Our Journey Into Business and Management Consulting
By Siwei He and Aparna Shekar, Graduate Students
Working towards a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences not only instills a wide repertoire of positive personal and professional qualities in trainees, but also opens many doors in a wide gamut of career paths. Management consulting is one of these paths, and it might be the perfect choice for you if you’d like to solve complex problems in a wide variety of industries, enjoy working in teams, and show high adaptability in a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment.
About a year ago, we started researching careers that would be suited to our strengths and preferences and arrived at consulting for the reasons we mentioned above. We were surprised and excited to learn that individuals with a Ph.D. or an M.D., even without any business experience, are heavily recruited at consulting firms for their scientific and technical expertise, as well as their organizational, analytical, and problem-solving skills. Participating in the Management and Business Principles for Scientists and Technology Commercialization ASPIRE Modules offered by the BRET Office of Career Development was especially helpful to us in deciding on a career path at the intersection of science and business.
In 2017, we applied separately for summer consulting workshops: McKinsey’s Insight Program (Siwei), and BCG’s Bridge to BCG (Aparna). The application process was competitive and involved a resume/cover letter screening and a Skype interview. Thanks to the ASPIRE Modules and other resources offered by the BRET Office, we possessed a basic understanding of business management as well as well-honed interviewing skills going into the interview process at each program. This combination of factors helped us both land a coveted spot in the workshops.
The McKinsey Insight and Bridge to BCG programs were excellent opportunities for us to learn more about
management consulting careers, as well as about the work and culture at each firm. Both workshops are structured similarly, and each summer, 30 or so students from all over North America are accepted into each of the 3-day programs. The McKinsey Insight program is located in Chicago, and the Bridge to BCG takes place in one of four locations depending on the participants’ geographical location (Aparna participated in the Dallas program). We each worked hand-in-hand with consultants, senior partners, and managers to solve a mini-business case by working in teams, brainstorming, conducting interviews with industry experts, data mining, and analyzing, all of which truly resembled the work consultants do on a day-by-day basis. In addition, a full agenda of social activities was packed into the program, fostering strong connections with individuals at each company and with other participants that we continue to benefit from even today.
Participating in these summer programs might give you an edge later on when seeking interview offers for full-time positions. Not only have you experienced the culture of the firm, practiced with case studies, and met people who work there, but at Insight, for example, you are also supported with resources such as interview coaching and additional networking opportunities. We are both currently in line for full-time position interviews, and the experience has been a great springboard for us to explore job offers at other consulting and venture capital firms as well.
For doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows in STEM and healthcare-related disciplines who are interested in exploring the business world, we highly recommend applying to McKinsey Insight, Bridge to BCG, and other management consulting immersion programs (like those at Bain, Clearview, or Putnam Associates). Not only did we have unforgettable experiences with like-minded individuals and experienced consultants, but participation in these programs also helped us secure heavily sought-after, early full-time interview opportunities at these companies. The deadlines for these programs are usually in late March to early April, so if you didn’t have a chance to apply this year, work on enhancing your resume and cover letter and be ready to apply next year. Good luck!