AMA - Alternative Path to F100 Corporate Strategy w/ Exit Details

DifferentPath's picture
Rank: Baboon | 130

Took a different path to Corporate Strategy and have since exited (see below). AMA.

* Grew up in suburb of tier 2 US city

* Underachieved in HS - B student (generous), ~1200 SAT, lazy

* Pretty good at basketball, helped me get into top 20 college - WHEW


* SHIT - almost failed out...

* Cleaned up last 5 semesters - 3.7 GPA during that period, started a small company ($10k in revenue), got two okay IT internships

* Graduated during recession. (Luckily) landed econ consulting gig at a small firm in a crappy city - WHEW. Only pays $35k, but whatever, it's a job

* SHIT - Dad diagnosed with terminal illness two weeks after starting new job. Want to move home, but can't w/o a paycheck (student loans)

* YIPEE - got a new job at a niche consulting firm in my hometown a few weeks later; lived at home during last few months of Dad's life - important time

* Promoted twice, on partner track, but consulting sucks and I'm only making $65k right now - F that - leave for Product Management role at F100 company

* Got engaged to college sweetheart; won all expenses paid wedding via website contest - LET'S GOOOOOO

* Not in consulting = lots of free time: took the GMAT, CRUSHED (mid 700s)

* Lots of free time (part 2): volunteered for org that fights against terminal illness my Dad had, led event that raised $500k - FEELING GOOD

* Got promoted after a year - now making $90k all-in

* Applied to 3 MBA programs in R1 - 1 of H/S/W - ding; 1 of B/K/S - ding; 1 outside top 30 (one year program) - FULL RIDE; scholarship feels great, but getting denied by 2 of the m7 STINGS (still does)

* Excited about b-school, focused on academics/career not social. Got offer from corp strat group from the same F100 I had been working for - BIG TIME LEVEL UP - $150k salary+bonus and $20k signing

* Promoted after 18 months - $175k salary+bonus - only ~45-50 hrs/wk - feels good

* OOPS - accidentally got my wife pregnant; ECSTATIC, but some PANIC - need to leave our city apt., find house, get daycare, etc.

* Month 8 of pregnancy - get Director level job offer at F500 in small city (pop


* Baby's four months old - moved to new city, bought a house, full kitchen reno + cosmetic fixes - INSANE, SO STUPID, SO TIRED, NEVER AGAIN

* Today: I'm 30, baby's 1, Grandma daycare saves $$, settled in new city & job, 9-5 schedule allows for lots of time with baby - probably plateau on career front for a bit, but FEELING BALANCED

Comments (29)

Best Response
Mar 16, 2017

Sounds like the American Dream!

    • 4
Mar 17, 2017

I'm extremely grateful for the way things turned out, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Hopefully I can help my children avoid them when they're navigating their 20s...

Mar 16, 2017

Firstly, congrats - sounds like you are in a good spot and handled the curve balls pretty well.

Secondly - how did you transition from Consulting to Product Management? Is it possible for someone with an IB skill set to make that transition?

Mar 17, 2017

Thanks very much. Feeling good about where I'm at now. Pretty proud of how I handled the curve balls, but, at the same time, a lot of them were self-inflicted problems. Can't change the past.

That particular Product Management group was did a lot of quantitative work, so I emphasized my Math undergrad degree and some models I built as part of my start-up company. That message resonated well.

No doubt in my mind that someone in IB can transition into Product Management. It's all about how you spin your experience.

Honestly, being able to spin/sell my story as a candidate has been the most valuable skill I've acquired over my career...when you graduate in 2009 from a non-target with $100k in debt and have a <3.0 GPA, it becomes a necessary one...

For every interview, I answer these four questions:

  1. Why do you want to work in this industry? (3 reasons)
  2. Why do you want to work for this company? (3 reasons)
  3. Why do you want to work for this department? (3 reasons)
  4. Why are you the perfect candidate for this role? (5 reasons, taken directly from the job description with examples to back each of them up)

If you answer those four in a compelling way (and adequately prep for behavioral interviews), you will do just fine.

Mar 31, 2017


Mar 21, 2017


If you REALLY want to be a product manager, got to Kellogg or Kelley. The marketing kids at those schools have it so easy during recruiting that I'm not even sure what the right metaphor to describe would be. "Shooting fish in a barrel" doesn't do it justice.

    • 1
Mar 22, 2017


If you REALLY want to be a product manager, got to Kellogg or Kelley. The marketing kids at those schools have it so easy during recruiting that I'm not even sure what the right metaphor to describe would be. "Shooting fish in a barrel" doesn't do it justice.

This is definitely true - students at Kellogg or Kelley are practically guaranteed a product/brand manager offer. That said, I imagine the ROI for IB --> MBA --> product/brand manager is dicey at best. I think a lot of i-bankers could make the jump directly without the MBA (depending on the industry they're targeting).

Mar 16, 2017

Hey- Thanks for doing this AMA.
My background: Good GPA at a no-name Liberal Arts school. Landed a FLDP at a F100 Company. First rotation (current) is in Program Finance. It's not my favorite, but I'm learning a lot.

My company offers a rotation through Corporate Strategy. This seems like an amazing opportunity since most people can only get into Corp Strat post-MBA. Ideally, I'd like to stay in Corp Strat after my FLDP is over. Mine is a 3 year, 3 rotation program.

Currently, no one in my program is going to apply for the Corp Strat role for this coming rotation (stating this summer). If I apply, it's mine for the taking as my 2nd role. BUT, I'd have to do something else for my 3rd rotation and I'd have to leave Corp Strat and then try to come back off-program.

OR, I can do a different role for this coming rotation (probably FP&A), get more experience, do Corp Strat for my 3rd and final rotation, and then try to stay after the FLDP ends. The advantage to this is that I'll have more experience prior to starting Corp Strat, so I'll be able to do better in the role and increase my chances of staying. Also, I will not have to move once the program is over- I can continue in the role. The disadvantage is that unlike this year, there might be competition for the role in the future, so I might miss out on it. The other disadvantage is that there is no guarantee that they'll offer a Corp Strat role when its time to pick my 3rd rotation.

Do you have any guidance? Should I take the role for this year because it's mine for the taking? or wait for my 3rd rotation because that fits the ideal "plan" better?

    • 4
Mar 17, 2017

Congrats on the F100 FLDP - that's a great place to start out.

I would wait for the 3rd rotation. As you mentioned above, you'll likely perform better, and it is a much easier transition to just stay on board.

Yes, there could be more competition, but if you can't beat out your FLDP counterparts for a rotation spot, there's little chance you would have been able to land a full-time role in the group anyhow....

If it were me, I would reach out to the corp strat person assigned to managing this upcoming rotation and discuss your plan candidly. Good networking opportunity, and I'm sure they'd be open to it given the lack of interest in the rotation. Also, they will have more context (e.g., are you sure they will be offering a rotation next cycle?) and can give better guidance than a stranger on the internet.

Good luck!

Apr 7, 2017

Hello @DifferentPath - I took your advice and talked to the hiring manager in Corp Strat. We had a good conversation- The role seems interesting and it seems to give a lot of exposure and some opportunities to work on M&A type stuff for the company.
I have another question. I just got the list with all the rotation opportunities. There is an opening to be an analyst for the company's pension program. Basically an investment management role. I love watching the markets and following economic movements, so this role is intriguing to me.
My ultimate goal is to be a finance director/VP and to strategically steer a company in the future, so being an investment analyst doesn't seem to build to that. On the other hand though, I think I would enjoy getting up and going to work each morning more as an investment analyst than as a FP&A analyst. Thoughts?

    • 1
Mar 17, 2017

Thanks for doing the AMA and congrats on your success!

If you don't mind sharing, what industries were the F100/F500? Was your consulting gig covering the same industry? If not how did you pivot to the PM role aside from your quantitative skills?

    • 1
Mar 17, 2017

Thanks very much!

F100 & F500 are both insurance companies. My consulting role never did any work in the insurance space - we did marketing analytics for F500 CPG and Retail clients.

Aside from the quant skills, I played up presentation, stakeholder communication, and project management skills.

Mar 17, 2017

wow interesting story thanks for sharing

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Mar 20, 2017

Sure, happy to.

Mar 20, 2017

Great AMA thanks for doing this.

Would you mind digging deeper into compensation and breaking down salaries vs bonuses. I've been doing corporate banking for the past 4 years...been wanting to exit into a strategic finance, Corp dev, Corp strat, or capital raising role (bonds, bank debt, etc).

Have been bumping into issues with compensation, it appears that no one wants to really pay above 100k base and 10% bonus at the level I would be coming in at which is a tough pill to swallow. For context corporate banking is better work life than IBD (think 9-7/8 on most days, hardly any weekend work) and take home is about 150k all-in at the associate level. At this point though I want to be contributing towards running a business vs. providing capital to clients and watch them deploy it in strategic ways and grow earnings...I want to be doing that work internally.

Long story short, trying to get better insight into compensation where ~130k is possible, the level you need to come in at, and how long it takes to get there.


    • 3
Mar 20, 2017

Great question.

First thing I'll say is that comp varies a lot more at F500 in-house groups than it does at external banks/consulting firms.

My guess is that the comp/role combo you're looking for is out there, but it's at the high end of the scale, so openings for those positions will be sporadic. You're going to have to do some research on what companies in your target location & industry pay the most. From there, you'll need to network, get in touch with their recruiting staff, constantly monitor their careers sites, etc.

In my prior group (F100 Corp Strat in tier 2 city), the comp you're shooting for ($130k all-in with >=$100k base & >=10% target bonus) would be 2 promotions/4 years out from the entry level role, one step below the MBA entry point.

Based on the other in-house Corp Strat groups I applied to/got offers from, I think this package is probably on the higher end for F500. Other companies typically offered $130k all-in as the MBA entry point comp.

Mar 20, 2017

So you went outside of a top 30 Congrats. I'm struggling here as well. I got laid off in Jan been looking since. Tons of interviews but no offer yet. I'm hoping once I get my new job I can finally focus on GMAT and hopefully get into a decent MBA program. Hoping that the in the next 5 years I will have a similar story to yours.

    • 1
Mar 20, 2017

Thanks! Yes, well outside the top 30.

Sorry to hear about the lay offs - that's tough. Good luck, stay positive.

Mar 21, 2017

How many years out were you when you moved to the product management role?

    • 1
Mar 21, 2017

2.5 years out of undergrad.

Mar 21, 2017

Do you think that it would be possible to spin a 3 yr FLDP (with unique rotations like corp dev/treasury) into a product management role? I'm unsure if that's a path I may consider in a few years to get a couple more years of interesting pre-MBA experience but i'm unsure if I'd fit their profile.

I appreciate hearing your experience.. I can relate to your story through college. Currently my first your out of undergrad in a f500 FLDP.

    • 1
Mar 21, 2017

Thanks for the inspiring story and this AMA!

I have a similar high school and college (hockey instead of basketball), but went to a non target school graduating college with 3.0.... all due my lack of effort towards academia. Still managed to network my way into career opportunities that would not have presented themselves through my academic performance. I'm a first year analyst at an Institutional Asset Management.

How did you go from a non-target school to a top B-school program? What was your biggest obstacle faced to get into the top B-school program and how was it overcome?

Mar 21, 2017

That's awesome. Glad to hear you've landed a solid role.

I wish I could answer your question, but I did not go to a top b-school. The MBA program I attended falls way outside the top 30.

Mar 22, 2017

If you don't mind me asking, what were the key successes you took away from the MBA (aside from networking) as well your key successes in the application/acceptance process?

Mar 22, 2017

MBA (in rank order):
1. It allowed me to apply for post-MBA roles. I left my F100 company making $90k all-in and literally 5 months later I received an offer for $150k all-in with $20k signing bonus FROM THE SAME COMPANY. Did I all of a sudden become a 67% more valuable/better employee because of 5 months of MBA coursework? OF COURSE NOT. The jump was nothing more than a function of being on the MBA recruiting cycle.
2. It checks the 'MBA' box on all future job applications. Fair or not, companies, hiring managers, and HR care.
3. It gave me access to a new network. As mentioned above, the university I attended is not particularly prestigious, so the network is no where near as valuable as a top tier school. However, there were a number of solid networking opportunities for me locally/regionally.
4. It provided me with dedicated time to learn/grow through coursework. Let's call a spade a spade - virtually no one gets their MBA for the academics. The classes are not challenging...and most of this stuff you can learn online at a minimal cost (see: Wharton Online Learning). That said, I did spend quite a bit of time in the classroom, and I made the most of it. Courses like Leadership, Management Consulting, Negotiations, and Sales were particularly helpful.

Application Process (in rank order):
1. I received a full ride to a one-year program. I took out a small loan for travel/living expenses and there was still some opportunity cost, but the ROI on my MBA is outrageous.
2. I gained a huge chip on my shoulder. Getting rejected by two of the M7 sucks, but it motivated me. I wanted to prove (mostly to myself) that I could hang with top tier talent. I applied to (and received offers for) positions that were tailor made for students from top tier schools. Once I started my new role, I worked my ass off. Got promoted ahead of the "normal" schedule, crushed my performance review, etc.
3. I got a high GMAT score. It certainly was one of the key reasons I got the scholarship, but it also objectively proved (to employers) that I'm smart. When you graduate from a non-target undergrad with a GPA <3.0, never have any roles that are "resume gold" (i.e., McKinsey, Goldman, etc.), and go to a non-target MBA program, this proof point is critical.

An important caveat: I'm probably not the best person to get advice from if you're looking to get into a top program and/or maximize your MBA experience. This was my path; it's worked out well for me; I have no regrets, but I don't think it should serve as a blueprint for others. The fact of the matter is, I've never been accepted to a top program. If that's your goal, then there are other people who can provide much better guidance/advice. Best of luck!

Mar 29, 2017

Hilarious. congrats. curious where strategic pricing fits in at your company - is this an fp&a, marketing, or strategy function? my understanding is different companies roll it up into different groups. thx

Mar 29, 2017