Hilary Thomas had a distinguished career in medicine as a clinician, academic and medical manager when she started to think about a career switch. But it was a diagnosis of breast cancer that gave her the “psychological impetus” to become a management consultant.
“I finished my treatment and I worked throughout, which made it clear how much work defined me,” says Ms Thomas, who joined KPMG in 2009 and is now a partner and the most senior clinician in its UK public sector healthcare advisory practice.
“Like a lot of journeys in life, it wasn’t exactly planned. If you’d said to me 10 years earlier that I would be a management consultant, I wouldn’t have believed it. I don’t think it was even clear in my mind what the term meant exactly.”
She found the change bewildering at first: “My first three months was a culture shock. I came from organisations where you can’t exercise a lot of autonomy and suddenly my environment was very different, where there wasn’t a lot of hierarchy or structure.
“As a doctor or medical director, the lines are clear. But an associate partner in an organisation with 10,000 people has very different drivers. My first three months were very shaky and I thought I’d made a mistake but when I started to win work and to enjoy the client interface, I delivered.”