Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms

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My MBA and its value - for Clare Ozawa

Postby Walter » Tue Jul 18, 2006 7:13 pm

Hello Dr. Ozawa: Thank you for all.

The question that I have for you is this... I am working on an MBA after my life sciences Masters (microbiology). After reading this forum for some time, it appears that I won't get as much value out of my MBA (an evening and weekends program) because I didn't have any work experience first. Can you tell me if my PhD in the sciences gives my resume any additional interest when I finally complete the MBA and apply to a firm like yours? I know that I will be competing with the best MBA programs like Harvard, etc, but I am hoping that this means I can get right in there and compete with the best of them. What do you think?

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Response to Bill F - My MBA and its value - for Clare Ozawa

Postby C.Ozawa » Tue Jul 18, 2006 8:34 pm

Hi Bill,

Your Master's is certainly additive, as well as the MBA. It's a unique combination and should position you very well for a number of positions.

When we review applications, we look at not one degree in particular, but the larger picture of mix of backgrounds and experiences the candidate has had and their track record across them(including both school and non-school experiences). We look for a record of achievement over time, not a singular event, type of degree, etc.

Please let me know if you have further questions or if I did not answer your question sufficiently...there is no "formula" for the mix of appropriate backgrounds and experiences to enter consulting.
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Entry Level Business Analyst in Consulting

Postby MichaelH » Wed Jul 19, 2006 2:13 am


I have a few questions about entry level positions such as a business analyst position at McKinsey and the equivalent at other such firms like BCG, Bain, Booz Allen, LEK, PRTM, ZS Associates to smaller boutique firms such as Navigant, Decision Resources and Health Advances.

I recently graduated (June 2005) in Biochemistry and cell biology at a Top 3 UC school in southern California’s Biotech beach. My school did not have a business school until last year and since the school is seen mostly as a science/engineering school and not on many consulting firms (if any at all) recruiting list.

Throughout my college career I was always intrigued by the application of science to aid in human health which is why I choose to do research in labs that did work in gene therapy and siRNA which could someday be used as a form of therapy for a variety of diseases. However, I always knew that my career path was never going to go down the bench scientist route but a career that would use my scientific knowledge and business intuition. I first came across consulting a few months ago after seeing BCG as one of America’s top employers and randomly glanced at their website. I started getting interested in this field after realizing they do work in biotech/pharma/healthcare and doing some of the online interactive case interview questions which questions your ability to build a framework for solving a problem. This was the type of career I wanted since its varied, intellectually engaging, and one where I can work with other bright and intelligent people.

My questions are regarding getting into a firm like McKinsey without having the “academic pedigree” of an Ivy League education or one of a target recruitment school.

I have used my school alumni career services contact to talk to some alumni who have gone into consulting so I am aware of the types of projects and lifestyle. I understand that I will be on a plane Monday morning to a client site that can be in big city or the middle of nowhere, fly home on Thursday and then work at the local office on Friday or from home, and work on average 60+ hours a week. I am aware of the up and out culture, the fact that I can be a victim of my own success where a partner has little incentive to allow me to do a variety of projects if he knows I am good at a certain type, and that the work-life balance is often disregarded if a big time client paying top dollar has an immediate project, that they are going to get the best and the brightest even if it means flying you across the country against your preferences.

Clare, what are the best ways to get into consulting coming from a non consulting recruited school? I have heard of cold calling for informational interviews, but how would I go about doing that? Also, how do I network or come into contact with people that currently work in consulting to gain more information about career opportunities?

If I can secure an interview, what are some ways besides Wetfeet, Vault, and case interview books to help me prepare for such a career? So far I have been reading book’s such as Michael Porter’s “Competitive Strategy”, and Clayton M. Christensen‘s “Innovator’s Dilemma” to acquire more business knowledge, are there any other books you would recommend?

To what level of Excel or Power Point skills are needed for entry level positions, I know with my friends in Investment banking they can work spreadsheets without ever using the mouse since they consider it “too slow”. Is advance financial modeling training provided by McKinsey or other large firms and how does this compare to smaller boutique firms?

In terms of biotech/pharma consulting, what is the size of the smallest companies in this industry do you deal with at McKinsey? I know many start ups or mid size firms may not have the money such as an Amgen, Genentech, or Pfizer to hire McKinsey or BCG. What kind of work do you often do for them such as market position assessment, sales force effectiveness, manufacturing/operation issues, M&A targets, etc?


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Entry Level Business Analyst in Consulting

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Jul 19, 2006 10:10 am


This was a great post, but quite frankly it has too many questions in it. I think you'd do better -- as would anyone else who would like to ask a question of our Guest Advisers -- if you could post a question, then another, and another later, etc. instead of putting it all into one long post. My fear is that just like regular forum posts, you'll get one of the big questions answered but a lot will be swept away because it is too lengthy. Please, come back and try again with a shorter question if you don't get it all answered . . . Thanks,

Dave Jensen, Moderator
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Postby Matthew Smith » Wed Jul 19, 2006 11:32 am


I have three questions:

1) Does the amount of traveling decrease over time as you move up in the company?

2) I know that salaries are not discussed on the forum, but is there a anywhere online that I can get a realistic estimate (other than

3) Does working temporarily (2-3 years) as a consultant open up new career opportunities?

Matthew Smith
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Response to MS - Travel

Postby C.Ozawa » Wed Jul 19, 2006 10:36 pm

Hi MS,

Happy to try to answer your questions.

1. With regard to travel, I find that the more senior you get, the more overall control you have in shaping where you spend your time (what clients you serve, etc.). So from that aspect, travel can be less. However, you may also start splitting time across multiple clients, so where they are located determines your travel schedule week to week...

2. Let me check with our HR group on salaries and what information we have available that can be shared

3. Working for a couple of years as a consultant definitely opens doors. When I was looking at careers while in grad school, I found that it was very very difficult to land a position in anything except research immediately after grad school(given I had no prior work experience). Many positions required prior work experience. After a couple of years of consulting, I've seen colleagues leave to go to a variety of positions - from venture capital to business development at companies, from joining non-profit organizations to starting their own companies. Some healthcare consultants have used their skill base to enter into completely new industries.

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international opportunities

Postby A.A. » Thu Jul 20, 2006 8:03 am

Hi Clare,
I a graduate student working toward a degree in chemistry/biochemistry and am in the midst of considering my career options post-graduation. Consulting seems like a very attractive option for so many reasons. One of my long-time, but unfulfilled dreams is to live abroad for several years once I've gotten my Ph.D. Could you talk about the opportunities that I might have working in one of your offices, say, in Seoul? How would I go about pursuing such opportunities? Would you recommend that I apply to U.S. offices then try to participate in an ambassador program? Is transferring between offices difficult if, for instance, I wanted to work a few years in Seoul, but ultimately wanted to settle down in the states?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Your responses have been most informative and your expertise is much appreciated!
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Number crunching

Postby Matthew Smith » Thu Jul 20, 2006 8:04 am

Hi Clare,

Thanks for answering my questions.

I checked out the interview process at McKinsey and had flashbacks of the GRE. I've had a successful career so far in science, but my quantitative skills are mediocre. I wonder if you would recommend this career for someone with less than superior math skills...

I've also gotten the impression that many people who consider this career shoot for a few of the big name firms and ignore the rest. What are your thoughts on pursuing careers at smaller, lesser known consulting firms?

Thanks again,
Matthew Smith
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Challenges for scientists who have transitioned to consultancy

Postby DA » Thu Jul 20, 2006 8:34 am

Dr. Ozawa,

Hi! Thanks for taking the time to give valuable career advice in this forum. I have two questions-

1) What is the most difficult challenge transitioning from the bench in a laboratory to consulting? (either your personal experience or that of your colleagues)

2) The answer to this question might be personality-specific. Nonetheless, from your conversations with your colleagues who have transitioned from science to consultancy, are there any aspects of the job as a consultant that scientists, in particular, do not enjoy as much (apart from travel and long hours)

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Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms-TO Dr. Clare Ozawa

Postby Deepak » Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:39 am

Dear Dr Clare Ozawa,
Many thanks for participating in this forum.
I am currently pursuing PhD in Molecular Biology and really interested in pursuing a career in consulting or market research.
for sometime now, I was thinking whether it would be helpful to do an internship with consulting firms during the course of my PhD and if so can you let me know some tips and tricks to find one??
Most of the internship program in consulting firms are for undergraduates or of long duration?
Thanks for your advice!! hope to ask you some more questions!

Thanks Science for the excellent opportunity

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