Emir Cabukoglu on high-impact strategic work at Roland Berger

12 July 2021 Consultancy-me.com 5 min. read
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Strategy consulting is a hugely popular career path for graduates, seeking the opportunity to broaden their practical knowledge and build for a future career path. Consultant Emir Cabukoglu spoke to Consultancy.org about his experiences as part of Roland Berger’s Middle East team since joining two years ago.

The consulting industry has long been one of the most popular among graduates looking to jump-start their careers, with challenging work, compelling projects, a diversity of industries and clients all regularly cited as reasons the world’s best and brightest head into professional services, post-university.

In particular, many graduates are drawn to the strategy segment of the consulting sector. According to Emir Cabukoglu, a Consultant with Roland Berger, life at the firm has already more than justified his choice of joining the industry over spending more time in academia. 

Emir Cabukoglu, Strategy Consultant, Roland Berger

Originally from Turkey, Cabukoglu attended Austrian and German schools in Istanbul before moving to Switzerland, where he eventually picked up Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from ETH Zürich. At that point, Cabukoglu found himself at a crossroads – unsure whether to embark on a further specialisation with a PhD, or to broaden his horizons with a new challenge.

He explained, “I really wanted to do something else, and I eventually settled on entering the consulting world for a couple of reasons. First, I had the desire to expand my knowledge in multiple areas, not stick to one point where my interests might be at that moment in time. When you do a PhD you focus on a single detail of a very technical area – but I wanted to learn about new things.”

“Further, some of my friends had already gained experience in management consulting, and exchanges with them inspired me in getting into the sector.” 

The choice of where to do that was a complex one, though. After spending so much time in Turkey and Switzerland, Cabukoglu found the idea of another fresh start particularly alluring. After looking at different countries, finally he ended up in Dubai. Drawn by the city’s expat culture, as he generally likes “cosmopolitan places where it is easy to interact with people, or get into a new culture,” he commenced a new life with Roland Berger’s office in the United Arab Emirates.

Commenting on what specifically drew him to strategy work with Roland Berger, Cabukoglu noted, “Strategic consulting is particularly interesting to me because it is high-level – it gives you a big opportunity to make a major impact… For example, when you help execute a project for a public entity in the region, your impact can directly become a national impact – improving the lives of many people. At the same time, when working for a private entity, you work with executives to plan for the future of a firm, and so on that basis you also impact a lot of people.”

Having been with the consultancy for almost two years now, Cabukoglu has seen a great deal of high-level work in this regard. At the beginning of their time, new members of the firm can acquaint themselves with multiple areas of service, but as Cabukoglu’s primary interest is in energy, his major engagements have mostly fallen in this field. His first project was with a public entity in the region, preparing a workforce development strategy for the energy sector – something which would lead to job creation for hundreds of thousands of people. 

Demonstrating the diversity of the work offered in strategy consulting, the next engagement straight after that involved a private sector client. The billion-dollar company wanted to acquire two of its regional rivals in the industry, but it needed support with the acquisition, including due diligence work and the planning of merger phases following the purchase.

Another engagement was a with a large investment company, which was exploring a new energy segment and needed support to develop concrete investment opportunities. “It was a move which would allow the company to enter an entirely new segment of energy to become a global player, and that would have an impact on billions of dollars in investment.”

Global connections

Reflecting on what have been so far the most rewarding aspects of his time with Roland Berger, Cabukoglu said, “The impact that the work has on the client’s side, and in the country the clients are based, is the most exciting part of work – and the most rewarding.”

“At the same time, it’s a really enriching atmosphere, as all these projects involve the international cooperation of multiple offices. When all these experts come together and deploy their knowledge for the client, this triggers an amazing learning experience for young professionals.”

“When the office doesn’t have the knowledge locally, it flies in talent to share knowledge. For example, in my first project, the project saw the French, German and Middle Eastern offices collaborate.” 

Since the global financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, the consulting industry of the GCC states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – had only trended upwards. Along with the rest of the global economy, however, the GCC consulting market faced a rude awakening in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic and its associated recession led the sector’s combined fees to drop. 

According to Cabukoglu, however, while the firm faced challenges, Roland Berger’s core cultural attributes have prepared it well for these difficult times. In particular, the firm’s willingness to let staff choose their own path means there is a real drive to achieve top results, while its diversity allows the company to cater to the complex needs of clients across the GCC. 

He concluded, “It’s not always the case that you get the chance to work where your interest lies, but there is an understanding here that you will do best, and go the extra mile, where your areas of passion are. Because of the dynamics and realities of the region, our international collaborations have been a huge plus for us. You don’t see a dominant culture here, so as well as complementing each other, we can learn from each other, and better meet the demands of different clients all over the region.”