From Consultant to Presentation Designer: A Story on Career Growth

From Consultant to Presentation Designer: A Story on Career Growth

By Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah | Blog Post

Jun 06
From-Consultant-to-Presentation-Designer-A-Story-on-Career-Growth

This is a story of a naive somebody who thought he could conquer the world with a college degree.

He had no idea what to do with his life and opted for the management consulting industry.

He forced his own career growth and development, just to stay relevant in the workplace.

He’s now doing everything he can to become a self-fulfilled entrepreneur and make a living off of designing presentations.

That somebody is, of course, me.

I decided it was time to tell my career growth story. I’ll touch on a few topics that are dear to me, the support I received (and didn’t receive), where I am right now, and where I want to go.

So, if you’re looking for a personal story on career growth, then this is it.

Where It All Began

Let’s start from the beginning.

I left college with a Bachelor’s Degree, honors, and even got to wear a medal at my graduation ceremony.

group of students celebrating their graduation ceremony

As a naive college graduate, I was ready to conquer the world, but there was only one problem.

I had no idea what to do with my life.

I knew that I wanted to do something in business since I majored in Business Administration, but I had no idea what it was that I wanted to do for a living.

So I did what any graduate would do when the time came to make hard choices.

I lived with my parents for six months and played video games non-stop.

active play station video game console controller on a table

It wasn’t until my mom walked in on me and forced me out of the house to find a job. I kept telling her I was doing my best (even though I wasn’t) but she (rightly) made clear that my best wasn’t good enough.

So I did what she said. I went around and asked companies if they were hiring. They would tell me to leave my CV with them, they would never call me, and I’d get depressed because no one wanted such a stellar academic student with so much potential.

That was sarcasm, by the way.

This went on for another couple of months until I got a call from my uncle. He asked if I was still looking for a job, to which I said yes. He offered me a role in his company as a “Business Development Manager.”

I was over the moon. I was a manager right out of college! The pieces were finally coming together. People are going to start seeing me for who I really am: a self-entitled superstar.

Yeah, that was sarcasm too.

Reality Strikes

I hated every minute of my first job. And by every minute, I mean that I was counting down the seconds until the end of my shift.

stressed out and depressed employee with no career growth

Don’t get me wrong – I love my uncle. He is an incredible, giving, successful kind of guy, He was, and still is, a role model to me. Even when I was a notorious Business Development Manager in his own company, he went out of his way to treat me like his own son was in his business.

The problem was that we don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I hated the work hours, I found that I wasn’t really learning anything, and my co-workers didn’t even want to work with me due to nepotism concerns.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I was sure that whatever I was going through wasn’t it. Career growth just wasn’t happening for me back then.

The Catch-Up

I took a vacation, flew out of the country, and ran into a friend of mine who I met during college. He asked if we could catch up over coffee, and I agreed.

We started talking, and he started telling me about his career growth story after college.

He was in advertising and loved every second of it. He kept telling me about all these fantastic projects he was working on, and how they add so much value to his professional lifestyle.

I couldn’t help but get jealous. He just went on and on about how amazing his experience was. He talked about stuff like the time he miraculously saved the company after his department’s budget was slashed, or how he handled a top-tier project with only two people.

With every word he spoke, I hated myself more for feeling so inferior.

happy employee day dreaming about his future

Then he asked how I was doing.

“I hate my life” were the words that left my mouth as I sighed. I continued to ramble on about how I hate my job, and how I wasn’t happy. It was almost as if I hired a therapist for the night.

“Well, what do you want to do?” He replied.

“I have no idea.”

“Um. Okay. What do you like doing?”

“Again, I have no idea.”

He paused, tapped his fingers on the coffee table, looked at me and then said: “Look. When we took classes together, I noticed something about you. You have the tenacity to solve complex problems. You always had this thing in you where you break big problems down into little pieces and solve each piece to come up with an ultimate solution. That’s what made you such a great student.”

I laughed. “Yeah, I know I have a knack for that sort of thing. But people don’t get paid to solve business problems.”

I’ll never forget the look he gave me as those words left my mouth. It’s almost as if his face told me that I was that stupid.

“Um, you do know that there’s an entire industry for that sort of thing, right?”

My eyes widened. “What do you mean?”

“Read up on management consulting. I think it’s the career for you.”

The Move to Consulting

I know it sounds stupid, but it’s true. I genuinely had no idea what management consulting was about.

But after reading up on it for weeks, I started to understand it was the perfect fit for me. I realized that I was attracted to stuff like project-based work, having a team around me, working in different industries, traveling, all of it. I loved everything about management consulting, and I knew it was something I needed to do.

To skip over a few details, I applied to reputable firm and got the job.

a group of employees (management consultants) working on a project

And let me tell you: I loved every single moment of it. I finally found a career that I could use to validate my worth.

Think about it: I was only 22, and I had a fancy job that allowed me to travel the world and stay in luxurious hotels. I even had access to the most innovative, hard-working professionals in various industries.

On top of that, I felt that the firm went out of their way to care for me. They pushed me out of my comfort zone to learn new things, try different methods, communicate better, and understand how business works. If I screwed up in any way, my managers never scolded me. They took the time to go over my mistakes and discussed how we could prevent making them again in the future.

Every project I took on as a consultant was exciting because my work was part of a solution. My ideas, my analyses, and my insights were deemed essential to the cause, and that was really special to me.

This consultancy firm was my second home. Truly.

A Slide Lovin’ Consultant

I’m going to let you in on a secret that you probably didn’t know about the consulting industry (unless you’re a consultant, of course).

Consultants use PowerPoint on a daily basis.

They use it to create and deliver business reports (or, as consultants call them, deliverables), and this trend has become a norm.

I’m not going to discuss why consultants love PowerPoint. However, I will say that all ‘good’ consultants know how to use it well.

pages from a business report laid out on a table

And the reason why I bring this up is that my love for making beautiful slides all started in my consulting days.

The more projects I worked on, the more I realized that above all else there are two things that a client will look for when hiring a consultant.

First, clients look for the quality of the solutions being proposed. Remember, consultants are hired to solve problems. It’s only fair that these same consultants provide solutions that are thoroughly assessed, well researched, and realistically implementable.

Second, clients need to understand the solutions that are being proposed to them. Consultants can come up with the most game-changing solutions in the world, but it doesn’t mean squat if the client doesn’t understand it.

The second point is what brings this home. PowerPoint is a visual aid to everything we, as a team of consultants, recommend to clients. It’s only fair to take the time and package the information to keep the client engaged and make sure everything can be digested. This includes stuff like using charts, pictures, SmartArt models, and the like.

That’s why I spent late nights in the office understanding exactly how all the features in PowerPoint came together. I watched YouTube tutorials, drew on inspiration from other designs, and even played with different visual communication strategies.

employee working late at night to learn new things and advance her career growth

Did I become a PowerPoint design expert during my consultant days? No. Not at all.

But I did start to feel a little spark in me whenever I launched PowerPoint on my laptop. A new chapter on my personal development and career growth was beginning to form.

After all, my love for designing slides was finally starting to blossom.

Forced Career Growth

As time went on, I was offered an opportunity to work at a semi-government firm. Let’s call it XYZ Inc.

I can’t get into the reasons why I left the consulting firm I loved, but I did. It was a tough decision to make, but I just wanted to see what the world had in store for me.

XYZ Inc. was a great experience. I loved working with everyone and understanding how company culture holds an impact on the work we were doing.

But there was one thing that brought everything I loved about presentation design to the surface.

XYZ Inc.’s senior executives admired good presentations. They always stressed the importance of pairing excellent design with superb content.

senior executive (ceo) folding his hands

The bullet points just didn’t cut it for them, and for a good reason; bullet points suck.

I knew that if I wanted to excel at XYZ Inc. while building rapport with the people on top, I had to thrive at PowerPoint. I had to force my own career growth.

And that’s precisely what I did.

I’m not overstating anything when I say I was obsessed with making slides. I bought PowerPoint templates, learned from courses dedicated to PowerPoint, and read books on story-telling. I did these things all the time. Every. Single. Day.

I was the PowerPoint guy of XYZ Inc., and every employee in the organization knew it. Any presentation with even the slightest importance went straight to me because I know how to make stellar slides. It reached a point where I was asked to host an in-house PowerPoint workshop for the company.

And this was just the beginning.

The Birth of Slide Cow

One day, a colleague passed by my desk and asked for my help. She wanted to make her slides look better. I happily agreed, and we got to work.

As I started making edits to her slides in real time, I noticed her jaw drop. I chuckled to myself and asked her what was wrong.

“You’re like a PowerPoint superhero, dude! You do everything so quickly, and it looks SO good!”

Yeah, I was flattered. But that’s beside the point.

It wasn’t until she looked at me and asked me one question that was set to change my life for good.

“Are you getting paid for this? Because this is definitely something you could do for a living!”

idea light bulb made out of yellow and white paper

She was right. I had skills that not many people had, and at that time, I treated those skills as a hobby. There was a real opportunity to put my skills to the test and sell them to the masses.

I just needed something to validate my idea a little more. I was craving for a sign that told me to just go ahead and do it.

So I went to Reddit and asked if people were genuinely interested in a learning resource that focused on making epic PowerPoint slides and decks. The response was overwhelming. A lot of people were going nuts over this. Some even went out of their way to say “I will pay for it.”

I found my niche, and it was time to take off. I just needed a name to make it all come together.

Different ideas for a name came up. I was this close to going with “The Presentation Experts.” But that name is so cheesy and formal. I needed something more enticing and energetic.

So I came up with Slide Cow.

Old Slide Cow Logo

This was my first take on the Slide Cow logo. Safe to say it stepped up since then.

I don’t know why I love the name, but I do. There’s just something about it that makes everything fun, and that’s what I was after.

But what sold me is the tagline I came up with: “We make your presentations a-moo-zing.”

The Hustle and Struggle

If you’ve been around Slide Cow in the early days, you’d know that it first started off as being a YouTube channel. We still use this same channel to host all of our free video guides.

My initial thought is that a space on YouTube was all I needed. I thought I’d become a millionaire from the ads alone. Sadly, that line of thinking didn’t work out so well.

The truth is that YouTube just doesn’t cut it for a business like this. YouTube is incredible for hosting video content, but it stops there. The people that make real cash off YouTube create content that appeals to millions and millions of people. In contrast, I had a specific niche: People who wanted to use PowerPoint seriously.

So I decided to take things to the web and host SlideCow.com.

But here’s the part that nobody tells you about building and maintaining a commercial website.

It’s really tough if you want to survive.

sad entrepreneur with no career growth wearing a bag over his head

There are so many things to consider – hosting platforms, webpage designs, payment processors, SEO, email lists, and relationship-building just to name a few. And yes, those things can also be expensive.

Honestly? I screwed up the Slide Cow platform so many times that I lost count. I mean, I have to be a presentation designer, video producer, marketing specialist, business strategist, and content creator at the same time. It’s all a big productive mess.

I tried to be as creative as I can with my approach to build the brand. I did things like redesign someone’s Tinder profile in PowerPoint and even collaborated with other people in the presentation space just to get Slide Cow out there.

I could go on and on about the crazy things I did, but I don’t want to bore you with the details. The point is I had to force my career growth every day to get Slide Cow growing.

the word "hustle" written out on paper

And then came the time to launch Slide Cow’s first product, the Slide Cow Toolkit. I worked for months on the Toolkit alone because I needed everything to be perfect.

Launching the Toolkit was probably the most depressing period of my life, and the reason why is because only one person bought it when I announced it was up for grabs.

I seriously didn’t want to touch Slide Cow for days after that. If it weren’t for my wife pushing me to try again, and try harder, I would have left Slide Cow to rot. But she believed there was value in it, and she was right. I kept finding unique ways to sell the Slide Cow Toolkit, and it ended up being our best seller. Hundreds of people bought it after I found ways to market it better. Who knew?

I moved on to diversify the product line and started to create beautiful, low-cost PowerPoint templates. I’ve had remarkable success with them, and I do plan to keep dishing out new templates soon.

Forcing my career growth wasn’t easy. In fact, it still isn’t. There were countless times where I wanted to quit and be done with it. I even had people tell me, to my face, that it was a “waste of time.” But the fire in my belly told me to keep going, and that’s what I did and will continue to do.

It’s certainly a struggle. But it’s a struggle I dearly love because I want need Slide Cow to be the go-to brand for all things PowerPoint, presentations and public speaking.

Where Slide Cow Goes From Here

I aim to make sure Slide Cow keeps growing. I won’t settle for average.

We’ll continue to diversify the product line with different resources and learning materials. Another thing we want to focus is collaborating with people in the same space. We recently had our first guest post, and people loved it.

We will also find unique ways to make Slide Cow more appealing to the masses, and yes that includes giving away more free things!

Google Analytics web traffic report on Slide Cow

Slide Cow’s web traffic from June 2017 to July 2018. We still have a long way to go!

As for myself? I won’t stop looking for ways to spark my career growth. I’m always on the lookout to learn and try new things, talk to different people, and look for ways to benefit the Slide Cow brand in any way I can.

But to truly make this a success story, I need the help of someone who can take Slide Cow to the top.

That person is YOU.

Let’s be clear: I talked about how I got to where I am. But the real catalyst to my career growth is your support. You have no idea how much I smile when I get an email saying “this is the best thing I’ve seen” or “you are a fantastic teacher.” Comments like these get me focused and help me look for ways to make Slide Cow a better experience, just for you.

So don’t be afraid to interact with others on this platform, sign up to the mailing list, share content on social media, or send me an email. In fact, I encourage you to do those things because you’re the only reason I keep Slide Cow going.

What’s Your Career Growth Story?

That’s my career growth story, and now I’m eager to learn yours.

What are your goals in life? Did you ever have to force your own career growth to get there? What obstacles did you encounter and how did you get over them?

Let me know by dropping a line in the comments section below.

And hey, if you liked this post, then don’t forget to share it on your social media feeds!

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About the Author

Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah is a PowerPoint ninja that founded Slide Cow, a learning platform for all things PowerPoint, presentations and public speaking. When he's not designing slides or giving presentations, he's on another coffee run.

  • Ursula says:

    Awesome story, Yoyo. I’m glad you found your calling and didn’t give up on Slide Cow when times got tough. It really is great, fun and so helpful. Your style of teaching and showing genuine care for your “clients” is really awesome. I hope you don’t lose that when SlideCow goes through the roof, I’m sure it will. I loved reading your story, and I’m sure others will as well. It’s also a great inspiration for people who havn’t yet found their “calling”, like me.
    Thanks so much!

  • Sylvia says:

    First of, it takes guts to open up that way so thank you for sharing your story! I have been following SlideCow for a while (love the name and tagline btw) and definitely noticed the growth journey. I can honestly say that your videos and template have been instrumental in my becoming a Powerpoint wizz at work, so once again, thank you for that. Your posts also prompted me to start looking into the whole storytelling aspect of presentations and I was wondering if you had any specific recommendation regarding books/resources on the topic?

  • Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah says:

    Thank you so much Ursula! As for your calling, just keep looking! Everyone has one, it just takes a little work to find it.

  • Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah says:

    Thank you so much Sylvia. The best book I’d reccomend for Story-Telling, without question, is Donald Miller’s ‘Building a StoryBrand.’ It’s wonderful!

  • Amit Farkade says:

    Thanks for this post.

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