TSG Recruiting – What makes us different

The fall is an exciting time at TSG.  Not only do we officially start our new college hires the Tuesday after Labor Day, but September begins our recruiting efforts.  This year we are headed to Notre Dame, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Bradley, DePauw as well as Miami of Ohio.  Each of the last two years, we have posted blogs specifically for recruits including 2012’s What to look for in that first job and 2013’s What to be concerned about for that first job.  As many of our recruits have a diverse number of career options, this post will highlight some of the things that are different about TSG in evaluating your career choices.  

Chicago – particularly downtown Chicago

When we started TSG back in 1996, we were a “virtual office” in that all of our work was done on site at clients.  Lots of consulting firms still work in this model where their office is really more of a stopping point rather than a destination, with hoteling offices and cubicles.  As we grew, more and more of our clients wanted to avoid travel costs almost as much as our consultants wanted to avoid long driving or flying commutes.  Don’t get me wrong, we still travel to our clients in a number of locations in Chicago, as well as across the country, but the core of our work is done from our downtown Chicago location.  Some benefits for consultants include:

  • Living Downtown or in the Suburbs – In promoting a diverse work environment, our downtown location lets our people live downtown or in the suburbs. Many of our new recruits pick LakeView, Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, Old Town or other Chicago neighborhoods to experience the true lifestyle of living in the big city.
  • Collaboration and Culture – When we talk to clients, we mention that, by working in the office, our consultants have face to face access to just about everyone in the company for problem solving, mentoring and brainstorming. We feel we can deliver a better product for our clients at a lower cost.  We still push to be onsite at the client when necessary for reviews, demos and major milestones, but the bulk of our work is done in our office space with our teams collaborating.  With the consistency of our team downtown, working together is key to our culture.
  • High Visibility – As small company with everyone located in the same office, results in a team where everyone knows what everyone else is doing. From our daily manager huddle and staffing, to lunch table conversations, our office focus enhances our ability to help one another on a daily basis.
  • Commute – We chose downtown Chicago based on our consultants ability to commute from anywhere in Chicago. While many people might think “Chicago has some of the worst traffic in the world”, our downtown location allows everyone the ability to commute via the train rather than drive.  Not only do the trains allow us to be a very green company but also make even the longest commute predictable and, to be honest, somewhat easy.  Unlike driving, the trains allow for consistency as well as the ability to do other things (I am actually writing this post on the train).  Our office is 15 minutes from the three major light rail suburban train lines and located above the Blue and Red Elevated Subway lines (consultants don’t even have to go outside).

We are also pretty proud of our true Chicago office with a great view of the Daley Plaza – See post in regards to our view during the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Celebration.  As a young company, we look for fun events to build camaraderie, whether they are impromptu happy hours or company sponsored outings like our Colorado ski trip.

Career First

Years ago, our management team sat down to define our core principles.  After multiple attempts over the years, 10 years ago we came up with:

Providing balanced and rewarding careers for our people to help our clients succeed.

To break down the principle:

  • Career – In our discussions, we thought we needed something stronger to indicate that our focus was on our people and that a long-term rewarding career came first. Rather than “Consultant First” we shifted our focus to “Career First”.  Another component of our career focus is striving for a “challenging work and an enjoyable team environment”.  A Career include beings challenged (and overcoming challenges) but also enjoying your team and environment.
  • Balance – We added balance to focus on our work-life balance. In striving for a balance, we thought it was important that balance means that sometimes life takes precedence, and other times work, for a rewarding career, will take precedence as well.
  • Our Clients – We are a service driven company and, as part of any good service provider, we want to contribute to our clients over a long-term relationship to make them successful.

In delivering this overview, I typically ask recruits “what’s missing?”.  Some of the things from other companies include:

  • Grow People and Revenue by X% year over year
  • Grow Profits
  • Dominate our industry
  • ….

All of the owners of TSG are employees of TSG.  As the folks that work here, we realized long ago that goals around “bigger is better” aren’t always consistent with career goals of our people.

Balance

The founders of TSG left careers at larger consulting firms looking for more of a balanced lifestyle. In maintaining a work-life balance, some difficulties with typical consulting firms include:

  • Excessive Overtime – hard to balance life when working considerable overtime.
  • Excessive Travel – particularly out of town travel.

With our remote development capabilities and downtown office location, we have been successful in keeping overtime (less than 2% average) and out of town travel (less than 4%) in check.  We feel strongly that our best work is when our consultants have balance and that too much overtime and travel does not result in a quality product for our clients.  The best employee is a happy and well rested one.

Consulting AND Software

One area that we are very different from other consulting firms is our hybrid approach with providing open source software along with consulting services.  In regards to a career in computer systems, the hybrid approach has some benefits versus pure consulting or software firms:

  • Open Source Software versus Proprietary Software – We like to say that all our code can be reviewed by our clients as well as used by other consultants. That said, we are training and teaching good design, coding and testing practices, fundamental to a successful career in software development.  Proprietary Software (and internet sites) don’t always have the same review and can teach and reward some bad (or hacking) practices that are difficult to break later in a career.
  • Software Product – We do have, and invest in, our own products. At key strategic times as well as when we have resources available, we enhance our products for additional capabilities.  As an example, see a recent update in our capabilities to do image redaction (add link).  Key to career goals and a challenging work environment are keeping consulting resources busy between clients assignments.  Our software development and R&D keeps our consultants busy and learning.

Summary

TSG is a different place to begin a career and we are proud of our success in growing and grooming our college hires.  See more detail in the Careers Section on our website.

If you are interested in joining TSG, please visit us at one of the below career fairs or sign-up for an on-campus interview.

Notre Dame – Career Fair, 9/9 – Interviewing 9/29

Purdue – Career Fair, 9/11 – Interviewing – 9/30

Bradley – Career Fair 9/18 – Interviewing – 10/2

University of Michigan – Career Fair 9/22, Interviewing – 10/8

DePauw – Career Fair 9/25, Onsite Interviewing – 9/30

Michigan State – Career Fair 10/1, Interviewing – 10/13

Office Interviews will be 10/16 and 10/24