Life as a Consultant – in conversation with Adina Walford

Following a general team discussion between myself and a number of B2E colleagues about what it is ‘really’ like being a consultant and starting at a new engagement, I felt it would be a great idea to share some information about the process from a more informal ‘people perspective’. And so, at the end of 2021, one of our consultants Adina Walford kindly agreed to chat with myself and my colleague Elise about her recent experience registering with our B2E Consulting Community, the selection process and then subsequently taking up two opportunities at one of our clients.

In what was a very enjoyable conversation, Adina has provided us with an extremely relevant perspective for professionals who might be thinking about starting work as a consultant, those who are considering registering with B2E or perhaps have just been placed at one of our clients. She’s given us a valuable glimpse into how she is forging her career path and the benefits of working as an independent consultant. In addition, she has shared useful insights into what life has been like, and continues to be like, as a consultant starting a new role remotely and then operating during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For some additional context – Adina has recently started her second consulting role with a prestigious Pharma client.

Like many of our consultants, Adina first found us through our website, then registering with the B2E Consulting Community in Autumn 2020. She mentions “how selective and descriptive” the site was with the various roles and service offering areas. Although Adina was not selected for that first role that she applied to, by being part of the B2E database, she continued to receive relevant opportunity alerts which led her to her first placement as a Communications Lead. One of the key messages we emphasise when any consultant registers with us here at B2E is just by registering for your first application, the team will maintain contact and find you your perfect fit.

The B2E selection process naturally varies for different clients, but a typical series of steps will include a simple online form and CV submission, screening calls / video calls with several of our team members and then client meetings. Adina shares how she felt “supported throughout the process,” sensing that it was not only her being pitched for the role, but also the (client) company being pitched to her, making sure “there was a synergy between me as the consultant and them as a client”.

This was Adina’s first interim consulting position. Although moving from a permanent position to interim can be a ‘leap of faith’, this was a pathway that Adina felt confident to take – seeing it as a good fit with her temperament and aspirations. Furthermore, she felt her career would not have evolved so fast without taking this step. We chatted about the sorts of benefits she has experienced – and she talked about the level of responsibility, growth and self-confidence it has brought her. Indeed, she reflects that “sometimes the title of a role can limit your scope for growth and increased responsibility but independent contracting throws you in the deep end, expanding your skill set, confidence and knowledge.”

Adina’s first role at her B2E client coincided with the start of the pandemic. When we chatted about how this affected her experience starting a new role in a rather complex digital workplace, Adina praised her client manager for exceptional leadership across the different groupings ensuring cohesion and maintaining the sense of interaction. Her client did everything they could to make her feel involved remotely, providing her with significant training on the office software, “filing, CMS, TeamsBox and how they interacted with workplace”.  Although she concedes it was still a big culture shock and learning curve to operate in this way, Adina believes she is now far more productive and comfortable working from home as a result of such radical change.

Naturally, our conversation then progressed to a discussion about the work-life balance of a consultant working remotely and Adina shared some of her useful tips. She finds it essential to have mealtimes that act as breaks throughout the day and uses this unwritten rule to help separate her private and work life. Whilst for some people, the danger of working from home can lead to being massively overworked, Adina has a strict rule of shutting away work at the end of the day. Although she is aware that there will be “some odd late nights” she finds that these can in fact be easier to manage from the comfort of your own home without the complexity of getting home late from the office juggling travel and meals etc.

Then specifically regarding how to manage her working day remotely, Adina talked about shaping her day around her standard meetings and ad hoc calls. Off the back of those, she would schedule actions and tasks. Calendar blocking and setting reminders has also helped her balance her workload evenly. As Adina was “leading for comms, there were evolving priorities and deliverables throughout a day or a week.” Here she needed to ensure she was always being strategic, focusing on the scope and programme aims in her time management and project delivery.

On top of her day job, Adina loves to upskill and is always on the look out for something new to learn. Utilising the weekend has become very important for her, as she realised “although you are out and about on Saturday and Sunday there is always time to work on yourself. ”

At the end of 2021, Adina was successful in gaining a second subsequent opportunity with the same B2E client. In her new role, she is now helping with project direction, support and strategy, something she would have never thought to be able to do so soon in her career. She is now looking forward to continuing her professional growth as a confident leader in this and in future roles, or eventually even perhaps starting something on her own.

Nicola Smith and Elise Aral
B2E Consulting