international assignment, train

Consultants and International Assignments

International experience is a crucial differentiator for current and future leaders, according to Peter Lacy, Global Managing Director of Strategy & Sustainability Services at Accenture.

“Our clients increasingly operate seamlessly across borders. Our people need to be able to do the same,” he says. “That mindset comes from being exposed to new business cultures and experiences that come with international placements.”

As an Executive Search Firm, we find that many companies are looking to cultivate the next-generation of leaders for an increasingly global marketplace. As companies and businesses continue to stretch their operations across borders to meet the demands of a globalized market, there are now many opportunities for management consultants to seek assignments abroad.

If you are a management consultant interested in pursuing an international assignment with your firm, here are some insights from former management consultants who incorporated an international assignment into their consulting careers:

You will develop a word view through exposure to new cultures, new problems, and new industries:

When I was pitched a “couple month project near a beach” in a country I’d never been to, I figured “why not” and took the chance to go and work in Indonesia. The project ended up lasting a year, and I essentially lived out of a suitcase for the next 4-5 years after that, working on projects throughout Asia including Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and Korea. It was a really interesting time to be in Asia – the financial economies were collapsing and there was very challenging work for us in helping large conglomerates optimize their corporate portfolios and restructure businesses. I felt like I was in “Lost in Translation” at times, but it taught me a lot about patience, and about being open minded to different cultures and people.

Eng Tan, Vice President & Head of Client Marketing at Asurion, LLC; Booz & Company Alum

You will learn to be adaptable and flexible:

International exposure has had a huge impact on my career, and a good chunk of my experience has been outside of the U.S. I think that in order to work well internationally, you need to be both curious and humble, and assignments abroad are somewhat of a torture test for those two traits. You gain flexibility and an appreciation for diversity within a team, as most teams abroad have a broader spectrum of views, languages, etc., than U.S. teams have to offer.

Andrew Bienkowski, Vice President & Group Managing Director at S.C. Johnson & Son; Accenture Alum

If you’re in a senior position within a company that has an international business, it’s really hard to understand other cultures without experience making the adjustment to a different place and way of doing things. Visiting a country is very different than actually living and working there, so personal experience with that type of change and immersion is certainly valuable.

Eng Tan, Vice President & Head of Client Marketing at Asurion, LLC; Booz & Company Alum

You will gain the insight necessary to be a well-informed business leader:

My international experience has 100% impacted my career. It is absolutely important to have that experience in today’s world – if you don’t, you will lack credibility and a context to make well-informed business decisions. Until you are outside of the U.S., you don’t really appreciate its size and importance; at the same time, you may also lack a knowledge of its flaws. Taken in terms of operating level, it is also critical at the senior ranks – when you are working with senior executives they want you to be able to talk the same game.

Dave Kluz, Managing Director at Pernod Ricard SA; Boston Consulting Group Alumbelief, but I feel as though when you lack international experience you are left a bit more underdeveloped than you would be otherwise. My company operates on a “Think global, act local” mantra, and the leveraged learning you get from understanding economies of scale, etc., is key to what we do. To really be leaders nowadays, I think you have to take it global.

Bruce Hawver, Chief Executive Officer at SteelSeries; McKinsey & Company Alum

In my own experience, I worked abroad in the earlier portion of my career, and I returned to the U.S. at a time when the domestic world was starting to develop the more matrixed and vague roles you see today. There was a need for people to influence organizations. My international roles were key in my ability to have that influence, because I had been working with people in Europe in these types of global roles that the U.S. was just developing. It was as though I had gotten to pilot test it.

Andrew Bienkowski, Vice President & Group Managing Director at S.C. Johnson & Son; Accenture Alum

It can accelerate your career towards senior-level executive positions:

If you’re actually thinking of your career more broadly, I think [an international consulting assignment] helps, because bringing geographic diversity to your curriculum is now a must-have for any kind of C-level executive position. There are more and more positions now, especially at the GM level, for which experience on at least two, if not three, continents, is required. And just Europe and the US are almost not good enough now. You need to have Europe, the US, and probably Asia or Africa to be relevant.

Nicolai Gerard, Digital Acceleration Officer at Groupe SEB; Bain & Company Alum

…But it could hinder your career progression if you are in consulting for the long-haul:

It certainly hurts if you’re aiming for Partnership, because at a point — probably when you reach the Manager level — if you’re serious about making it to Partner you’ll want to capitalize on your network locally.

Nicolai Gerard, Digital Acceleration Officer at Groupe SEB; Bain & Company Alum


These former consultants pursued international opportunities during their management consulting careers and gained a bettering understanding of the international factors shaping their and their clients’ businesses. While an international experience may not fit into your current career trajectory, the benefits of a global mindset, an international network of contacts, and exposure to emerging global markets helped each of these consultants leverage his international experience towards his current senior-level executive role.