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Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms

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Postby Renato » Mon Jul 17, 2006 4:36 pm

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Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms

Postby Chris Buntel » Mon Jul 17, 2006 4:42 pm

Dr. Ozawa:

What personality traits, interests, or other personal characteristics have you found in successful management consultants? Also, are there certain types of people for whom consulting is a bad career choice?

Thanks, Chris Buntel.
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Guest Adviser Thread: Careers in Consulting Firms

Postby Baoloa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 6:02 pm

Dr. Ozawa,

I have worked a a biomedical scientist both in Europe and in the Bay Area. I noticed that in the Bay Area the interactions between science and business were much more integrated than in Europe. That is to say that in the Bay Area academics were much more knowledgeable about what business is (doubtless due to the high level of people moving between the two spheres, some of whom would be ones friends, and one would chat...)

In your consultancy experience, which I assume has been global, have you experienced a similar thing? And how do business people address this difference? There is as much good science being done in the US as outside it, and business must be interested in innovation wherever it arises (I assume).

The reason I ask is that I am now in the UK, and am finding it much harder to find science/business networking opportunities here than I did in the Bay Area (I have found only one..).
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Response to Ted: Where to start in consulting career

Postby C.Ozawa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:12 pm

Hi Ted,

Well, like you, I started by trying to learn from those who had entered consulting! Several of my friends from my PhD program had entered consulting before me, so I was able to learn from them.

Other than that, it was a lot of reading company websites, looking at websites that profile consulting firms (like Vault and WetFeet), and talking to people when I got an opportunity. As a graduate student, I participated in a McKinsey program called Insight - this is a 3 day program that gives a glimpse into the work we do, and gives people a chance to meet current consultants. You can check our website out for more information on the program.
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Response to MPB & Jeanne: A day in the life of a consultant

Postby C.Ozawa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:24 pm

Well, its certainly hard to sum up a typical day in the life, but here's an attempt (this is probably the hardest question I get!)

We work with a variety of clients across industries on all sorts of problems. In healthcare, clients include biotech, pharma, medical device, insurance companies, providers (e.g. hospitals), and non-profit organizations. My work has focused on biotech (largely) and some med device and pharma work.

The types of problems I focused on as an associate (starting position in my firm) ranged from developing a sales and marketing strategy for a newly launch biotech product, to doing an assessment of the market potential of a portfolio of compounds as part of a biotech licensing deal, to working with a national cancer patient advocacy group to develop a coalition of industry partners to assess the impact of Medicare changes on cancer patient access to care, to developing a strategy for entry into the healthcare space for a high tech company. As you can imagine, the day to day changes a lot across projects (and variety is one of the main things I enjoy from the job)!

So, on a typical day as an associate, you can be doing everything from interviewing scientists and physicians to get their perspectives on a market or product/new technology, to running a financial analysis of revenue impact of some change in the market, to reading analyst reports to get a handle on investor expectations, to interviewing exceutives at companies, to meeting with clients to present the team's findings and discuss the analyses you have been working on. Constants are 1)while you have an independent piece of the overall problem you are working on, you are always working as part of a team and always have people to test your ideas with and get input into your work, 2) the nature of the work is very analytical and quite intellectually challenging (as you can imagine, "getting smart" on new topics at the start of each project provides a steep learning curve, and because the problems we sholve are usually quite tough, require a lot of intellectual creativity and effort), and 3) it's never the same project to project.

Hope this helps a bit...
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Response to J. Smith: Specialized fields for PhDs

Postby C.Ozawa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:27 pm

McKinsey looks for drive, achievement, and of course, an interest in consulting and business. In terms of specialized fields, we don't hire PhDs by specific field of study, but rather look for raw talent. (Having said that, being able to "talk the talk" has been quite helpful for some projects)
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Response to Emil: Types of Projects

Postby C.Ozawa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:31 pm

Hi Emil,

At my firm, regardless of background, you can do any type of project you want (across industries). I know of an associate with a neuroscience PhD background who in her first year, decided to do everything BUT healthcare - she did high tech, airline, retail, media etc. Its up to you when you join.

Having said that, sometimes there are some projects that are more natural for science backgrounds, i.e. I did a market sizing project once for a therapy for a rare genetic disease, and we actually had to do gene frequency analysis...
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Response to Renato: School reputation and Hours Per Week

Postby C.Ozawa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:35 pm

McKinsey certainly hires outside of the "brand name" schools you mentioned.

In terms of hours, very dependent on the project and the phase of the project, but probably representative is about 60-65 hours per week. I take many vacations between projects though.

[Moderator's comment: There is a misperception in the postdoc community that people in industry do not work long hours. The hours above are far more "normal" than you'd think.]
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Response to C. Buntel: What makes a good consultant?

Postby C.Ozawa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:39 pm

From my personal view...
Because the nature of consulting work at McKinsey is collaborative and teamwork-oriented, you'd better like working in teams. Would recommend doing it if you like variety in what you do, and are very intellectually curious (i.e., because you change topics between projects, you need to like being exposed to new topics at a rapid pace). I guess the converse would be reasons for not doing consulting...
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Response to Baoloa: Sorry - Referral to John

Postby C.Ozawa » Mon Jul 17, 2006 10:45 pm

Hmmm...great question. I unfortunately, although I have been sitting here mulling this over, don't have a great answer (I actually have done primarily US-focused work to date).

John, anything you can suggest here?
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