Working at Pollen Consulting: Ezgi Dark & Matthew Wilkins

05 December 2019 6 min. read

Since launching three years ago, Pollen Consulting Group has grown rapidly in its native Australian market. Two of Pollen’s management consultants sat with to talk about how the business culture has helped its quest for expansion.

Founded in 2016, Pollen Consulting Group is an advisory firm focused on the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. The consultancy specialises in supply chain transformations and manufacturing excellence, as well as tapping into technology solutions, asset advisory, lean training and strategy plans.

Ezgi Dark joined the firm in late 2016, after obtaining a Master’s Degree in Project Management from the University of Sydney. While it was her first full-time role in the consulting sector, Dark told that an internship with PwC had already revealed to her that she had been “embracing a consultant state-of-mind” throughout her whole life. Building on that, Pollen allowed Dark the elbow-room to learn quickly on the job, making her feel trusted and welcome.

Ezgi Dark and Matthew Wilkins - Pollen Consulting Group

“What motivated me to join Pollen was the autonomy they give to their consultants in the working environment where individuals are willing to be rolling up their sleeves and driving outcomes while collaborating with like-minded, bright people to change the world for the better,” Dark elaborated.

While Dark was quick to move into consulting following his studies, colleague Matthew Wilkins arrived at Pollen in a more round-about way. After receiving a Certificate in Business Essentials from the University of North Carolina, Wilkins began his career as an R&D Graduate with food and drinks giant Mars, before working as a Territory Manager in the health sector with Boehringer Ingelheim and Roche. Wilkins’ move to Pollen – and life as a management consultant – in 2017 coincided with his relocation to Australia; something which brought with it a unique set of challenges.

“Working life in the UK and Australia has some notable differences,” Wilkins explained. “In the UK, management styles generally seem more serious whereas the laid-back Aussie style generally flows all the way up to senior management level, which is definitely a plus for me. The working day is also different – in the UK, people generally start and finish work at more fixed times but work intensely between those times, whereas Australia has a more fluid attitude to the working day – this means the time working is generally longer, but there is more flexibility so people start and stop to blend life and work together a little more.”

Diversity through growth

Despite having to adapt to this new environment, as well as a new industry, Wilkins has bedded into the company well. In the two years since his arrival, he has watched the consultancy’s team of eight branch into a group of 22 members. At the same time, this has enabled the consulting firm to expand the work it does, and its client portfolio, meaning the work he has been involved with has been highly diverse.

Wilkins elaborated, “I have been involved in a wide range of both analysis and implementation pieces of work. Operational excellence is one of our core competencies so I have had a lot of involvement in factory efficiency and waste reduction work in order to reduce the cost of production and increase line capacity. I have also personally developed as Pollen’s AQS (Average Quantity System) specialist – this has involved building business cases and developing and implementing a robust management system ensure compliance and allow the clients to benefit from the waste reduction this brings.”

“It is satisfying and motivating to work alongside smart people with innovative ideas and a passion for their vocation – a very unique opportunity to find.”

In the three years Dark has been involved with Pollen, she has taken on a multitude of projects from small, medium and large organisations. This has seen her help to drive different levels of change across the businesses of clients, including end-to-end opportunity analyses, future state modelling, and focused root-cause problem solving, and redesigning distribution network models.

“Given the start-up nature of the business when I first joined, I was involved in internal business development projects such as developing our own database of tools and templates for our consultants and clients to utilise,” Dark expanded. “The projects I’ve been involved with at Pollen also helped me get exposure to a wide variety of topics and industries. I’ve had exceptional opportunities to work with executives which enabled me to start developing soft skills which will benefit my career as it progresses.”

Pollen’s hive

When asked to describe the unique culture of the firm, Dark said it was something everyone at Pollen was proud to have helped build. A broadly egalitarian approach means that the firm’s staff feels empowered to make suggestions as to how it can improve.

Dark added, “Being a flat structure business allows us to create collaboration within our team. Everyone can share and learn from each other and this has helped developing strong bonds with each other. It is satisfying and motivating to work alongside smart people with innovative ideas and a passion for their vocation – a very unique opportunity to find. Along with the hard work, we also remember to have fun. As a team we enjoy spending time together, organising monthly and quarterly social events where our partners and friends are always welcomed too.”

Wilkins similarly highlighted the company’s culture of staff empowerment as a reason for its early success. As well as being supportive of employees taking action to improve their work, the leadership of the firm have also proven they are willing to praise the hard work of their staff. When asked what his personal highlight has been at Pollen, Wilkins noted the “amazing feedback from the managing director on the first piece of work I led on my own”, where he was commended for hitting the target as well and creating a notable cultural change towards factory waste.

He concluded, “I guess on a personal level, each of the quarterly events is a highlight because partners are invited so it’s great to get to know the team on a more personal level and means my wife can also get to know the team and enjoy some of the buzz.”