"I didn’t realise the flexibility that was available at Newton. Now I’m back to loving what I do."
My unexpected journey TOM POPE IS ONE OF A FEW PEOPLE TO HAVE JOINED US TWICE. FIRST IN 2012, THEN AGAIN IN 2018. HE TELLS US WHY.
Looking back at the start of my career, I now appreciate that working in engineering didn’t really play to my strengths.
I loved applying physics and maths to solve problems but felt the technical detail wasn’t for me. What I enjoyed most was working on big projects with big impact and collaborating with people but felt I might be able to do this more elsewhere which is why I decided to make the move over to consulting.
At first, I was sceptical about consulting because I didn’t think you could “go in and tell someone else how to do their job.” After speaking to someone at Newton I knew from uni about consultancy, I began to understand that it was a well-rounded way to understand business and could see that it would lead to good future job prospects. More specifically, I liked what I heard about the culture, it just seemed like a really good fit for me.
After joining Newton, I progressed from Consultant to Principal Consultant over five years and loved the variety of work. I went from trains, to turkeys, to ships; safe to say I was never bored! However, this variety came with a lot of travel and being away from home. I couldn’t help but come back to the values that had been instilled in me as a child and was aware that I wasn’t always fulfilling the promise I’d made to myself to put family first. I’ve always wanted to emulate my dad. He was a real inspiration to me and the reason that I followed in his footsteps and went to work as an Engineer after university. I remember as a child, my dad regularly travelled with work, but we never felt it as a family. I always appreciated how he prioritised us and now try to emulate this with my own family too.
In consulting, I really enjoyed the work but travelled a lot, spending more time away from my partner than I thought sustainable. With the desire to start a family of our own, I knew something had to change. Which is why I left to join a local firm.
The work was interesting and mostly local so I was spending a bit more time at home. On the flip side, it didn’t have the same pace or camaraderie I’d enjoyed at Newton. I missed the buzz; the fun, friendship, and high performance that Newton offered, and I’ll admit when a senior partner contacted me about returning, I felt very tempted. This feeling was equally matched by hesitancy around returning to the lifestyle though. So I was honest about my non-negotiables, asking for more nights at home than away and flexible working that would mean I could prioritise my family. I was met with support, and although I still had reservations, I went for it.
2005I studied Engineering at Magdalene College in Cambridge. I never took to the theory part but enjoyed making things. I remember setting up a wind tunnel using my Grandad’s leaf blower, a few cardboard boxes, and some coat hangers.
2008A simple design and a wad of cash. That’s all I had as a graduate heading off to build a still in Zanzibar for ‘Engineers Without Borders’. I relished the sense of adventure and the feeling I was doing some good.
2009I joined a large utility company as a graduate Mechanical Engineer, where I did everything from operations to maintenance to projects in power stations. After a year in the UK, I spent two more working on projects in Madrid.
2011The long-term prospects in power generation didn't appeal much. Consulting offered challenging, varied work. I chose Newton because it felt close to my engineering roots, solved real-world problems, and sounded like a genuinely fun place to work.
2012I worked on a variety of projects that took me from railways to turkey farms to aircraft carriers. Over five years, I progressed from Consultant to Principal Consultant.
2017I left Newton for a local consulting firm. With the prospect of kids on the horizon, I wanted to travel less. On reflection, perhaps I could have talked to others at Newton rather than accepting that was how it had to be.
2018I was asked to come back to Newton and missed the buzz. I was honest about the work-life balance I wanted and most of the time I achieve it. Since returning, I’ve progressed to Business Manager, then Senior Business Manager and, most recently, Director.
Now firmly back in the business, I’m part of our Business Leadership Team and lead our supply chain practice in defence which means my impact extends to improving how Newton operates as a business, as well as those of our clients. Recently, the work I’ve led with the military has had me glowing. Not only the money we’ve saved (£150m for the taxpayer) but also the positive impact on the UK’s ability to defend itself and seeing individual clients grow because of our work. Some of our most challenging stakeholders have gone on to win awards from military top brass for their achievements.
Since being back at Newton, I’ve again had the opportunity to progress quite quickly, most recently becoming a Director which is an exciting new challenge. The idea of reaching this level would have seemed ridiculous to me when I first entered consulting. The fact that I have is testament to how much I enjoy what I do. And I’ve done a lot in my time here.
All of this hard work and opportunity has sustained my confidence in my decision to return, but I’ll admit that I’ve had to work hard to get enough quality time with my partner and young daughters every week. I’ve realised the key is being present in what I’m doing when I’m doing it. When I’m away, I can spend more hours on the laptop, and in return I’ll take an afternoon with my girls when I’m home. Newton is becoming increasingly supportive of flexible working and as long as I have a thriving team, successful projects, and happy clients there are no expectations restricting me on how I achieve this.
I hope when my girls start work and come to reflect on their own childhood memories, they’ll fondly remember a present and happy dad who was able to succeed in his own endeavours whilst always prioritising his family.
I was surprised at the number of raw ingredients from my engineering career that were relevant to consulting, but the learning curve still hasn't flattened in all the time I've been here.
Looking for something unexpected?
Think Newton could be the next stop on your career journey? Head to our Experienced Hires page to discover more about what makes us different and why you should join our team. And if you tell us a little about yourself, we’ll show you someone at Newton with similar experience, so you can see what you might achieve if you join us.
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