t often encounter in our Chicago office.
Six months flew by and soon it was time for the holidays. The L.E.K. Christmas party in London marked the perfect end to my SWAP and the start to a month-long sabbatical where I flew back to Asia to see my family. Since my time in London, I’ve always encouraged other associates to go on SWAP, whether in Europe, Asia or Australia. It is truly a unique and rewarding program that sets L.E.K. apart from other management consulting firms.