Jessica Tayenjam studied Modern Languages at Cambridge University. She speaks French and Spanish fluently and has lived and been educated in the US , UK, and France. Jessica started as a RIG intern. Today she runs RIG’s internship programme. She was interviewed by RIG Principal, Shields Russell.
SR: You run the intern programme, so let’s focus for a moment what it is like working at RIG. So tell me this: you could have had your pick of jobs, so why did you elect to work at RIG?
JT: I had the experience of working in the civil service and that was not for me: too bureaucratic, and it took too long to make a difference and make things happen.
Being a good Cambridge girl, I then had three options: banking, law, or consultancy. The first two were easy for me to rule out: 15 hour days and the general opprobrium of the world at large held little appeal, and my family is already riddled with enough lawyers.
So by the process of elimination that left consulting. As ones does, I diligently I submitted my applications and was lucky enough to get a handful of interviews with consultancies. The bigger firms seemed largely concerned by whether a language student could do maths and with the level of my Excel skills.
RIG didn’t ask me any of those questions. They were more interested in who I was and what I could bring to the company. For that reason, I chose RIG. And, of course, it didn’t hurt that one of consultants looked like Robert Pattinson.
SR: How has what you do at RIG changed over time?
JT: Roughly speaking, my work has evolved from doing what I was asked, to getting other people – colleagues and clients – to get things done, and now to thinking about what we should do, and why, and how. We are in a continuous cycle of problem-solving and execution. I used to be a bit player – now I play the whole circuit.
SR: Does working in a small firm present special challenges?
JT: You have to get along with everyone. There is no padding. You will be held accountable and need to hold other people to account, from ‘Why haven’t you washed your mug, Shields?’ to ‘Why haven’t you delivered for your client?’
SR: There is a gender imbalance at RIG that we are trying to address. Is it an important issue for you?
JT: Yes, definitely. Diversity in all its forms – not just in terms of gender – is a strength, as it gives us a range of experiences and opinions to draw upon. This is important because we don’t want to be a firm that just thinks or acts in one way.
SR: We use interns as a low risk way of sourcing and of assessing talent and fit. As the person responsible for running the process what are you looking for in the first instance?
JT: Obviously there is a basic threshold that all serious candidates must attain: they have to be smart, they have to communicate and present themselves well in their application, and they must be diligent.
Beyond that I am looking for people who have something interesting to say in their cover letters. I seriously doubt any university student has a ‘passion’ for consulting (as many claim to). I’d rather hear about something they genuinely are passionate about, and how they can transfer the skills learned there to the work environment. I think it is important for candidates to be involved in and care about something beyond just their academics.
SR: The most important thing about one’s first job is the opportunity to learn and build competence. How does RIG go about this?
JT: It is not a backroom training exercise. You are a key team member in a live client situation. We learn most at risk. There is no one to carry you, so you have to pull your weight, but it also means your contribution has the potential to be significant.
You get the opportunity to follow your interests, but you have to play your part in creating that opportunity. For example, I have developed an interest in B2B2C companies, which I probably know more about now than anyone else in RIG, and I pursue this interest in our client acquisition and marketing activities.
But it’s not all perfect: we need to be better at growing teams and defining team roles. We are a work in progress.
SR: Finish the sentence – People who do well at RIG are…
JT: Smart, open-minded, dynamic, adaptable, and hard working.
SR: People who would not enjoy RIG are …
JT: Unopinionated, timid, and find the idea of being a self-starter a bit of stretch.
SR: What interests do you have outside of work?
JT: I play rugby, I am a compulsive cleaner and a tidy nut (organisation is me), and I love to cook and travel.
SR: Would you say any of these interests have carry over into your work?
JT: For sure – I favour people who are team players and have little time for people who are not and who are reluctant to commit. Team spirit and a positive attitude are traits I value, and I appreciate people who are also willing to step up and lead the team when needed.
SR: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt at RIG?
JT: Always get Shields to buy lunch.