Updating Results

Nous Group

  • 100 - 500 employees

Ethan Barden

I love the process of starting with lots of disparate, muddy information about a situation and synthesising until I have an insight that brings the situation into focus.

What's your job about?

Nous is a management consultancy which provides insights and strategic advice on tough challenges facing organisations.  For example, Nous has delivered an organisational redesign for an energy provider, a functional and efficiency review of an Australian Government department, and an economic model that measures the impact of regional universities on the economy of regional Australia.  I’m a consultant, which means that I’m responsible for the pieces of a project delegated to me by the project manager.

These pieces can consist of a whole heap of different things.  A single day might include:

  • Desktop research to provide context and clarity on the regulatory obligations of an organisation
  • Interviewing stakeholders to capture their insights and perspectives on the challenges facing an organisation
  • Survey design to test the attitudes and opinions of an organisation, or the organisation’s customers
  • Developing key performance indicators that capture whether an organisational transformation is having the intended effect
  • Quantitative analysis of data to distil a clear message
  • Writing a report to synthesise and communicate our findings and recommendations.

Okay, I’m unlikely to be doing all of those things in a single day.  But I’m likely to undertake all of these tasks as a consultant, depending on the needs of the various projects.

What's your background?

I was born in the USA in the Midwest (think lots of corn).  After one cold winter too many, when I was 10, my family moved to Los Angeles and we lived there for three years before moving to Alice Springs for my teenage years. I love the beauty and the isolation of the Red Centre.

I spent my gap year working as an Inclusion Support Assistant, which means I worked with special needs students so they could participate in a mainstream classroom.  It was tough but rewarding work.

I studied physics at the Australian National University.  From about Year 9, I was certain that I was going to be a physicist who unlocked the mysteries of the universe.  But after finishing university, I decided to spend some time working as a university tutor, which led to a role managing a project improving STEM education for high school students.  I loved seeing the concrete outcomes of my work – something that I would find harder to see as a physicist.

As the project approached stability, I started thinking about what I wanted to do next.  I wanted to do work that had a positive influence on the world, where I could learn about and work on a variety of new and challenging problems.  Nous looked like a company where I could do that, so I applied!  I haven’t been here long – at the time of writing, it’s been two weeks.  But I’m loving it so far.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely!  Management consulting attracts a diverse range of people.  My colleagues have backgrounds in law, commerce, all variety of sciences and arts, international relations, advertising… I could go on.

The commonality is that we’re all curious and driven people.  At the end of the day, we are finding solutions to complex problems, so strong problem-solving skills are a must.  Personal organisation is important when you’re working on many busy projects.

But most importantly, you need to be a decent person.  This is a people-centric job: you are working closely with your project team, clients and stakeholders. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love the process of starting with lots of disparate, muddy information about a situation and synthesising until I have an insight that brings the situation into focus.  I can take the insight to my smart and capable colleagues, and test and refine it, and end up with something that I’m really proud of.  It’s an exhilarating feeling, and it very definitively reminds me of my scope for positive influence in my role.

What are the limitations of your job?

The work is intense.  When I’m at work, I’m working hard.  And when I get home, I am tired from focusing all day.  I find the work interesting so it’s not challenging to focus, but it does mean I’m more likely to get home and watch Masterchef than The Wire!

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Spend your summers wisely.  Go on road trips with friends and intern as much as you can.  It’ll build up your skillset and expose you to opportunities you might not have considered.
  • On that note, don’t make up your mind about what you want to do before you even start university!  Keep an open mind, and think about what it is you actually enjoy, not what you think you enjoy.
  • Finally, practice public speaking, however you can!  I hated it when I was younger, but it is just a case of practise, practise, practise.  So practise early and often!