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How my geospatial studies got me into management consulting

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CPCS alumnus and GIS specialist Tobin McGilligan says his four years doing high impact work in a management consulting firm moved his career in the fast lane. And little did he know that one day, in a job interview, he would name drop the famous blue locomotive children’s character called Thomas the Tank Engine.

I didn’t know much about management consulting or transportation. But applying on a whim for a data analyst/cartographer role at CPCS turned out to be a smart decision!  

I was a rookie when I joined CPCS. It was also my first full-time position. Before that, I was working in part-time roles performing geospatial fieldwork on behalf of FEMA, collecting data on bridge openings and dimensions to be used in flood modelling.

In four years at CPCS, my work has landed in front of many eyeballs, as well as in the hands of leaders and decision-makers around the world.

One of my favorite projects was the Texas-Mexico border transportation master plan, where we referenced academic research and combined multiple data sources in different languages and formats to predict truck waiting times at international border crossings.

CPCS’s appeal

How do you leave a lasting impression in an interview when you have no experience in the infrastructure sector or transportation field?

The first thing that came to my mind is saying that I enjoyed watching Thomas the Tank Engine as a child. Thank goodness my interviewer thought it was funny too!

Jokes aside, I can say with confidence that CPCS excels at detecting potential.

The team saw that I had valuable and practical skills to deepen the company’s data analytics advisory services. And this is what I’ve done for four years with other talented cartographers, data scientists and modelers.

CPCS’s reach in different markets also makes work very interesting.

While I didn’t physically travel, my work took me around the globe. I analyzed and structured big chunks of messy data and created maps and infographics for a range of clients in Kenya, Gabon, Nigeria, Canada, the US and more.

The Swiss Army knife team

Belonging to the firm’s Infrastructure Analytics global unit was like being a part of a hyper-intelligent, self-aware, Swiss Army knife.

Each team member has surprising skills and expertise, and there are many ways those tools can be used together. The team creates a sense of purpose, belonging and cohesion for everyone, with a culture of burden-sharing to ensure each person is supported.

Working on complex projects in a multidisciplinary management consulting firm isn’t always easy.

But that’s how I learned to ask good questions – it’s a much-needed skill to unpack and understand the breadth of impact that infrastructure has. Having so many experts under one roof lets you see a project from many different viewpoints, and communication is key in order to have the same understanding of the desired result.

Thank you CPCS for making me a better communicator and contributor!

Leaving a winning workplace culture

I can testify that CPCS’s culture is outstanding.

CPCS hires team members who show potential, and then provides them with support and training to help them grow.

At about 150 people, CPCS is a great-sized company for someone just starting out in their career—you’ll feel connected to your colleagues and the work more intimately than in larger firms that may have organizational structures dozens of layers deep.

So, if you’re considering a career in management consulting, know this:


  • works and has offices around the world
  • offers rapid career progression and opportunities for self-starters
  • provides a stellar environment where autonomy is valued
  • is an egalitarian organization where ideas and people move freely

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