AMA: Corporate Strategy Manager at F100 Entertainment Company (came from Non-MBB Management Consulting)

I've been a Corporate Strategy manager at a large F100 studio (not Disney) for about a year now (and it's had its ups and downs). Just figured there isn't too much information on here about corporate strategy paths from non-MBB people, so I thought I'd throw my chex into the mix here.

My background is 2011 undergrad at NYU Stern majoring in Finance & Accounting:

* Started off at a boutique financial services consulting firm for 18 months
* Went to join a large, Indian tech consulting company in their management consulting group (but really a lot of change management, business analyst work, requirements, project management, and the occasional business cases) in the financial services vertical
* Worked my way into strategy in entertainment through a website resume drop (process took 3 months over 5 interviews) - HR Screening, 2x phone calls, 1 Skype super day, In-Person Super Day

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about the work, how I got there, and what I plan to do next (looking to lateral into a similar role in tech)

Comments (23)

Mar 20, 2017

@shadowing, thanks for this. When you say "corporate strategy", is this essentially an internal consulting role? I ask because when I was interviewing for corporate development roles, many firms would list roles as "corporate strategy", even if they were 100% M&A or anything but strategy itself.

Could you walk me through a typical day? What backgrounds do most of your colleagues have? What are the exit ops? Is it normal to leave corporate strategy after a few years (like IB or PE)?

Best Response
Mar 21, 2017

I think there's a few schools of thought on this, and each industry, company and inter-company, handles these groups differently. In my mind, there are 3 functions that typically get grouped together because there is some level of overlap: Corporate Strategy, Corporate Development, Business Development

Corp Strategy vs. Corp Development vs. Biz Development
You'll get groups that combine corp dev & biz dev together, corp strategy & corp dev together, etc. with any combination of the three. It's really how the company structures its organization. Another (generalized) way to think about how the teams function is that corp dev teams are usually comprised of ex-bankers, biz dev from sales teams, and strategy from ex-consultants. I see that you're in Corp Dev so you're already well aware it's more M&A work, while Business Development (at least here) concentrates on sales and account/vendor management. Obviously I'm not in those groups and I'm sure others here have a better understanding of it.

As for corporate strategy, we typically focus on initiatives set by executive management at the beginning of the year and work on ad-hoc projects that accomplish these initiatives. To that extent, yes, I'd consider us internal consultants. I would split up the work we do into 2 broad types: strategic and operational improvement

Type of Work
Strategic is the work you typically think of in a strategy group: analyzing market research to identify trends, competitive analysis, doing business cases and projections on new products/product lines. Operational improvement is analyzing current performance of various groups within the company and identifying ways to affect the bottom line (read: cost cutting or process improvement measures). I'd say it's probably a 30/70 split strategy to operational work that I do. Note that in both, it's a lot of heavy excel and powerpoint (with the occasional use of Access for large data sets). I live in graphs and charts to try and best show the data in the most simple way possible for management. Again for both types of strategic & operational work, 25% of it is building out the excel models/business cases, 25% is putting together the presentation & formatting (and reformatting and regraphing and reformatting), 25% is looking at the data in different ways and reformulating our answer (which in turn forces us to re-look at excel and re-do the PPT), and 25% is meetings with other groups and actually presenting the slides. In our group, there is 0% M&A work. We may do a quick & dirty financial model to get a conversation started, but it's handed off to the corp dev group.

Our biggest project is preparing and updating a long-term strategic plan that gets reviewed by the company's president & CEO and we spend probably 3 months of the year prepping and doing analyses for it (an accumulation of all the small projects we've done throughout the year packaged into something palatable for executive management). As a manager, I'm personally not in there for the presentation (that's our SVP of Finance who is 3 levels above me - and she's the least senior one in the room).

Structure
I think the reason there isn't a lot of transparent, granular information here about corporate strategy is because every company defines and structures the group differently. Some are placed under the COO, some under CFO, some under a specific strategy division. Our group specifically is under the CFO and so the work that we do intertwines us with the FP&A groups, which sit right next to us (group of 4) under the Finance Head. In addition, some of the projects we do are related to financial & strategic planning, which means forecasting company health or for a particular product, line, etc.

We have a small group (as are most strategy groups) of 4 people. I'm from a tech consulting firm, the other manager is from Accenture, and the 2 directors came from IBM & BCG (and both have MBAs). For work hours, I typically get in between 8:30 - 9am and get out between 6:30 - 7:30pm. During the 3 months we're prepping for the long term plan for the CEO, I leave anywhere between 7:30 - 8:30 and work throughout the day gets noticeably busier.

Exit Ops
For exit opportunities, I think it's a bit of a shot in the dark as to what's next for me. I definitely don't think those in corporate strategy go into (or back into) consulting or investment banking. Private equity also sounds like a long shot without M&A or banking experience. What I find is that you either stick it through to try and get promoted internally (probably difficult considering the teams are so small with limited budget) or you go to a competitor (another entertainment company) and get promoted through your move in a similar strategy function (next step would be a director role). For me, I'm aiming to move into a similar strategy role but in a different industry (tech) as it's growing significantly faster, has higher impact projects, and generally pays better. You'll see a lot of job postings that cite the "strategy" buzzword in job experience requirements, along with previous consulting experience etc. which definitely helps with getting interviews. I think the biggest hurdle at that point is having the correct industry experience (e.g. it's much easier for me to jump to a different entertainment company than it is proving that I am just as viable for a strategy director position in high tech as the other guy who did corporate strategy for Google)

    • 6
Mar 21, 2017

Thanks!

Mar 20, 2017

Are there people in the group who came from non-consulting or non-banking background, MBB or otherwise? I'm thinking from operations, product, finance, etc. Or is consulting experience pretty much a prerequisite for a position in corp strat? thanks!

Mar 21, 2017

I'd say from my experience reading the forums and in this group, the hiring managers typically look for consulting experience first (and our team being all consultants), but that's not to say it precludes you from applying. The previous guy before me was a Senior Financial Analyst at Disney with more of an FP&A background. Even for me, the position I applied for stated that it required an MBA (which I do not have). What they're looking for in your resume qualifications (and is assumed when you're a consultant) is that you exhibit 3 things:

  1. High-level thinking: Are you always aware of the overall objective? Or do you tend to work in the weeds and get caught up in all the details
  2. Ability to deal with ambiguity: Projects are often kicked off because an exec has a question that they want answered, but don't really clarify how to get there (e.g. How can we get 35% margin on a particular set of products?). There's thousands of ways to get to this answer, but it's up to you to be able to sift through data, question results, and present it in a meaningful fashion
  3. Get-It-Done Attitude: You should be able to show you know how to deliver. This is where showing you have consulting experience helps a great deal. You'll make the right connections and talk to the right people to get the information you need to do your job.

Coming from any other role besides consulting, it's definitely, definitely doable but you should be able to reflect these 3 things in your resume up front in your work experience (and call them out clearly)

    • 3
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Mar 21, 2017

Thoughts on T/TWX?

Mar 21, 2017

Entertainment's all consolidating vertically these days, so it doesn't surprise me. OTT & Digital Media will remain the focuses for the next 2-3 years. But I expect lots of "synergies" in the next year for them, while the rest of the distributors scramble to acquire or invest in content creators (see: NBC & Snapchat)

Mar 23, 2017

Thanks for the AMA, your background at an Indian Consulting Company caught my eye as I have similar experience. I graduated undergrad 3 years ago, starting out at an Indian consulting firm, doing similar work to what you listed.

Left that after a year to move to a portfolio company that is well known in its sector. Currently my role mixes Corp Strat, Corp Dev, and Operational Strategy so I've been pretty fortunate, especially as I've been learning that Strategy roles are what seem best suited for me. I'm still constantly learning and am in no real rush to leave, but do wonder what my next move will be and believe that, ideally, your type of role would be a great next move for me. Just finished interviews at an MBB and don't think going back to consulting would be ideal as I enjoy the "depth" associated with my current level of work.

I was surprised to see a simple resume drop was enough to get you in the door since Corp Strat roles seem to be limited. I currently have a very high-up connect at a F50 company that would be able to at least get me an interview for their Corp Strat team, but aside from that (as it requires moving across the country, which I'd like to avoid if possible, and not even sure I'd get it since its a different industry), do you have any advice on what I should do to best position myself for these positions? Thanks!

Mar 24, 2017

I had answered in the previous post the 3 things that I feel would be important in highlighting your resume when getting a corp strategy interview from a non-traditional route, but it's also 100% applicable for those currently in strategy looking to move to another strategy role. These are applicable skills that a functional group (strategy) in the broad sense, and can be applied towards any industry because at the end of the day, you can use these skillsets for most industry verticals.

That being said, I believe that once you get past that hurdle of having "consultant-like" skillsets, and especially at the higher levels (Director +), having industry experience or work that touches upon the types of company will be immensely helpful in getting that interview from a simple resume drop. I'd say narrowing in on a particular industry (vs. F50/10/500) and developing expertise or showing some interest around that field will give you an edge. For example, if you're looking to move into tech, learn some programming skills or something technical. Learn about Agile methodologies. Show that you've done your homework and position your resume & application to be more tech-oriented.

Of course, going through the networking route and connecting to friends of friends will always be immensely helpful and most likely your best bet rather than going through a resume drop. I don't know where you live (assuming west coast or east coast), but organized networking events will help give you a presence or at least in the conversation.

I can't imagine these are things you haven't already thought about, but putting it out there may resonate with some other people that serves as a reminder that knowing someone is more than half the battle.

    • 1
Mar 24, 2017

Appreciate the thorough reply, thanks pal.

Mar 24, 2017

I have a similar background as you. Worked for consulting firm that focused on the financial service sector, work included project management, business analysis, requirements gathering. I was let go in Jan because of cuts. I've been trying to land strategy roles, however everyone seems to be interested in MBB or true strategy. From the sounds of it it doesn't seem like you did actual MBB/D strategy work, so how were you able to tell your story?

Mar 24, 2017

This is 100% true, and was even brought up as a question by the most senior level person interviewing me (SVP): "Your background is in technology consulting and financial services, both of which are completely different from what we're looking for. Why should we hire you?"

As a result, I positioned my candidacy by telling her that the skill sets you gain doing business analyst work, project management, requirements, etc. are still extremely applicable to strategy work. At the end of the day, strategy groups are also doing assessments on operations and cost optimization, which includes technology and systems implementation. They're going to have to speak with the technology team to gain a better understanding of the system itself. Additionally, I spoke a lot about project management, which is also relevant because this strategy group handles a ton of small projects at a time, and being able to prioritize and deliver on each of them and give status updates is extremely important (something we do twice a week in our group).

I talked briefly (but enthusiastically) about the few business cases that I did do and how it had an effect on the projects that I was on (or was pitching). I think that was enough for me to pass the "financial analysis" requirement, along with a case study they used on me. Any monkey can put together a financial analysis or presentation (or at least learn to). You're going to end up being an internal consultant for the company, so they want you to have people skills and be likeable. The recurring feedback I got from HR and the team while I was interviewing was I "brought a lot of energy to the interviews". Kind of BS, I know, but it shows that you'll be enthusiastic whether you're doing fun or sh*tty work.

EDIT: TL;DR - I made up for my lack of pure strategy experience by convincing the interviewer that consulting gave me a broad range of applicable skills & I'm a sociable person to work with

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Mar 24, 2017

Thank you for that. Its a very great way to spin it. If you don't mind. Could I PM you to take a look at my resume? I come from a similar background as you and trying to break into corporate strategy. So just wondering if my resume is passable enough for an interview.

Mar 24, 2017

comp? and progression in comp expected?

Mar 27, 2017
winsle.100:

comp? and progression in comp expected?

Low 100's with 5% bonus

Director level: 130-150 with 7.5%
VP level: 180-200 with 10%
SVP: 250+ unsure of bonus/equity breakdown

Based on who I've spoken with in other media/entertainment companies (studios rather than tech companies like Netflix/Hulu), this is pretty much in line with their comp. Would love to get some light on tech strategy comp (my assumption is that a manager at an equivalent level of years exp is at around 120-130 base + 30-50K combination cash/equity)

Mar 25, 2017

Have you found that there are a lot of these opportunities in NYC (strategy within the entertainment industry) or are you basically pigeonholed to LA?

Mar 27, 2017
swingswipe:

Have you found that there are a lot of these opportunities in NYC (strategy within the entertainment industry) or are you basically pigeonholed to LA?

With entertainment, it's definitely harder to score something in NYC than it is in LA considering most of entertainment is based out here in SoCal. That being said, entertainment is also a broad term and can cover publishing (Penguin/Random House), Television (HBO, Cablevision), etc. all of which are based in NYC. There are opportunities on the east coast, but the chance to network with someone in the industry through friends of friends or events is much greater in LA.

Mar 28, 2017

Were you specifically targeting entertainment or more a functional strategy role?

I'm looking to transition into entertainment/media from a consulting role (CFO buyer) and have been applying to more FP&A type positions but with the goal moving to strategy/corp dev. It sounds to me like its possible to look directly at strategy roles?

Jun 23, 2017

delete

Apr 14, 2017

Hi. Thanks for doing this. I have been trying to find someone in Corporate Strategy for a few weeks now, because I don't think it is widely discussed here.

I am currently doing my MSc Finance, and I was recently accepted to a "Corporate Strategy" internship at a large financial institution (country's second largest Group). But I do not know if it is really Corporate Strategy, or if it's just FP&A masked as Corp Strat.

My manager told me that I will conduct competitive analysis, market research, identify trends, visit competing and subsidiaries general quarterly meetings, create benchmarks for subsidiaries, ad-hoc analysis and have an individual project during and after the internship (as a part of my MSc thesis) about developing or finding strategic portfolios/asset classes/products that the Group can offer to their clients. I would work together with another (full-time) graduate, chief analyst, and possibly a Group executive. Do you think this is a typical Corporate Strategy role? If so, what do you think I can do to get a full-time offer after the internship? I really want to work with Corp Strat, but according to WSO, they rarely hire someone without a MBB/IB experience + MBA.

Feb 21, 2018
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