Q&A: Business Analysis at F500 Firm

Hey all,

Been lurking on WSO ever since a friend turned me onto it back when I was in university. My job falls somewhere at the crossroads of strategy, internal consulting, and product ownership--not traditional finance, but all the interview advice, industry insights, and random discussions I encountered on WSO were instrumental in helping me "get it". Now, I'd love to give back. I suspect recruiting is where I can add the most value, particularly for this audience. If you're interested, feel free to reach out about a WSO Mentor session--I'd be happy to connect.

Background

From the Midwest. Went to a big state university with a respectable-but-not-blowing-anyone-away business college, of which I was a member. Grades in the 3.5 range. Wasn't familiar with IBD or the like until spending some time on WSO--not that my school placed much into it--but the lifestyle wouldn't have been for me anyway (sacrilege, I know). However, as covered above, WSO did (and continues to) help me learn about the industry in general.

Recruiting

Over my early college summers, had a sales job that, because it was in a somewhat finance-tangential industry, was unique for my age, and I had strong, tangible results to discuss, I was able to speak well to and turn into an effective talking point for recruiting. Had a number of offers for my junior summer (some via school career center, some I found via various online applications) and wound up taking an Ops role across the country. (Have a story of how I almost couldn't take the interview that still boils my blood to this day, if anyone's interested.) Truthfully, I didn't really understand what I was being hired to do, but I took it because 1) it was a reputable company that I could see myself working for FT, 2) even if I didn't, it would look good on a resume, 3) it paid well, and 4) I enjoyed the unique interview process and felt good about beating out a ton of people from "better" schools that I'd interviewed against.

Received a return offer at the end of my summer, and to work in a more desirable role than I'd interned in. Really liked my firm, but had a specific request (not comp) that they couldn't commit to honoring. So, I recruited HARD the fall of my senior year, interviewing pretty much everywhere, both to open as many doors as possible and because, frankly, I got to actually challenge of the interview process. Discussed both my prior summer + the sales experience heavily (and used the tips below) to land offers at what I'd consider a very high rate, especially for someone without overwhelming credentials. While weighing several of my offers, I continually stayed in touch with the recruiter from my summer firm and tried to create leverage with him. Just as the clock was striking 12 and I was about to accept a role elsewhere, I got a call that he could give me the thing I’d originally asked for. F*ck yeah, send me the papers.

Full-Time

Been at my same company since graduation and, while I certainly have the same day-to-day frustrations that most do, I can take an honest step back and say I've got it good. Industry isn't going anywhere, hours/pay are very reasonable, and I've experienced solid career progression thus far. Work itself isn't the most interesting, but there's plenty to learn if you take the initiative, and the cliche truth is that I work with a lot of really bright people that I could learn from no matter what my day job was--something that's really important to me.

Random Tips

  • When you go into an interview, interview your potential employer, too. And not with surface questions, but the things you really want to know. It shows a genuine interest, not to mention helping to project confidence that you belong. And, as much as you don't want to be scratching your eyes out five months in, they want it even LESS, so it's better to get as much info as you can and see how you connect.
  • Interview a lot. It helps to learn about different industries and job families, and if nothing else, it gives you live practice with your interview stories and will help you relax--both of which are invaluable.
  • Don't try to fool yourself into a job that you'll despise and aren't truly fit for; see "scratching your eyes out" comment two bullets up.
  • Try different things in your career. Yes, I'm at the same company I joined out of UG, but have made a dedicated effort to lateral around to dissimilar areas to work in different roles on different "products" with different people. In most cases, as long as you aren't clearly trying to "status hop", it'll make you come off as more well-rounded and employable down the road--because you WILL be.
  • Finally, seek out opportunities to "level up" in your career. I don't mean scraping tooth and nail for the next level directly (though effort is of course important), but rather seeking out--and, better yet, creating your own--opportunities to do new work that adds value for your coworkers and your firm. It might take awhile, but people will take notice if the work is quality. Just don't get taken advantage of.

Q&A--and Mentoring

I hope that the community finds this thread useful, and I'll be happy to elaborate where possible and answer questions (though I'll be keeping it pretty anonymous).

As mentioned above, I'm also available for WSO Mentor sessions for anyone that would like to connect for a longer-form discussion. Objectively, recruiting (especially for students) is where I suspect I'll be able to help the most, but am happy to chat about career goals, non-"high finance" business careers, or anything in my profile that catches your eye.

Check out my mentoring profile here.

 

As someone in a similar position as you, i.e. corporate, internal consultant, around 100k starting salary, where do you see yourself going next? Especially being around WSO, with VC/PE/Consulting being very common threads I struggle with what i wanna do next. Corporate is great for work life balance and executive/learning exposures, but I find career growth slow and salary growth very slow, compared to something like consulting. Do you see yourself going the MBA route or transitioning out of industry.... or do you think it would be better to stay in industry and stick it out.

 
Most Helpful
Jrandal1:

As someone in a similar position as you, i.e. corporate, internal consultant, around 100k starting salary, where do you see yourself going next? Especially being around WSO, with VC/PE/Consulting being very common threads I struggle with what i wanna do next. Corporate is great for work life balance and executive/learning exposures, but I find career growth slow and salary growth very slow, compared to something like consulting. Do you see yourself going the MBA route or transitioning out of industry.... or do you think it would be better to stay in industry and stick it out.

There’s a lot in that, going to attack in pieces.

MBA won’t benefit me (much) at my current firm, nor do I think it would be particularly useful in my industry overall—at least relevant to the opportunity cost of two years of work results (never mind the forgone salary). I think FT MBA would be a great experience, and a good way to switch into a new field should I want to do that, but no industry/job gives me that “itch” right now. Alternatively, I’d be interested in doing a part time / exec program if work wanted to pay.

Consulting has its appeal to me for the same reasons it appealed to me during UG—but ultimately, an every-week traveling sched doesn’t lend itself itself to my lifestyle. A “local” consulting job (with occasional travel)? THAT is something I’d definitely entertain, though I haven’t taken any steps to seek that (or anything else) out.

Salary progression is reasonable where I’m at (from what I can tell), though with a clear bottleneck a few levels up from my current title. You’re not going to be raking in crazy money unless you really, really ascend high, and those spots aren’t exactly plentiful. That said, we provide good opportunities to expand one’s skillset (either through a role change or some other form of learning/development), and even if that wasn’t the case, corporate allows for a lifestyle where I could pick up some of that on my own time.

How do you think about staying vs leaving? Sounds like money is one of your big drivers (as it is for all of us), what do the various financial jumps look like at your company, and how long do they take to get there?

 

In my department there is not much room for advancement in title, and salary is around 3% annually no negotiation..but this is why starting salary is very high. As you mentioned, most people put in ~3 years and naturally "role swap". From my limited knowledge some coworkers get a big jump or some end in a role with more responsibility, and slight salary increase.

I'm definitely keeping my options open, one reason being that my commute is 1 hr one way, so I have some flexibility before I "settle down" permanently. However,I do agree with you, in my position now an MBA would have little to no effect in my industry(compared to simply doing what I'm doing now) but I do wonder if it could help jump start a way into management further down the line.... in which case it would be beneficial to take right steps(Gmat etc.) while I have less commitments.

All of that being said, I like my job but I don't think I even want to stay in consulting/business analyst long term. I would like more ownership over my projects and something like PM or VC seem very appealing right now. MBA would be more practical in those fields.

 
Jrandal1:
In my department there is not much room for advancement in title, and salary is around 3% annually no negotiation..but this is why starting salary is very high. As you mentioned, most people put in ~3 years and naturally "role swap". From my limited knowledge some coworkers get a big jump or some end in a role with more responsibility, and slight salary increase.

I'm definitely keeping my options open, one reason being that my commute is 1 hr one way, so I have some flexibility before I "settle down" permanently. However,I do agree with you, in my position now an MBA would have little to no effect in my industry(compared to simply doing what I'm doing now) but I do wonder if it could help jump start a way into management further down the line.... in which case it would be beneficial to take right steps(Gmat etc.) while I have less commitments.

All of that being said, I like my job but I don't think I even want to stay in consulting/business analyst long term. I would like more ownership over my projects and something like PM or VC seem very appealing right now. MBA would be more practical in those fields.

I've realized limiting my commute tim makes a big impact in my life. I originally intended to live much farther away than I currently do, then after just a few weeks quickly realized that the reason I chose this type of job rather than consulting or comparable was to get time back into my life, and commute quickly ate away at that.

Re. MBA, one thing you can do is to look at the credentials of the more senior people at your firm and see whether they have them. Cultures change, and it might not be quite as relevant if your company is on the younger side (since moving up quicker earlier on would be easier without as fancy of credentials), but it's a fair starting point.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like to talk more or discuss industries / companies in more detail.

 

Many thanks for doing this AMA. It sounds like a fantastic role that is a nice blend of learning opportunity / work life balance / career progression. There were a few questions that came to mind:

a) I was curious about when it comes to the role was in regards to collaboration and whether you found internal stakeholders generally helpful when it came to initiatives / product roll-outs. I do know that traditionally there tends to be a bit of territorial sentiment at times with external consultants coming in for an engagement that may entail cost rationalization / downsizing. Is it similar when working on internal mandates?

b) Does the group have an execution function in respect to product strategy/roll-outs? If so, that would be phenomenal if you're exposed to seeing the end-to-end product cycle.

c) Where do folks in your group typically exit to? I would imagine that the multidisciplinary nature of the role enables myriad opportunity (e.g., product/brand management; traditional corporate strategy; Tech). Since moving out of banking I've seen that pace of progression is a bit less structured and far less linear in corporate, albeit with appreciably greater work life balance and still very interesting work. I would envisage that one needs to be significantly more proactive (and perhaps at times bold) in their movement to really move upwards. Do you see these same encumbrances in your org?

Many thanks again!

There's a closer meaning to my user name. Try reading it quickly. Perhaps you will then understand ;P
 
alpha_q:
Many thanks for doing this AMA. It sounds like a fantastic role that is a nice blend of learning opportunity / work life balance / career progression. There were a few questions that came to mind:

a) I was curious about when it comes to the role was in regards to collaboration and whether you found internal stakeholders generally helpful when it came to initiatives / product roll-outs. I do know that traditionally there tends to be a bit of territorial sentiment at times with external consultants coming in for an engagement that may entail cost rationalization / downsizing. Is it similar when working on internal mandates?

b) Does the group have an execution function in respect to product strategy/roll-outs? If so, that would be phenomenal if you're exposed to seeing the end-to-end product cycle.

c) Where do folks in your group typically exit to? I would imagine that the multidisciplinary nature of the role enables myriad opportunity (e.g., product/brand management; traditional corporate strategy; Tech). Since moving out of banking I've seen that pace of progression is a bit less structured and far less linear in corporate, albeit with appreciably greater work life balance and still very interesting work. I would envisage that one needs to be significantly more proactive (and perhaps at times bold) in their movement to really move upwards. Do you see these same encumbrances in your org?

Many thanks again!

Sure, glad you found it valuable.

a) Because basically my entire business function is refining our strategy and execution, anyone who had a problem with that in my chain would be in the wrong business if they weren’t open to tweaks. That’s not to say that people who have been around for awhile don’t ever get settled in their standard practices—that certainly can happen—but it’s expected that we’ll be making continuous improvements over time.

*It helps that my role isn’t the one to recommend direct cost-cutting (at least as it pertains to personnel), as that is more of a top-down mandate than bottom-up.

b) I work with the tech teams who implement our functions, but am not the one with fingers on keys literally making the changes. Not sure if that answers your question?

c) Correct, exits vary quite a bit, and I’d say the common landing points are start-ups, followed by b-school. Not a ton of voluntary attrition at the higher-up levels.

In terms of internal progression, it is very much on the individual to both “level-up” their work (i.e. absorb a role or workload that is set aside for a more senior person), which is how people typically get promoted. Building connections and your brand around the firm is important here so that people think of you when those opportunities arise, and of course so people go to bat for you.

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