Software Engineer to Strategy Consultant?

Thanks for taking the time.

  • UK based, 25, BSc Comp Sci, 3 years at a BB bank as a software dev in a Sales and Trading team.

  • I wish to change from coding and I feel like Strategy Consulting is something I would really like. Concurrently, I am recruiting and have an offer for a tech Product Manager role in a top 3 US BB bank. Reason for this is so I can get more commercial exposure as a PM rather than a pure software dev. I don't otherwise know how in a corporate role I can move away from coding apart from PM or tech sales.

  • I have trouble with two things - > 1. Figuring out what is the right job for me; 2. Structuring (pun intended) on where exactly to join.

My issue is I want strategy consulting but not sure which companies are real strategy consulting companies(beyond MBB) - I just do not want to get stuck into an Accenture type of tech implementation role.

Moreover, I want to see what entry points I can use to enter - undergrad/bachelor graduate schemes are closed off due to me being a bit late from graduation. Then, more experienced (Associate etc) require some sort of commercial/strategy type of experience. So it is a bit of a locked cycle.

There is MBB Digital (Strategy extension) Junior Associate and I got a first case there but it as it was my first case I blew it. I can reapply of course and then after 2 years more of experience I will even qualify theoretically for Associate and I can recruit for there with or without MBA.

I can also try BGC Platinion or GAMMA, which would allow me to be a some sort of consultant in BCG and then try to network into Strategy/Digital Strategy? Or an internal tech role there like PM? Tier 2 like OW, LEK, KEARNEY, Ronald Berger etc. I do not see where I can plug myself in as they are smaller with no digital capabilities.

Then there is Big 4. Definitely worth going into their Strategy Houses. Again, here in the experienced I do not see how I can break in into non-entry level roles. Or I can do something similar as MBB above -> go into their Tech Consulting and then move into Strategy. What worries me here if there is a Chinese wall between them as they are quite detached and not sure if Big 4 tech consulting to MBB Strategy is possible (compared to just sticking to industry).

  • Then there is the question of whether I should save up from my new job and consider an MBA to maximise chances for Associate MBB, Big 4 Strategy and Tier

or

Put my current irrelevant experience to the side with a Masters in Finance or something to branch out and reset myself to a graduate level where I guess it is easiest to earn offers as an analyst.

Thanks!

Comments (13)

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
Jun 24, 2022 - 10:20pm

The reality is that MBB is increasingly moving towards more implementation work unless you're in very specific groups such as Bain PEG. Yes you can network your way onto more strategy but 1) strategy cases are popular among juniors so there's competition and 2) SOME implementation is still unavoidable.

Also, unless you have extensive consulting experience / target graduate degree you'll still start at the junior levels - MBB is pretty strict about this. 

Don't bother with BCG Platinion - that's the tech consulting implementation you're trying to avoid. Also don't bother with internal roles such as PM - these are generally siloed off from the client facing work. BCG Gamma, MCK QuantumBlack, etc are fine but you still have to code.

So there's a few options here (definitely not the only ones):

1. Try again for MBB junior role - with the expectation that you won't be able to do strategy work only

2. Try for MBB higher level role with an MBA or other target graduate degree - same expectation

3. Try for T2 / Big 4 strategy arms - some companies like LEK focus exclusively on strategy or PE DD, or it's easier to recruit for specific groups that focus on strategy. May also have to start at junior levels without MBA

4. Try for strategy-focused boutiques such as Altman Solon

But I'd also think about your end goal - if that's PM, then consider the PM offer you have. If you know what company you want to exit to, consider corporate strategy.

Jun 26, 2022 - 9:20am
confused53, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hi and thanks for the response. I was hoping to give a few clarifications:

I know mgmt consulting is changing and pure strategic projects always require some implementation now due to client demand. I don't want to avoid this. I was just told to avoid Big 4 tech consulting and stuff like Accenture and Infosys because supposedly a dead end for strategy houses MBB, Tier 2 etc etc.

The reason I am considering GAMMA, QuantumBlack, Platinion is because I heard that things are a lot more close knitted in MBBs so I can network internally for an interview for Strategy consulting (Compared to Big 4 tech consulting and hoping to tranisiton to Strategy houses or MBB). I am surprised that you would say ok to quantum black but not to platinion as they are equally detached kinda from strategy AFAIK. Essentially, it comes down to which pathways to include in my set of efforts (as recruiting for 1312321 things spreads me too think in terms of prep alongisde full time work).

With that in mind, a few questions:

Q1. Which of the following to include in my set off efforts:

- Current -> Big 4 tech consulting -> MBB Strategy/Big 4 Strategy houses
- Current -> MBB tech stuff (quantumb, platinion,gamma) -> MBB Strategy/Big 4 Strategy houses
- Current -> Tech consulting (Accenture/Infosys) -> MBB/BIG 4 Strategy houses (this probably is the one that is by default out / too detached)

And a default one that is there mandatory:

- Current -> MBB Strategy/Digital Strategy direct application to Junior Associate (where McKinsey gave me a 1st round case but first case so I failed) and Associate (with or without an MBA).

Q2. You said try for T2 (OW,LEK, RB) but the way they and Big 4 Strategy houses recruit is 1. Grad Schemes (too out of uni), 2. Free floating analyst/associate (require experience in strategy/deal advisory). What do I do there?

Q3. What are target graduate degrees? The reason why I am asking is because I am struggling between MBA or non-MBA Masters. I will have 4 years of experience upon entry in software dev. If I do say a MiM or MiF, would that qualify me for pure grad schemes in everything (MBB, Tier 2, Big 4 Strategy, even a random IBD grad scheme) where I guess I would have the most chance as there are the most places. That will mean I will throw away my 4 years of experience but if it is in software dev and I want to do strategy consulting it might be necessary.

Q4. Where the heck did you find Altman Solon? Looks like a legit strategy thing although I suspect same problem as Tier 2/ Big4 Strategy - no strategy experience because they might be a TMT one. This is kinda like getting into TMT IBD as a software dev (software dev experience usually means nothing)
If I somehow manage to get there can it be a good route to MBB Strategy?
Also, how can I find an exhaustive list of pure strategies where there arent "fake strategy" traps mixed in (accenture, pa consutling, infosys)

Really appreciate your help.

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
Jun 26, 2022 - 11:38am

1. The default one. Tech consulting is just going to add another step that wont really help you unless you decide to get an MBA.

I'll admit that I'm less familiar with MCK Quantum than BCG Gamma - BCG Gamma DS consultants are staffed on the exact same cases as generalists. They have similar levels of client interaction and the only difference is that they do the heavy number crunching. Basically the BCG Special Ops unit. My impression is that MCK Quantum and stuff like Bain Advanced Analytics are similar but I would check. Platinion on the other hand is tech consulting.

2. I would look for entry-level positions. That said the hiring wave from the last year or so has definitely slowed down a bit. You're correct that they don't seem to have "always open" entry-level positions like MBB.

3. In the US, the main target graduate school pipeline is MBA. They have on-campus recruiting and networking just like at the undergrad level. It may be different for UK but in the US recruiting from other masters programs is not as common. A good proxy is to look at each program / school's employment reports as well as LinkedIn.

4. I actually considered Altman Solon before so I'm familiar with it. Looks like for London they have a position open for graduates so you could probably score an interview with some networking. There's a LOT of boutiques out there (Altman, Mars, Marakon, strategy arms of Alvarez & Marsal + AlixPartners, etc) - you just have to hunt for them and figure out what the job and cases entail.

  • Summer Associate in Consulting
Jul 4, 2022 - 11:32am

I'll repeat what's already been said but you of you don't want accenture bc if the work. then you likely also don't want BCG Platinion. There is nearly no chance to go from Platinion to classic. There is a chance to go from Gamma/DV to classic and vice versa actually. All Gamma/DV/Classic are roughly the same difficulty to get into IMO, the difference lies in the types of people who are recruited into each role. Think about where you'd fit in given your qualifications (prob DV/classic unless you have data science exp.) Definitely look into B4 Stategy bc I feel like there are a bunch of groups which are nearly pure strategy like S&'s PEVC group whereas MBB is mostly implementation at this point.

Jun 26, 2022 - 5:40pm
confused53, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hi and thanks for the response again - super insightful. I just tried to synthesise my situation in a much more structured way that highlights points of concern. If you can please let me know what you think:
 

Current situation - 25yo, UK-based, almost 3 years of experience software engineer at a BB bank Markets technology team.

What I would possibly explore to change - Strategy Consulting, IBD and other finance careers, tech PM.

Current offer that I will take (to switch from software dev) - Top 3 USA BB bank tech product manager for again a Markets Technology team.

Recruitment is split into two categories that can be advanced simultaneously - 1. corporate, 2. advisory

1. Corporate - the biggest problem with my current background and the stuff I want to target is I have no commercial/business side experience. Without MBA/Masters lateral changes that expose me to the business side can be tech PM and tech sales. Gonna discuss everthing below assuming I get the tech PM job that is almost there. This might open doors to SnT directly front office recruitment [CONFIRM?]. And whilst recruiting for advisory I can look for better tech PM brands (in case I want to leave finance domain). 

2. Advisory - Strategy Consulting, IBD, SnT, Asset Mgmt, PE, HF, VC

Bundling VC, PE, HF as impossible right now as all of them require specific background with PE being locked to Bankers/Stepping stones, HF being locked to SnT/Asset Mgmt/IBD guys.

For Strategy Consulting you have MBB, Tier2 (Oliver Wyman, LEK, RB, OCnC) and Big 4 Strategy Houses. Targeting "real strategy consulting" because I am afraid to end up in "fake strategy traps" like Accenture and Infosys.

Apart from some Digital capability entry points in McKinsey and BCG that are a true part of their Strategy, things for others (like OW, LEK, RB, PwC Strategy&, EY Parthenon) are not looking good because they recruit like this:

- Graduate -> I am too out of uni to be considered.
- Free-floating analyst or Associate -> Require experience and competing with people with much more relevant experience in Strategy/commercial stuff

This is exactly the same for IBD and their stepping stones (corporate banking, transactional services), SnT (trade floor support, quant).

So if Strategy Consulting is the one that feels right for me, I guess this can be the "recruitment effort set":

- Current -> MBB Strategy/Digital Strategy Junior Associate and Tier 2 + Big 4 Strategy Houses whatever I can find (this route is the defualt one and can be strenghtened with an MBA I guess)

- Current -> MBB tech stuff (QuantumBlack, BCG GAMMA, BCG Platinion, internal PM roles) with the hope to internally network for a higher chance to get an Consultant Strategy interview; because they are at least internal under the MBB brand
- Current -> Big 4 Tech Consulting -> MBB/Big 4 Strategy houses/Tier 2 (not sure if it can work)
- Current -> Accenture, Infosys -> MBB/Big 4 Strategy houses/Tier 2 (this one I think is redundant as too detached and it is becoming too much)

Now onto MBA vs reset with non-business Masters:

MBA:

- Literally no schools to do it here unless I settle for Imperial, Oxbridge etc
- More natural for my timeline
- Possibly better for PM, Consulting and VC
- Can still recruit for some IBD in case I want to try that at some time

non-business Masters like Masters in Management, Masters in Finance:

- Much cheaper, there are top schools for (LSE, Oxford)
- It makes me eligible for Graduate Schemes where it is easiest to recruit at for Consulting and especially IBD and Asset Management (even possible out of uni roles in PE).
- By earliest possible entry into a non-business Masters I will have 4 years of experience. I am happy to throw this experience away and start from the bottom (if it gets me strategy consulting or a front office finance role) but not sure how employers will react when they see that strange thing. Some of them might even push me and pigeonhole me onto experienced stuff even though that previous experience is irrelevant (but just because I have some experience).

Note: I will assume MiF wont carry the reset benefit for SnT as I can possibly have a higher chance networking into it from a SnT tech PM role.

I also need to have a focus because I can't go for longer being spread too thin on so many recruitment efforts.

Jun 26, 2022 - 1:15pm
dt112, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Recently saw on LinkedIn that Strategy& London are currently running a Senior Associate recruitment scheme specifically targeting those without a strategy background - your profile sounds perfect for it. Would have a look in to it.

Jul 13, 2022 - 2:26pm
confused53, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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