Hours and travel required in consulting?

If you have direct experience working for a design/innovation consultancy (e.g., IDEO or its competitors), I would appreciate your data point on:

  1. How many work hours weekly are expected from entry to mid-level employees?
  2. How much overnight travel is required from entry to mid-level employees?

Based on your direct experience, I would very much appreciate a specific average number, or if the average is misleading, a range and median numbers.

I searched for threads addressing either of these questions but could not find any. If they do exist already, please provide direction.

This is impossible to generalize which is why there probably aren’t any threads about it.
You will need to talk to the potential employer about this as every firm is run differently and your project requirements vary.
We often talk about ebb and flow in the design professions.

However, I would say based on my experience, expect to commit a lot more time than you thought or is contractually required. Especially in consulting, you are being asked to turn on a dime and put in the extra hours if the project and client need it… and they always need it!

Can you tell us more about what area you are looking at and what kind of consulting work your firms of interest are doing?

I appreciate your response, and I respectfully reassert that the 2 questions I am asking can be answered. Please note that my query is for “your data point” and not a generalization. If you have such a data point, I would appreciate you trying to put it into actual numbers and replying again. If the variability week to week or project to project is so significant as to make averages misleading, please provide a range and median.

I’m not sure what you mean by area, but I’ll assume you mean geographical location. I am interested in U.S. locations only. If you mean particular area of products or services, I’d be happy to hear about any and all.

Regarding type of consulting, whereas I am interested in any type of consulting that might touch on industrial design in some aspect or another, I’m particularly interested in firms that offer generalist product and service design and innovation. Basically, IDEO and any other company that competes or would like to compete against anything they do.

Design work comes in ebbs and flows, generally regardless of the company.

If the consultancy has an active business you can expect that 45-60 hours is probably a normal level for a busy week. If a client has you in a crunch, be prepared to work weekends to make that big deliverable. Again, this will depend on the consultancy and their client load.

For a truly entry level position, be prepared to work more than that in order to improve your skillsets (you do not come out of school equipped to be a professional designer, and the time it takes to learn new software and skills will increase the amount you have to work). A mid level or more Sr designer will have a more predictable workload along with better time management skills.

In terms of travel - it will depend heavily on the company, your role, the location of your clients and your involvement in manufacturing. As an entry level employee you would likely travel overnight much less, there are more senior employees who will be the primary ones engaging with clients on long business trips. But if your clients are local you would most likely be going and accompanying the lead designers on trips so you can better understand the work you’ll be doing.

If your role has a larger research or manufacturing component to it, then you would travel more. I know people who have spent months abroad in Asia for projects where they need to be directly tied into manufacturing.

Usually I’m between 35-45 hours. I travel overnight every month or so - you’ll travel a lot more if you are a researcher due to onsites. If you’re routinely doing more than a normal 40 hour week, you are working for bad managers, have a time management problem, or you are working in a sweatshop. In your life, you will not get that time back, so work hard at keeping the workflow under control. You’ll do better work and be happier. The worst I’ve had to deal with in 13 years is a 3 or 4 week stretch of 60 hr weeks on summer, mostly due to participation in some research onsites, or recently when a coworker has quit and the candidate search took longer than expected. Otherwise, working over 45 hours is pretty rare for me, and IT SHOULD BE for you. Communicating within your team and with clients is the key to keeping things under control. And don’t be afraid to quit if you’re in a situation that is routinely sacrificing your life/time for client dollars.

I wouldn’t surprise me for an entry level designer to wok more like 50 hours, and more in the peak times, less in the lulls. At an entry level travel will likely be little to none. As you advance, you will travel more.

50 seems high for an average - and not trying to revive a zombie thread here either, just sharing experience. In 4 consulting groups I’ve averaged well below that. 50 is usually indicative of the need to hire more people, and really pushing the envelope of what constitutes a tolerable existence. I can see IDEO et al using their perceived status as a way to extract blood hours from young, naive kids just out of school that are looking to “change the world” and too blinded by that ideal to see how hard they’re being timeraped. Beyond the first couple working years, it’s kind of a “shame on you” situation if you let yourself get trapped in workaholic pressure cooker land. The work we do isn’t important enough to justify “living” like that 99.9% of the time. We aren’t curing cancer or anything. We’re usually changing the shape of plastic. Sometimes to a useful purpose.