Q&A: spent 2 years as a BA/A/AC at MBB

Hi friends. Recently left MBB after spending 2 years after college there. Always thought it was helpful reading Q&A when I was a student thinking about career-pathing, so wanted to offer this up. Busy in a new job, so will respond when available and might close this thread up early, but for now, please ask away. For context: Target college MBB big US office Based in the US Obviously please keep questions professional and I will try to provide as much insight as possible. Won't reveal anything though that is too personal. Still care about anonymity.

Comments (28)

Sep 19, 2019 - 1:06pm
cupertinq, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for doing this!

A couple questions: 1) Did you think it was worth doing to help your exit opps after 2 years compared to IB or any other job? 2) How was your travel schedule/hours per week? 3) What was your case interview prep process like? How many live cases did you do before you went into your first round? 4) How much did office politics play a role in getting staffed on what you wanted?

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 19, 2019 - 1:58pm
  1. Definitely worth it for career building. This might resonate less on WSO, given ppl here are more interested in finance, but my biggest learning from my experience at MBB is how diverse the exits are. If you're interested in finance, your exits are great into PE and VC. But more importantly if you're interested in specific industries, non profits, government, etc. the exits are incredibly vast and virtually everyone will at least extend you an interview given your resume.
  2. Fly out M morning around 7 or 8am. Fly back Thursday afternoon or evening, depending on flight schedules and the team. You can expect to be in your team room at the client site until 5 or 6pm M-W, then go back to your hotel to eat / order food and then work for another couple of hours by yourself. Probably averaged about 70 hours a week across really 4 days of the week (you work 6-8 hrs on Friday), so the hours can be long. The biggest thing is that you're also always on - there's absolutely no downtime while you're awake. There's always more analysis to do, or another page to make. This is the biggest difference with banking, is that the intensity of the hours are substantially more in consulting.
  3. Did probably 10-15 cases before my first interviews. Then while you're interviewing you'll probably do another 10 across a bunch of firms before you get second rounds and offers. Recommend what most do - Case in Point, Case Interview Secrets, and Look Over My Shoulder audio recordings.
  4. Staffing works differently across the different MBB firms. At least where I worked, teams generally staffed people based on their strengths. So a project that required really good client hands would want to staff people who've demonstrated they're good at meeting and talking to clients in person every day. More analytical projects would try to find people who could use Excel. Politics was definitely less of a thing -> it was really more about everyone trying to find the best fits for the team based on interest, ability, strengths.
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 19, 2019 - 1:50pm

Frankly haven't used any of the miles I've accumulated yet for personal travel. Guess I'm a bit of a saver in that sense. But if you're asking about the best place I've been on the company dime -> would definitely be a weekend retreat in Mexico. Luxury resort, all you can eat, beautiful weather.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 20, 2019 - 4:15pm
  1. Memorable projects - I would say there are numerous projects that are incredibly memorable, but each for their own reasons. Some projects are memorable because of the team (you can have an absolute blast getting to know and shooting the breeze with 3-6 people over a 3-4 month span), because of the location (friends travelled out to some incredible locations like Miami, SF, Salt Lake City in winter, etc.), or because of the impact you had on the client. You'll probably really remember at least half the projects you're on, which is honestly a pretty good hit rate for truly memorable experiences. In terms of terrible places to be, usually those are suburbs of big cities (like suburbs that are like 45 mins away from downtown Philly, Atlanta, Houston), which can be a drag sometimes.
  2. 2 years and out is definitely phasing out, at least in terms of optionality. Firms have all started creating more opportunities to stay a 3rd year through geographic rotations, secondments to outside companies like Airbnb, Google, GE, etc. or through special internal rotations like specific industry teams or firm building (LGBTQ efforts, diversity efforts, etc.). In reality though, the vast majority of people out of college still leave after 2 years. This is really because your options are just so good elsewhere and it usually makes the most sense to branch out and explore something you think you are actually passionate about (whether that's joining a startup, a nonprofit, going back to school, etc.). At least at my firm, you got a return offer to go back anytime within 4-5 years, so the incentive to leave and try something else is huge.
  3. Wanted to try something new. Always wanted to try my hand at investing, so decided to join a PE fund. Almost all my friends left for a bunch of different things though - some left for startups, some to nonprofits they cared about, some to law school, some to secondments, and some stayed to try to become a manager. It's really up to you.
Jan 13, 2020 - 9:55am
Holdthedoor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What is the sentiment in leaving for a high growth startup company (e.g., well known investors, in a sexy space, good founders, early stage, etc.)?

  • Associate 2 in CorpDev
Sep 20, 2019 - 12:44am

What was the most interesting case you worked on? If you could share context, how you guys came to the answer, what the answer was, and whether the client valued that, while protecting your anonymity that would be great

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 20, 2019 - 4:22pm

Hard to choose just one. Most interesting project was most likely a strategy project where we worked with the CSO and CEO directly over a 3 month span. The company was a manufacturing business that was going through a rough patch. Demand for its products was declining and the company needed to figure out how to repurpose its manufacturing footprint given the new outlook. We essentially built a model that had a bazillion inputs to determine which manufacturing facilities should be sold and where production should shift. Sounds easy in practice, but this was a 2 month exercise, because what you learn about manufacturing is that it's all very specific. You can't just move production of a car window to a facility that was purposed to build car engines, if you get what I mean. You have to make sure the facilities could be repurposed, and then figure out what the capex would need to be. We essentially spearheaded the effort, interacting with a host of different company stakeholders to make sure things were right. Met with the CEO weekly to update him on our findings and talk about next steps. Super impactful given how decisions about your manufacturing footprint completely shapes the direction a company goes over the next 5-10 years, at least.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 20, 2019 - 4:26pm

Left for a PE fund. Don't want to divulge much more than that.

I'll say more broadly that most people leave MBB for a super wide variety of roles and industries, because the doors are so wide open after 2 years in consulting. It's truly a unique experience in that way. If you're interested in healthcare and want to join a healthcare provider, you can easily do that. If you're interested in digital retail and want to join a company like Allbirds, Harry's, or Away, you can do that. If you're interested in nonprofits and want to join a Foundation, you can do that. You'll find IBD exits are a lot narrower in the sense that most exits are into investing, corporate finance, or corporate strategy. It's hard to actually join the business side and run a business unit. MBB really equips you with the skills to learn how a business works and how to run one. You obviously can't run a business right out of the gate, but you can certainly learn how over time.

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Jan 13, 2020 - 1:44am

Hey hope it's not too late -- had a follow-up about your path to PE. Will be heading to McK in the fall, but I didn't study finance in college and know nothing about accounting. Did MBB naturally prepare you for PE technicals or was that something you had to learn from the ground up yourself / already knew?

Sep 20, 2019 - 4:56pm
Rothsadult, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for doing this AMA. What were some expectations that you had going into MBB that didn't hold up? Any surprises?

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2019 - 10:07am

The main answer to your question is that I actually expected lifestyle in consulting to be a bit better than it really was. Yes, you don't really ever work on weekends, but the work week can be exhausting. Especially on some extremely high profile projects, you really have no time to think about anything other than your work and your project from Monday to Thursday. Like calling your mom or your friend during the week is virtually impossible. Even texting your friends during the day is difficult. It's really all consuming during the week and the weekend ends up being a major unwind and relaxation time. Point being is that you'll work really hard when you're at MBB. But some of the perks and the experiences you get out of it are also very special. It's hard to be 23 and working with senior executives of a major corporation and actually have meaningful conversations with them. It's also great the expense lifestyle, team events, team dinners, etc. that can be really unique and memorable.

Sep 22, 2019 - 8:48pm
Jrandal1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

ey, thanks for this I have 2 questions

As someone from an internal consulting position im curious how you think your experiences might differ if you were in industry/corporate side instead of an external consultant. How do projects get split up in MBB. You mentioned playing to people strengths and also a Manufacturing project - do people tend to get put placed into the same type of projects(i.e. Manufacturing related projects) or does industry/specialty not matter and you can be placed in anything.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 23, 2019 - 10:03am

I worked with internal consultants at some big clients during my time at MBB, so can give at least my take on it. Most big companies have corporate strategy teams, where many of the people there are ex-consultants who join a major corporate post-MBB. They do interesting work as well, in terms of assessing new product offerings, new sales strategies, etc. that are impactful to the business. The biggest difference between the internal guys and MBB is that when someone in the business hires MBB for a project, they are really looking for an outside-in perspective. They realize that even the internal corporate strategy guys can often be influenced by the internal culture (inaction, preconceived notions of what the customer cares about, etc.). MBB also brings in experiences and learnings from other client situations that senior executives often care about and want to make sure their organization stacks up to the competition. More reasons than this, but those are some major drivers.

In terms of how projects are assigned, most MBB experiences are completely generalist. This means you will be staffed across your two years across strategy, operations, organizational, merger integration, due diligence, etc. work and across industries. You can pick essentially anything you want at some point during your two years. So in terms of learning about a wide range of industries or seeing how different big companies function, it's a lot of good exposure.

Sep 24, 2019 - 12:08am
strivetofit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Considering to switch to MBB from one of the FAANG companies. I've noticed that people mostly move the other way round (i.e. MBB to FAANG) for work/life balance etc. and am curious if you've seen a similar switch internally before and If so, how is their overall fit / adjustment to MBB's culture?

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 24, 2019 - 9:31am

Not necessarily uncommon. If you think about who MBB hires post-MBA, it's all people who held a variety of roles in different industries before business school.

Depends on what your role at FAANG is right now. Are you in a software role or a business role? If you're switching from business role to MBB, you'll realize that MBB moves much much faster. Things that took our clients 6 months to do, we would have 2 months to do at MBB. This is part of the value proposition in and of itself, so you should be prepared to work harder and faster on your analysis and presentations. You'll also just get a lot more broader exposure to higher level decision making at big businesses than you probably do at FAANG right now.

I think you'll find that the people in MBB are still super nice - the cultural aspect of it shouldn't be a big concern.

Sep 25, 2019 - 5:52pm
GoodBillHunting17, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions thoughtfully - this has been incredibly helpful.

How much did your undergraduate studies prepare you for role?

Expanding upon that, I would assume that you improved upon various soft skills during your time at MBB. Are there any particular hard skills (i.e. programming, certain methods of financial analysis, advanced math) that you had to learn while on the job?

  • 1
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 26, 2019 - 9:42am

What you study in undergrad definitely doesn't matter. I studied economics, but certainly didn't need it for the job. The most important parts of college were learning how to work hard, how to communicate in writing and in presentations. I would suggest you take on leadership roles in clubs on campus and learn to present in front of small and big audiences - those are the most important skills that you should learn in a risk-free setting at school when you have a chance.

Soft skills was the biggest learning curve at MBB. You're 23 when you start, and people expect you to be meeting with and talking to clients who are often 2-3x your age. To be credible, you need to become mature, very fast. At least at my firm, your role was equivalent to the post-MBA role (not in compensation obviously, but the roles were identical). That meant that you had to learn how to be credible in front of clients, despite the fact you're only 23. Learning to convey ideas, recommendations, and present pages in front of senior management of big companies was the most rewarding thing to learn (think about all of your parents who probably never get to interact with senior management at their company unless they're a VP themselves).

Hard skills - everyone will get some exposure to excel, alteryx, tableau, but depending on the projects you join and the workstreams you get, everyone's exposure will be different. The emphasis on learning "hard skills" and "client presence and client hands" were weighted equally, so there was a lot of encouragement to seek out projects that flexed both muscles over time. MBB is really a training ground for management, so the emphasis on both business analytics and communication, team, softer skills are both really important.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Oct 15, 2019 - 11:56am

Not sure if this was even a serious question - but might as well throw some info out there. First year MBB post-undergrad pays probably $85K salary with bonus + retirement contribution pushing that to 90-100K in the first year.

Every MBB firm works differently after that in terms of year-over-year salary + comp increases, but at least at the firm I was at, you could expect 30-50% pay increase for your second year depending on your performance rating...so 100K-160K as the pay range. Obviously the majority of people were at the bottom/low end of this range, but there were probably 5% of people who were at the top of the band.

Savings - definitely depended on which city you live in. Living in a major city on the West or East coasts definitely makes saving harder vs. your colleagues in other offices getting paid exactly the same.

Dec 2, 2020 - 10:27pm
breakinandgetout, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Dec 2, 2020 - 11:25pm
flourishingpower, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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