Denny Chandra

Helping to deliver transformational change in the Federal Government.
Independent Consultant

How did you get here?

I started my career about 6 years ago and spent the first 5 years at PwC in the Consulting practice, focussing on federal government consulting as most of us do in Canberra.

What options were you considering?

I left PwC to go into independent consulting because it seemed like the logical choice for where I was in my career. When you’re starting out, I think it’s worth spending the time in a bigger company that has the resources, systems and people to help you grow and develop a strong foundation. I’d say my time at PwC was like that - I learned a lot from many people I admired about how to be a better operator, communicator, and general consultant.

But once I got to the Manager level and I had enough experience and skills under my belt, I felt like it made sense for me to look outside of the firm at what was available in the market. I’ve never been particularly interested in climbing the PwC ladder - I don’t think I’ve ever felt the passion for consulting (and in particular fed gov consulting) that I saw from the directors and partners, which I think I would need to drive me to put in the kind of effort that I saw from them.

How did you make the decision to take your current role?

I managed to find my current role by looking at individual roles advertised by contracting agencies, who end up holding the main contract with the client. They had a role advertised that looked close enough to my skill set and experience, so I registered my interest. They sent me the Request for Quote, I responded to it, and they submitted it on my behalf.

Given my consulting experience was typically in Government projects, this role seemed like a natural fit. Plus, I was happy with the compensation rate.

What are you doing now?

My current contract is to help deliver transformational change in the Federal Government.

What does your day to day look like?

We have a project plan, and each day is about executing against that plan, or adjusting the plan based on the new things we learn. We keep the problems and key outcomes front of mind to make sure we don’t forget what we’re trying to achieve. Each day is different depending on where we are in the plan.

What do you love about your job?

I think that one of the great things about my current role is that the work is pretty much the same as before, there’s no added stress, the hours are good, but it pays a lot better. I’m not advising that you always take the job that pays better, but in my case all else was pretty much equal, so it just made sense.

The other thing is that I have a lot more flexibility about the amount of hours I work and when I take leave. There is, however, a catch - which is that I get paid per hour I work (up to a maximum of 8 hours per day). That means that while I’m generally free to take leave as I like since I’m not getting paid for my time off anyway, the opportunity cost of not working creates a strong incentive to work. Even though the salary still ends up higher after taking into account normal amounts of leave, seeing big drops in your pay month-to-month isn’t fun.

What do you not love about your job?

The Federal Government environment is one where there really is so much that is out of your control and means you have to be adaptable to the decisions that are made from above. It gets overly political, which can be frustrating when you’re trying to deliver something that will ultimately benefit Australian citizens but keeps getting derailed unexpectedly.

What advice would you give someone deciding what they should do?

Independent consulting is a more lonely game than working for a consulting firm. Your day to day boss is also your client, and they’re paying good money for you, so there can be less room to bounce ideas around or ask dumb questions, and greater expectations on you to solve the problems at hand independently. You want to make sure you have enough experience under your belt to be able to work through the range of problems that will come your way, confidently. Remember, as an independent consultant you will probably also be responsible for finding your next contract, so the consequences of underperformance can be more obvious. You should consider whether you’re comfortable with the uncertainty and job insecurity that can come with it.

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