AMA: 2.5 years @ MBB post PhD

Hughly741's picture
Rank: Baboon | 128

I appreciated the info I got from this forum when I was applying so figured I'd pay it forward.

**** Briefly about me:

  • I am a PhD at an MBB in N Europe
  • Joined ~2.5 years ago as entry level (think BA/A/AC)
  • Now am an Associate/Consultant level
  • I have worked through Europe and a bit in the US across a number of industries and capabilities.

Comments (20)

Feb 28, 2019

Coming from a non-business background, how many cases did you do in preparation for interviews? Any tips on best practices to improve quickly? Thanks for doing this!

Mar 1, 2019

I did quite a few cases for interview pret. I'd say something like 15+. But I'd say that my development really peaked after 5-8.

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Mar 1, 2019

I am about to start at MBB. Any general advice? Things you wish you did during training to be more efficient, learn faster, etc?

Mar 2, 2019

I think that really depends on where your relative weaknesses are.
When you start, you should really focus on learning quickly. That means asking for feedback early and often and taking the feedback to heart.
I keep a log of all of my PD chats and try to track that I address all areas of improvement immediately and continuously.

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Mar 1, 2019
  • On what metrics do you get evaluated? It is done by the single lead manager of the project?
  • How does the firm determine you should be promoted to the next level?



Mar 2, 2019

You get evaluated on 3 broad buckets: analytics, client results and team.
We get bi-annual reviews that aggregate all reviews we have received through the period. These reviews come from the lead manager and are signed off by the partner on the case.

You are promoted based on a mix of tenure (time in position) and performance.

Mar 2, 2019

Can you elaborate each of the three criteria?

For client results, you mean clients' satisfaction? or if clients decide to implement your solution and the subsequent outcome?



Mar 1, 2019

1) What field was your PhD in?

2) Why the switch from academia to consulting? Was this an interest that developed later on in grad school?

3) Do you feel intellectually fulfilled in your current role?

4) If you're hoping to exit, I'm curious what sorts of roles/industries you're hoping to exit to?

Most Helpful
Mar 2, 2019

1) What field was your PhD in?
My PhD is in Biomedicine

2) Why the switch from academia to consulting? Was this an interest that developed later on in grad school?

There were a number of reasons for wanting to transition to consulting, but I suppose you can break it down into 2 question: why not academia and Why consulting

Happy to also answer the first Q if you are interested but I presume that the second is the more relevant here.
Once I decided to move from academia, I started looking for positions that would satisfy my curiosity as well as open new doors - I wasn't precisely sure what I wanted to do, so I needed a job that would broaden my future options. Consulting hit these KPIs rather well.
Also, it seemed to me that consulting was much the same as my PhD work in that I would take complex problems and break them down into their component parts and solve them.

The pay and pay trajectory certainly informed my decision as well :-)

4) Do you feel intellectually fulfilled in your current role?

Sometimes. Maybe more now than at the beginning. The amount of dumb work you have to do as a BA/A/AC is prodigious. As an entry level consultant you really don't have much of any say over the analysis you do and are really not very involved in cracking the case, at least compared to driving your own work as a PhD student. This changes quickly as you move up the ladder, with more responsibility and trust coming your way.
I also found it difficult to go from being an expert and leading teams to being a low level analyst, which likely informed my feeling of intellectual fulfillment or lack thereof.

6) If you're hoping to exit, I'm curious what sorts of roles/industries you're hoping to exit to?

I began getting recruiters contacting me ~6months into the job. I have looked at exits to pharma/biotech as well as tech. For tech and smaller startups, a common exit of business development. For larger companies, it's more likely to exit to the strategy team with the hope of moving to a business line within 2-3 years.

As for what I hope to exit to...I would lean more towards the R&D management side of pharma or tech. Perhaps portfolio management or other roles that require a deep technical understanding. But I am not actively pushing to leave at the moment so haven't fully defined what I want my next step to be.

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Mar 4, 2019

thanks for hosting the ama!

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Mar 12, 2019

I am just curious: don't you think it's unfair that US MBB hire PhDs at experience level whereas European MBB hire PhDs at entry level? why the discrepancy? PhDs in U.S. worth much more? It feels mighty discriminatory.

Mar 12, 2019

Yah, that thought has crossed my mind a time or two, particularly when doing some pointless or mindless task on a case :-) In most of continental Europe, nearly all incoming Associates have a Master's degree, so at least I am not the only one who is hired at a lower level than I would have were I to have applied to a US office...
In the US, it's not uncommon to see a PhD hire come in at the level just above entry level (think one year in) or MBA level. Honestly, if you really look at the speed of advancement in consulting, I don't think that it matters at what level you start. I spent roughly 12 months in the company before making it to the post-MBA level position here, but I have seen PhDs go considerably slower to the same position.
Talking to recruiters, they don't seem very interested in which level you make it to in consulting. They are primarily looking for you to have spent enough time to learn the consulting toolkit and gotten a promotion or two under your belt to show that you were performing well.
But when making the 20th backup for some BS analysis entering at a lower level sure does seem pretty shitty :-)

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Mar 14, 2019

Thanks for doing the thread :)

You said exposure to Europe, any to London specifically? If so (based out of London) what were your hours like, typically, and how have they changed as you have progressed ranks? Would you recommend MBB career + how have you felt your time in Academia has aided you?

Mar 16, 2019

I have worked from the London office on a couple of cases, but am based on continental Europe. Anecdotally, I would say that their hours are closer to 60.
The hours typically go up as you progress but they are more flexible. A lot of this depends on the industry and capability you are working in. A longer corporate case (excl banking) will be better than a 2 week DD. I personally push for longer cases where I can increase my visibility and work-life balance. On the flip side, shorter cases give you more chances to excel (or fail) in different contexts. This may serve as a better platform for early promotion.

By MBB career, I will assume you mean spending a few years at MBB before moving to something else :-)
I suppose it all boils down to what your career and life goals are. For me, it has opened up tons potential opportunities that I would never have otherwise had. Starting ~1 year in, I have had recruiters calling me for positions way above anything I would have had a shot at fresh out of my PhD.
It has also let me look 'under the hood' of a number of companies across industries. This broad experience has really helped me refine where I would like to be 5 years from now.

Well, I have been on some pharma cases where it's helped me understand the context better. But a STEM PhD is all about analytical rigor and problem solving. This aspect of my PhD studies has been super helpful.

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Mar 22, 2019

I really appreciate this response. I'm currently b4 debating doing a Masters to have a shot at MBB. Would you recommend this, or instead trying and complete a PQ at B4 and move in as exp. hire?

Mar 18, 2019

What are the main differences working in Europe vs. US?

Mar 22, 2019