Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms

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Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms - Baoloa response

Postby J.M. Greene » Tue Jul 18, 2006 8:50 am

Took me a minute to find the question!

Like Clare, most of my work has been U.S.-based, but I have done work for the Netherlands Cancer Institute and the Genome Institute of Singapore, and traveled to both nations. Your observation about the Bay Area is spot-on; and I believe that a similar evolution is underway in Boston. In my decade there, there was little industry about; now I can't walk 10 feet in Kendall Square without tripping over a biotech or now a major pharma! This is a MAJOR problem in the DC biotech scene, and one reason why things have been so quiet here the last few years, and one reason why North Carolina has pulled ahead of the metro DC area. HGS's spinoff of CogeneSys is the largest "founding" of a company around here since Celera (and they are only hiring a few folks)... we also have a shortage of venture capital, and not enough cross-communication between our local biotech industry and our academic scientists and Government scientists. The ethics problem at NIH last year has not helped on the Government front...

So finding opportunities to network between the two worlds are difficult, and I've heard that's true in general in Europe, including the UK. I take advantage of every opportunity I have here - BioIT Coalition, Tech Council of Maryland, Northern Virginia Technology Council, and I voulunteered last year at the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association Bio meeting in DC. Singapore seems to be more like the Bay Area - they have put together an impressive presence in biotech research.

Have you thought of starting a networking group? All you really need is one advocate that will let you use a room, probably at a centrally located university or company...

J.M. Greene
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Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms; The Gov't Contracting side

Postby J.M. Greene » Tue Jul 18, 2006 9:35 am

Just a few comments from a somewhat different world, after reading Clare's responses.

- Vault has a book out which talks about consulting firms (McKinsey is #1); I have to admit I've peeked, since SRA International is a pure-play Gov't contractor, and I'm curious about commercial sector work. One of my college roommates worked for BoozAllen Hamilton years ago out of his management degree from Sloan, and enjoyed it despite the constant travel. McKinsey's Insight program sounds like a GREAT idea...

- Typical day for me sounds a lot like Clare's, and I also have enjoyed the variety. Our projects tend to be of longer duration, but my workweek is normally well over 40 hours, too. Whose isn't these days? After almost seven years at SRA, it has almost never been boring - just sometimes a little hairy when my direct labor (i.e. paid by the client) coverage gets a little scarce. Something new always seems to crop up...

- Like McKinsey, at SRA, we also most often work in teams, and it is very common to start working with people you've never met before, particularly on proposals. Writing well is a big asset here.

Here's where I open my big mouth - although it is absolutely despised by a lot of senior faculty, biology has changed - and will be team-driven much more in the future. I'm NOT saying the days of the R01 individually-funded investigator-driven research are over - but team-based, "big biology" is here to stay. And that will change the number of R01's awarded, to be fewer, in order to fund the larger projects. I have heard senior investigators openly deriding projects such as the NIH Roadmap - and I strongly (but respectfully) disagree with those scientists; the Roadmap is one of the best ideas to come out of NIH in years.

I have a natural bias for contracts over grants as well - for those projects with a defined goal, like creating a pathogen database. Kudos to NCI and NIAID, who are among the NIH Institutes who use these mechanisms in addition to grants. Grants exclude public companies who need to make some profit for their sharholders. We are a capitalist society, after all. I'm not anti-grant - and I'm very pro-basic research. I just want to see grants used for open-ended research, where they make sense, and contracts used for more defined goals. Contracts take more Gov't supervision, but they also give the Gov't more control. Miss a contract deliverable and see what happens...

I never saw myself being this happy as a Government contractor and consultant - although my projects are more IT focused than most of Clare's. We and a number of our competitors are hiring - although opportunites crop up quickly here, and if we don't win the work, there are no new positions. Still, you are welcome to look at, and so I'm not too biased, look at the Washington Post jobs section, . As of now, there are 2655 jobs with the "mangement consulting" keyword (Egads! - how do I filter that down? Clare?), and 36 jobs with "bioinformatics" as the keyword (including one posted yesterday by TIGR).

Hmmm..better disclaim over here, too. The opinions expressed on this forum are strictly my own, and not necessarily those of my employers, SRA International and The Johns Hopkins University, or their customers.

John Greene, Ph.D.

J.M. Greene
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family and age isssue

Postby Renato » Tue Jul 18, 2006 12:10 pm

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Response to Renato: family and age isssue

Postby C.Ozawa » Tue Jul 18, 2006 12:39 pm


Thanks for your additional questions.

With regard to your question about family, while I don't have kids (but am married), many of my colleagues do have families (across the board - from starting associates to senior partners). So, it certainly is very possible. Consulting is a demanding career, so expecting to be home early every single evening is probably unrealistic. I feel like a number of my colleagues have been able to manage both a fulfilling family and career life.

In terms of average age, I don't have any data, but as a sample of my colleagues some are quite young (in their 20s), whereas quite a few of my immediate collagues have joined in their 30s or 40s (or later). It's a relatively broad distribution of ages.

The career path is ~2 years as an Associate, ~2 years as an Engagement Manager (the level I am at now, where I manage teams and project), and then ~2 years as an Associate Principal before making partner. (So, ~6 years to partner from time of joining). The firm is very dedicated to making sure people have opportunity to move up (in fact, there is an expectation that you will), and it is a very structured pathway (i.e., expectations for performance are very clear at each stage, supported with lots of training, formal and informal mentorship).

McKinsey does hire Master's degrees. Whether they join at a pre-Associate or Associate level depends on level of experience (and is determined on a case by case basis).

Hope this helps!
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Postby Sarah » Tue Jul 18, 2006 1:22 pm

It seems like most consulting positions expect or even require extensive traveling. (At least the positions friends of mine have held at different companies.) While this can be fun and exciting, it could also be very difficult on relationships and family life when you're spending four or five days away every week. Or even weeks away at a time for international projects. How often do McKinsey consultants work on projects away from home? Is it possible to be a management consultant and not have to spend large chunks of time on the road?
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Postby Renato » Tue Jul 18, 2006 3:26 pm

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ethics - follow-up to Renato's question

Postby Rich Lemert » Tue Jul 18, 2006 3:48 pm

"... if the interest of the corporate management does not coincide with the the interest of the corporate shareholders, to whose interest should an external consultant yield?"

I'm curious why you think that as a consultant you have any business determining for the shareholders what their interests are? Presumably you are not a shareholder yourself, and you are certainly not their representative. It could also be argued that since management is hired to act on behalf of the shareholders that there can be no conflict of interests.
Rich Lemert
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Response to Sarah - Travel?

Postby C.Ozawa » Tue Jul 18, 2006 4:20 pm

My experience has been that the amount of conslutant travel can vary very widely. It largely depends on what types of clients you are serving and how many of them are local to your office and where you live. At McKinsey, it also is to a large degree a matter of choice. For example, one of my classmates made it clear that travel was a constraint when she started, and she did all in-town projects - at times this meant she had to trade of the type of project she wanted to be on in order to stay near home. Others like to travel and will use consulting as an opportunity to see the world. Over the course of a several years, its probably unrealistic to never travel but you can put in a strong preference to stay local, even when you start.
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Response to questions on ethics

Postby C.Ozawa » Tue Jul 18, 2006 4:31 pm

At McKinsey, one of our core values that we take very seriously is the "obligation to dissent." This applies across all of our work. As a consultant, if you witness anything that you do not agree with, it is not just a right, but an obligation, to speak up.

In every project, we have an obligation to do the right things for our client, and to come to the right answer for them. Sometimes its an answer they don't want to hear, but part of our value is the objectivity and independent point of view we bring to tough problems. In some cases we have ended projects early when we thought we were not working on the right issue for the client, where it is clear that the client does not value or want our independent perspective, and certainly where an ethical question comes in.
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response to Rich Lemert

Postby Renato » Tue Jul 18, 2006 4:36 pm

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