David Cass

David Cass

Partner and Head of Transformation and Change at Sia Partners Consulting Ireland

Partner and Head of Transformation and Change at Sia Partners Consulting Ireland, David completed the UCD Diploma in High Performance Sales and Business Development in September 2020.

Tell us about your education and career progression to date

After completing a science degree in UCD and a DBS(IT) in Smurfit School I joined Deloitte Consulting in 2001 where I focused initially on technology integration, project management and strategy development. After a couple of years I moved into the CFO services side of the business delivering strategic advisory across shared services, outsourcing and finance operations. In all, I spent 12 years with Deloitte Ireland working on business & finance transformation programmes across multiple industries, I also completed a full time MBA in Smurfit School while taking a years sabbatical from work in 2006.

I left Deloitte to join Vodafone Ireland as Head of Strategy for their commercial operations team in Dublin, which mapped into a lot of what I’d done in Deloitte around shared services and outsourcing and combined that with customer operations, customer experience, call centre optimisation and online strategy.

Following my time at Vodafone I moved back into consulting with Pathfinder, which had been active in the Irish market for around five years before I joined but was still relatively small – around 12 or 13 people. I joined as a director and became a partner three years later. Pathfinder was acquired by the global consulting firm sia Partners in mid 2020.

By that stage we’d grown to nearly 50 people operating between Ireland and the UK in the three core areas of strategy, business transformation and programme delivery. Sia Partners are a French company with a similar history to ours in terms of services & client base, but are a much larger and global organisation. We are now part of a group of 1,800 consultants globally in 17 countries and 31 offices. It’s very exciting for us to be a part of this new company and we have retained a lot of freedom to continue growing our business in Ireland with the support of a very strong and capable global firm.

As a Partner in Sia Partners Ireland I lead the Transformation & Change team and also manage our Financial Services & Finance Transformation client portfolios.

Why did you decide to do the UCD Diploma in High Performance Sales and Business Development?

I started it before the sale to Sia Partners was on the cards. We’d come to a point where Pathfinder had grown to a fairly large team and we needed to add more structure and organised ways of working to operationalise how we’d instinctively done things – this was especially true in the sales and business development side of the business. I thought doing the diploma would be a good opportunity to add substance to my experience and provide me with a better grounding in what I was already doing right and what I should be doing better.

Part of the plan was also to bring the learnings back to Pathfinder as an organisation and to create a more systemic view of how we should approach a sales strategy, targeting clients, preparing content and to be more methodical in this space in general. We were getting a bit too big to be relying on the same few people to do the work and to be using the same avenues for getting clients.

Tell us about your experience of doing the diploma

I think it was well organised and thought out. The structure of the course modules was logical and strong. Overall, the diploma brought a lot of technical elements and theory but also very practical, interactive and challenging content.

The fact that it was spread out over a number of months was very helpful because there was time to reflect on the learnings before coming back in for more theory. A lot of courses I’d done previously had been two weeks of full-on learning where you just race through the content and can’t remember what you’d done the day before by the end!

Having a consistent cohort in the class was really good as well. It’s great to work with the same people and form a team bond over the course; they become your support structure as well. Also, it increases your network and exposure to different experiences. People are bringing a huge amount of experience into the diploma so you really are learning from each other and getting real business experience from people in very sales focused organisations. A lot of people on the course manage big sales teams so I got a lot of insight from them.

I thought the way the programme was examined was good. It wasn’t about rote learning and repeating the models & content. It was about keeping a diary – taking a reflective view of the content, applying it to a problem in your own your life and writing that up, which I found more valuable than writing up theoretical or answering case study questions.

What module did you enjoy most or get most benefit from?

I’ll pick out a couple. Strategy for Breakthrough Sales Performance was our first module and a very good way to start because it unpicked all the elements of a sales strategy for a large sales team & organisation. In my role I would probably have a lot of these activities intuitively, but I’d never seen everything laid out on a page before or the relative importance of the different segments and how they should align. That was really strong and challenged us to think about our own situation and teams, and to question and discuss them with people in the room.

The coaching module was a very personal and honest session in terms of everyone getting their chance to speak their mind, talk about actual problems and get help from other people. I also thought the practical elements of the negotiation module were very good and highly interesting.

Do you have an overall takeaway from doing the diploma? 

I think it’s probably getting an understanding of all the elements that go into a good sales strategy and taking the time to lay them out, understand and assess them, and look at the areas you need to work on. One thing I took away was to make sure you’re managing the system as a whole and not just the areas you like. And that’s something I’m trying to bring back into the office now so we’re working to a system as opposed to just striking out in areas that people like or are comfortable with.

What have been the other benefits for you?

For me, this course has come at the perfect time. Initially I was just bringing the learnings back to my team and trying to create something locally and benefit ourselves that way. Now, it’s really helping us to be systematic to fit into a global group, I think it will benefit the group as well.

It definitely had a big impact on me and how I work and has been a great support, especially with moving into Sia Partners. It really elevates me across the team in terms of the ability to look into these things and start driving out some of these behaviours in the firm.

Another one of the big benefits of doing any course like this is the network you build. We had a really good group to interact with and learn with and become friends with. We’re all still in contact and we help each other out.

What is your advice for people who are thinking of doing this diploma?

I would say you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. Bring real problems – it is a course but it’s also a forum for you to experiment in and to get value out of other people. And don’t be afraid to put problems on the table because it’s a trusted environment and you will find other people have experienced the same and will have solutions as well.


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