AMA: Former Strategy& associate

Hey all, long-time lurker on WSO who worked at Strategy& for 2 years and wanted to give back using a throwaway account. A bit about me: graduated from target undergraduate school, interned at Strategy&, and returned full-time post-graduation. I did projects across a number of industries and issue areas (e.g., enterprise strategy, M&A, cost reduction, etc.). Working at a startup for a few months before joining a well-known middle market private equity firm on its investment team.

I am admittedly more positive about my experience at the firm than other posters, but I promise to be as candid and objective as possible without giving away proprietary firm information.

Fire away.

EDIT: WSO attempted to auto-link another poster's AMA, saying that I wrote it. I'd encourage you to search for it, but I emphatically do not endorse its contents.

Comments (64)

Feb 19, 2018

Are the rumors about the toxic work environment true? Specifically that it's sweatshop, particularly for internationals without a visa, and that you're expected to keep chargeability high (70+ hours a week) to stay employed. I've also heard that they just axe people without warning. Curious to get your take.

Feb 19, 2018

I don't think that toxic is the right word. The environment is certainly demanding and I think that is true of any quality shop in professional services. For better or worse, Strategy& has relatively lean teams even while striving to deliver (some would say over-deliver) high-quality work. It means that you get a very high level of responsibility as a junior consultant, and I often found myself leading working sessions with the CFO / BU President / Product Lead, owning significant parts of the deck, and running models with minimal supervision. It also means that you'll work your tail off when there's a deliverable around the corner - and in consulting, there is almost always a deliverable around the corner.

As far as people getting counseled out unexpectedly, there was definitely one year in particular where forced attrition was higher than normal and I would argue that this was primarily because the firm significantly over-hired relative to actual performance. Oftentimes, I think that people know when they haven't performed and are on their way out, and this actually accounts for most of the forced attrition in virtually every year. On the other hand, I can think of a couple of friends that I did not think were deserving of the counsel-out and certainly should have gotten more runway than they did. However, it didn't happen again while I was there nor in the years immediately preceding my arrival.

I'd also add that I heard of a couple of other firms over-hiring back during those same years and that they also had to increase the proportion of folks that they counseled out. I don't want to speak for other firms, but consulting is both very cyclical and on-demand in terms of its service contracting and hiring practices (believe it or not). So when you hear things like "Strategy& headcount decreased 20% YoY inclusive of new hires" (which is a false statement that I saw circulating on another thread), do take it with a grain of salt.

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Jul 2, 2018

Yes. It is one of the worst places on the planet to work. Surprising when you look at PwC which is a great place culture wise.

S& fires people who joined them post MBA with only chance of applying for Visa. Stay away if you plan to.

Project are all PMO (Project Management) with no real value adds. Partners only want to please the clients with no focus on quality, truthfulness of the deliverables.

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Feb 19, 2018

What was your PE recruiting process like? Additionally, at what point did you start networking and positioning yourself for exit opps?

Array
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Feb 19, 2018

My PE recruiting process was like any other banker or consultant seeking a pre-MBA position. I started with headhunter meetings, was shown a list of firms that might be potential fits, interviewed with a handful of firms in parallel, and received an offer that I liked enough to accept. I believe that other threads on this site cover the process in excellent detail, but I'd highlight a few points in particular:

  1. Make sure that you can do a full LBO modeling test under timed conditions. Many firms will require this even knowing that you are a consultant and will hold you to a bar that is as high, or almost as high, as bankers that they are interviewing. (To quote an interviewer from the firm that hired me, they were "very surprised" that I passed their modeling test).
  2. In addition to being able to perform an LBO under normal interview conditions, I would also make sure that you know the fundamental concepts of finance and accounting inside and out. Many private equity firms have case interviews that mirror that of consulting cases except that they are focused on identifying and quantifying the sources of value in a transaction, whether that is multiple expansion, EBITDA growth (top-line or margin), leverage, debt paydown, or structure.
  3. Have a clear and compelling reason for "why private equity" and what you want to get out of PE. I was very clear that I wanted to be a generalist in a particular city working on both transactions and portfolio company management for traditional LBOs of a particular range of check sizes / fund sizes. You might not get all the criteria that you list, but the more specific you are, the more likely that you'll find a good fit for you (and look like a serious candidate during the process).
  4. I would highly recommend that you recruit in the fall & winter of your second year in consulting. Unlike bankers, your differentiating skill set is general strategy and operations, which usually takes some time to develop. It also allows you to explore different careers and exit opportunities - candidly, private equity was not at the top of my list of preferred exit ops going into consulting, and while I'm certainly excited about my new role, I also have a number of other personal and professional interests that I'm interested in and willing to pursue in the future.

Hope that helps.

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Feb 19, 2018

.

Feb 19, 2018

Finally somebody talking reasonably about Strategy&! I'll throw out a few questions that I think prospective applicants would love to hear about:

1) What kinds of exit opps did you see people from your class (and class above you) take?

2) Lots of applicants worry about the alignment model, where associates are given a vertical (industry) and competency alignment from the beginning. Can you tell us more about alignments and how diverse one's project experience can be under the model?

Feb 19, 2018

Startups were very popular for people in my class, which ranged from 10-person startups to Uber (which I would argue is not really a startup, but I suppose that is neither here nor there). I also saw some people transition into corporate strategy at Fortune 500 firms and the odd person or three each in PE / VC, the social sector, and entrepreneurship. Of the remainder, most chose the business school route and a handful moved into the senior associate (post-MBA role) at Strategy&.

The question about alignment models is a legitimate one and frankly, it was one my big concerns (and to an extent, dissatisfactions) of the firm. However, my experience was that you could actually work the system to your advantage in that you would pick the industry and / or issue area that most interested you before networking around other industries and issue areas to build out a more generalist experience. By the time I was in my second year, I had a list of about 15 people that I could reasonably reach out to across different groups at the firm when I needed to be staffed. That's not to say that you control your staffing destiny entirely because at any consulting firm you will go "where the business needs you to go," but it is entirely possible and very common to work in 2-4 industries during your first 2 years as an associate at Strategy&.

I think that the how of doing that is actually more interesting than the actual cross-staffing itself. One my mentors from my undergraduate days was an EM / PL / CTL at MBB before attending business school there. Besides emphasizing the virtues (and difficulties) of being a true generalist in any system, he pointed out that a highly valuable skill at the junior level was the ability to translate data and analysis into actionable learnings and recommendations, regardless of the industry or function. The skills of untangling the economics of any business issue, identifying the most important levers of value, and crafting clear recommendations are highly transferrable.

In fact, the repeated practice of doing so served me very well in private equity interviews - even though I hadn't heard of PIK interest or thought terribly deeply about the finer points of the impact of e-commerce business models on working capital management before then, it really wasn't that much of a stretch to translate what I had done to a more finance-heavy setting. That is what I meant by exposure to different business issues in my reply above - if you can learn to identify the sources of value in the abstract, going through PE interviews (or any business interview, really) becomes much easier, and I certainly got good practice in my time with the firm.

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Feb 20, 2018

Could you go into the detail the PE interview process you went through? Structure, rounds, technical/behavioral, etc.

Feb 20, 2018

See my post above - it wasn't any different from the typical PE recruiting process.

Feb 20, 2018

Thanks for doing this. A couple of questions:

1) Did you know you didn't want to stay in consulting longer-term before accepting the job? Sort of like how most folks go into IB as a jumping off point into where they really want to go after (e.g. PE / VC / HF / Other).
2) Does the MM PE have a track record for hiring consultants or were you a one off?
3) Do you plan to get an MBA? If so, why?
4) Related to 3) above, what are your future aspirations with or without an MBA?

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Feb 20, 2018
  1. Yes, unlike some of my peers, I didn't intend to stay in consulting long-term and drafted up a list of 4-6 general exit ops that interested me coming out of undergrad. As I met people from each of those walks of life and learned more about what those jobs really entailed, I updated my rank order list and eliminated a few that I didn't like. Still, there were a couple of non-PE offers that I was evaluating that I think that I would've been very happy with.
  2. From what I've seen, the PE firm that hired me seems to take a consultant into its pre-MBA program every couple of years, but they tend to be more prevalent at the post-MBA level. Anecdotally, I have noticed that PE firms that traditionally don't hire consultants are more willing than in the past to do so. While people who have actually had PE experience should feel free to correct me if I am wrong, value from paying cheaper entry multiples and employing leverage is becoming harder than in previous decades because so much more capital has flooded into the industry. Although I would still say that purchase price and skillful use of leverage and structure are still the primary drivers of value in most LBO transactions, the ability to select segments of markets that are growing faster than anticipated (whether that is by customer, geography, technology, or product), strategically reposition a company towards those segments, and deliver on tactical initiatives to successfully reposition a company and generate meaningful cash flow above that which was paid for has become much more important. Those are all skill sets that a junior consultant would've gotten significant exposure to in his or her 2-3 years.
  3. I think it's fair to say that I am biased towards getting an MBA at this point, and I am evaluating joint degree programs as well. Besides the very tactical point that my fund almost always requires its pre-MBA associates to get an MBA as a pre-condition for advancement, I do see a lot of value in adding a formal business education to my background, especially when combined with the joint degree programs that I'm considering. I also want to take some time to step back from the professional working world and meet people who don't come from the same walks of life that I do. This isn't limited to the business school - in particular, I'm keen to spend a lot of time networking with folks in engineering / science PhD programs, medical school programs, and the like - I think that the best and most interesting opportunities arise from people with different backgrounds and outlooks coming together to solve a problem that hasn't been successfully solved before, regardless of the industry.
  4. For now, I think the default assumption is that I want to stay in private equity, and I'm focused on deciding whether or not the industry really is the right fit for me and what strategy I would like to align myself to going forward. But I can also see a world in which I deviate from that - I'm personally very interested in launching my own nonprofit or social enterprise someday and having a career where I can split time across the public and social sectors. Whether that is in finance (could be some of the new forms of PE that are popping up, such as Bain Capital Double Impact or KKR Global Impact Fund), in entrepreneurship, or dedicated public service, I don't think that I fully know yet. But I am hoping that combining together general management consulting, generalist private equity, and a little bit of startup time can help me build a well-rounded skillset for when that day arrives.

Strategy& was certainly a good place to start putting that vision together; let's see what the next few years holds. Ask me again later!

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Feb 20, 2018

Thanks. Maybe I will ask later. Just let me know when!

Feb 21, 2018

What joint degree programs are you considering?

Array
Feb 20, 2018

Thank you for the AMA ! My question is, do you see some non-MBA master students getting into the company? Or other companies? Thanks !

Feb 20, 2018

Yes - lots of experience hires and non-MBA masters for specific tracks of expertise (e.g., O&G, Healthcare).

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Feb 23, 2018

How about PhD students? Do they hire them? At all? Do they start at the MBA/senior associate level?

Feb 20, 2018

What kind do MBA institutions did your colleagues get into? Any get into H/S/W/Booth?

Feb 20, 2018

Wharton and Booth are very popular. Some to HBS, although GSB is much rarer. A couple do Kellogg, Sloan, and CBS. I would say that historically, Strategy&'s post-undergraduate classes have been very small (think 8-15 people) and have only recently hit scale (30-40 people), and that in recent classes, many have chosen to take second jobs. It is really hard to tell and more likely idiosyncratic to the specific applicant.

Feb 20, 2018

Thanks so much for the insight!

Feb 20, 2018

Do you feel that recruiting for PE and/or Business school was harder at S& compared to MBB?

Alot of the folks on here and other sources online seem to continually reiterate PE firms highly prefer to recruit from MBB, and MBB has significantly higher odds at the top few M7.

Array

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Feb 20, 2018

I think that's a valid question. While I've never seen acceptance rates by firm to the M7 business schools (let alone those controlled for GPA / GMAT score), it's a safe bet that MBB has higher odds than does Strategy& or another comparable firm. I would guess that the effect is especially pronounced at HBS and GSB, both of which could admit 3-4 qualified classes from their applicant pool. But I would also say that it's the expectation that Strategy& associates get into an M7 business school if they apply - it's the rare case that a Strategy& associate fresh from undergrad chooses to not go to an M7 school, and in fact, I heard of multiple people who were cross-offered between M7 schools.

With regards to private equity, there is definitely a preference for MBB, especially if you are looking at the most elite megafund and upper middle market firms. Beyond that, I didn't really feel as if any doors were closing behind me, and in any case, I had gotten a couple of notes about megafund firms from headhunters. At some point, it becomes more about what you as an individual bring to the table rather than what the brand of the firm behind you stands for (see my point in a post above about the idiosyncrasies of individual applications driving b-school outcomes).

Feb 20, 2018

Curious to know, how confident would you feel about running a business now. The question can be subdivided into multiple categories

Do you feel your experience has given the right tools in terms of
1) Thinking Process
2) People Management Skills
3) Risk-taking ability

Feb 20, 2018

Candidly, I don't think that I would be prepared to run a sizable business right this moment. I think there are two ways (broadly speaking) to run a business - one is to be an entrepreneur and the other is operate some sort of a P&L in a corporation. I'd love to be the first, and if I had an idea that I thought was really compelling and could execute against, I would absolutely go for it. I don't (yet), and that's something that I'd like to work towards during the next couple of years.

Running a P&L in a corporation is something else entirely and I think it goes beyond those abilities that you outlined. Certainly having 2 years of consulting post-undergrad under your belt goes a long way. But I also think that the vast majority of folks in that bucket lack the maturity to really drive a business to consistent, profitable success, if only because they haven't worked in an environment that isn't professional services where the deliverable is an abstract deck or model. That's why most consultants go into corporate strategy roles first before transitioning into a P&L, or at least a line role within a P&L.

I've obviously not done your question full justice and I think that it could be a thread on its own, but my views on that topic are well-captured by this podcast.

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Feb 21, 2018

Thanks for the candid response @strategyand_alumni

Feb 20, 2018

Thanks again for doing this, it's extremely helpful. I'll be joining S& this summer as an SA, and I was hoping you could give your take on the state of the firm's integration with PwC (and general stability / growth). In particular, do you think there's any real danger of another major exodus of partners post May 2018 when last tranche of the payout from the acquisition hits?

Feb 20, 2018

Candidly, I have no idea whether or not partners are planning to leave for the simple reason that only they, and perhaps their family and close friends at the firm, would know this definitively. I also left the firm some time ago and am now well out of the loop, but in any case, I would treat those rumors as just that - rumors - until proven otherwise. (I would also note that the mass exodus that is bandied about is grossly exaggerated and concentrated to a handful of partners in a couple of industries and geographies, some of whom might have been poached under normal conditions in any case).

As I promised, I won't divulge any of the growth and profitability numbers that I've heard from conversations with former colleagues (you will have to find that out yourself through official channels - there is no reason that you can't ask a partner that question). It's no secret that the integration with PwC hasn't been perfect, but what I can say is that it was very nice to be able to have the power of a $35B firm behind Strategy& and the means to hand off implementation to a group of Advisory colleagues that I generally trusted and had amicable relationships with, if for no other reason than because I could focus on strategically-driven cases without fear of never-ending extensions.

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Feb 20, 2018

Would you say age is a factor for people interested in strategy&?

No pain no game.

Feb 20, 2018

Not any more than for any other consulting firm.

Feb 21, 2018

Early 30s here. Do you think a top MBA will get someone around this age in? Or more network based to get into strategy&?

No pain no game.

Feb 20, 2018

Thanks for the reply. If you were in my shoes, how would you feel about the opportunity to join the firm today having experienced what you have and knowing what you know? I'm really excited, but, candidly, it's tough to maintain that outlook at times when there's so much hearsay about the negative state of things (although utilization / unforeseen firing was a big part of my reticence and you addressed that earlier).

Feb 21, 2018

I don't want to editorialize here (or put words in your mouth!), but reading in-between the lines, I would say that you're not particularly excited about joining Strategy& full-time.

Which, candidly, I can understand and think is a legitimate feeling to have. At the undergraduate level, Tier 2 and even Tier 3 consulting opportunities are difficult to come by and are exceptional places to launch a career. At the b-school level and particularly for M7 schools where Strategy& focuses its efforts, I understand and sympathize with the fact that consulting recruiting is essentially an MBB game and all other firms - Tier 2 firms included - are afterthoughts.

So here is what I can say to that - yes, I think that the PwC integration has had its flaws and I think that there are some very real pain points around the operating model between Strategy& and the rest of the firm. And not having been around for much of the old Booz days, it's hard for me to objectively compare what it was like then to what it was like when I was at Strategy&. But overall, I was able to get a great breadth of project exposure, worked with people that I generally liked, had a very high level of responsibility and visibility, and critically, avoided the 6-8 month long projects that I am told were a staple of the legacy Booz experience because PwC Advisory took over a significant portion of those projects. It didn't mean that those extended experiences never happened for Strategy& consultants or that every Booz consultant had an extended experience, but it meant that I was more able to craft the experience that I wanted, even if it wasn't necessarily perfect.

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Feb 21, 2018

Can you give an example of your actual project work? Go to market strategy? Product Dev? I work in Digital where we do similar work as to what I listed. Curious what the work of a "strategy shop" is. Thanks!

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Best Response
Feb 21, 2018

Interesting user handle. I admit that it's been a while since I've read Lord of the Rings, but I don't recall that being a part of the plot...

Anyways - I think that you ask a very interesting implied epistemological question in that you implicitly ask about what "strategy" really means. I think that we could have an entirely separate thread on this topic alone, discuss it over the course of 100 posts, and still not have a meaningful consensus on how to define strategy. So, instead, I'll posit a very simple definition, take it at face value, and explore its implications - and how one might solve that "strategy" question.

In my mind, strategy encompasses three distinct topics that weave together into one coherent process. First, it is about identifying a set of choices that an enterprise or business unit might have in its commercial activities, and just as critically, an implied set of activities that it might choose to not pursue. Second, strategy is about quantifying and prioritizing those choices in the context of the current business, its market position, and its trajectory as an organization (both current and projected). Finally, strategy involves setting realistic targets, objectives, and milestones that enable the enterprise (or business unit) to achieve its stated mission and that personnel will be held accountable to.

I find this definition particularly convenient because it is universally applicable across industries, geographies, product categories, and even profit status (strategy is equally important, if not more so, for social and public sector organizations because they are constrained in the ways in which they are allowed to generate revenue, allocate capital, and spend dollars). I also find this definition particularly convenient because it implies assessing the choices that an enterprise faces, prioritizing based on real constraints, and allocating precious resources in a way that holds managers and employees accountable to the results. In its "purest" form, you have strategic planning, in which an enterprise evaluates its options over a 5-10 year horizon and allocates capital according to that evaluation. Less "pure" examples include product strategy (identifying features and characteristics that consumers might pay for and designing the product in a commercially efficient manner) and go-to-market strategy (identifying the most cost-efficient and effective channels, price points, and partners to bring a new product to market). And, of course, you have "bridges" to execution that include supply chain design, operating model effectiveness, and advantaged business technology.

Common sense would dictate that the vast majority of billings at any major consulting firm would come from less "pure" forms of strategy and the "bridges" to strategy. Demand for pure strategy work at the price points offered by large consulting firms is relatively small - after all, by definition of a five-year plan, only a hundred Fortune 500 corporations are looking to go through a strategic planning process, and of those hundred, a large number will do it internally without the material support of a consulting firm. As a result, even "strategy" houses spend a disproportionate amount of time doing "non-strategy" work, albeit from a senior level and with great analytical rigor (as opposed to the PMO-driven process that "implementation" houses run).

However, I did participate in a strategic planning process for a large publicly traded corporation as a consultant. It was broken out into four phases, and if you'd like to read about those types of projects in more depth, I would strongly recommend McKinsey's new book, Strategy Beyond The Hockey Stick. They go into tremendous depth and great analytical detail in outlining the sources of value and key considerations of the steps that I'll discuss in brief below.

  1. Market Scan: assess potential opportunities across a range of end markets, customer segments, product categories, and geographies. In particular, we want to develop a sense for market size, growth, and profitability, as well as key trends and competitive considerations.
  2. Thesis Development: combine opportunities into an appropriately sized set of themes and create a set of theses that outline the market opportunity and how the client might pursue that opportunity. In this phase, you're looking to develop high-level business models and test those intellectually against the market trends and competitive forces that you've seen.
  3. Initiative Development: For each of the theses that make sense to continue pursuing, create a set of initiatives that would enable you to successfully compete in that space. It could be new product development, new market entry, M&A / divestiture, productivity enhancements, or any other discrete activity that would increase your odds of success. In this phase you are looking to assess initiatives from a value creation / cash flow lens, and often, you will develop complex DCF models to evaluate theses and initiatives.
  4. Prioritization and Target-Setting: Based on your evaluation of the theses and initiatives outlined in the prior phase of the process, you will help the client prioritize a couple of theses and specific initiatives within those theses that make most sense. Based on that prioritization, you'll set detailed targets and high-level business plans that individual business units and product lines will refine and eventually be held accountable to.

In my mind, private equity is unique as an asset class from a managerial perspective because they are the best at executing this process. They develop an investment thesis in the leadup to the acqusition, and immediately after the close, work closely with the management team to develop a detailed business plan and set targets that will enable them to achieve the value that they paid for during the acquisition. Public organizations are getting better at this, but I would think it's fair to say that they still have some work to do in matching private equity's excellence in this regard.

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Feb 22, 2018

woohoo

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Feb 21, 2018

Well spoken @strategyand_alumni . The points you outlined in 1-4 for your response reminds me a lot like a research paper for an English class.

Would you consider going into a PE Firm after your time in Strategy&?

No pain no game.

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Feb 21, 2018

I am curious to know what the perception of the S& Deals Team is in S& overall?

I know your knowledge of this may depend on the city in which you were located, but is it true that they are viewed as a slightly separate entity? Do they have similar exit opportunities? Can you still work on DD projects as a general S& consultant with the rise of this group? And if not, is the Deals team one of the better ways to lateral into private equity (even without the beneficial project experience you talked about previously)?

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Feb 22, 2018

Correct - the Deals team is technically considered a separate team within PwC, although a number of legacy Booz folks are now a part of the Deals team. Like many other firms, the Deals team is "ring-fenced" to create a stable pool of folks who are committed to DD's and other pre-close projects, portfolio company value creation, and corporate finance-heavy strategy work. As a result, you need to be a full-time member of the group (or a rotator, demand for rotators fluctuates) in order to be a part of Deals projects.

I know a number of people on the Deals team and they're excellent folks who do very intellectually fascinating work. (Oddly, a number of partners in Strategy& also do the same exact types of work, and I suspect it comes down to personal preference on whether or not the partner wants to be associated with Strategy& or Deals). It's a young team, but I do know of a couple of folks who went on to PE from there and I would expect its pipeline to grow in the future.

Feb 22, 2018

Thanks for the amazing AMA. Very informative and helpful.

Quick question - in your experience at Strategy& - did the firm hire laterals at Associate/ Senior Associate level? I have heard firms like Deloitte, EY and even one of the MBBs open to lateral hires in specific roles but haven't heard the same about Strategy&. Wanted to get your take. Thanks.

Feb 22, 2018

Yes - Strategy& does have lateraling hiring at the Associate / Senior Associate levels, although that is usually restricted to specific industries or functional competencies for which the firm has an unmet need for expertise.

Feb 22, 2018

Thanks. Just one follow-up question - for the lateral positions, would the only way to get an interview call be through employee referrals?

I don't see many Strategy& open positions online and was wondering if getting in touch with a former colleague (now at PwC) might be worth a shot.

Feb 23, 2018

I know you had mentioned that you have been out of the firm for a bit now but could you share some thoughts on which verticals are doing well/struggling? Are there verticals/competencies that have done a better job of integrating with PwC?

Feb 23, 2018

In general, verticals and competencies have been doing more to team up and bring integrated offerings to market - I can think of the firm's work in population health analytics or the case studies that you'll find on Strategy&'s website as good examples.

Unfortunately, I'm not really in a position to tell you definitively which verticals and competencies are outperforming or struggling. I'd encourage you to form your own opinion based on conversations with current professionals at the firm.

Feb 23, 2018

Funny story @strategyand_alumni that had occurred today. I work events (services/security) now and then, and got a call to help out at a local hotel here in San Diego. Turns out Subway had a big (1,000+) meeting session on Strategy planning and addressing other issues.

They had a lot of people, executives/VPs, from around the world here. These people are the ones who look at where to place the Subway franchises. Their HQ is in Connecticut USA. I was fortunate enough to witness a few of the meetings and the overview they went through, and your thread was what came to mind. I thought it pretty interesting. I am left with more questions and curiosity at this point. The problems they faced, everything from suppliers to securing the locations to vendors and web addresses, unbelievable and what a plate load.

What books would you recommend reading, if I may ask?

No pain no game.

Feb 23, 2018

Candidly, I'm not much of a consumer of business books ( Strategy Beyond The Hockey Stick was a notable exception, because the ads that I read promised a data-driven approach to firm performance - data gets me every time). In general, I think that management books are faddish, and I prefer to put work down after hours and focus on areas of personal interest.

With that said, I am an avid reader of economics and policy-related books, as well as periodicals such as Bloomberg Markets, Foreign Affairs, and the MIT Technology Review.

Feb 24, 2018

Good stuff and one of the better AMA's that I've seen. For the prospective consulting folks out there - what do you wish that you knew before starting? What would you have done differently (if anything)?

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Feb 24, 2018

That's quite the question - yet another one that could potentially be a thread on its own. Here are the three biggest ones (from my personal experience):

  1. Be confident and willing to speak up around senior partners and clients. I consistently received feedback that I often had some of the best insights of anybody in the room (the Strategy& team or the client) by the sheer amount of time spent analyzing the key issues and slicing and dicing the data a thousand different ways. Of course, this also implies that I spent the least amount of time on senior client management relative to the team, as most of my client facetime was spent with more junior contacts (manager / director level), with much of that time focused on developing hypotheses and testing them against the data rather than building relationships on the basis of convincing leadership to change direction. If that sounds expected or natural, that's because it is - after all, that's what Strategy& managers, directors, and partners are for. However, I definitely do think that I could have learned earlier in my consulting career to be assertive in presenting a fact-based and logical perspective to senior leaders, especially when not called upon - it's one thing to have your 15-30 minutes of fame when it's choreographed beforehand and another to do so on the fly. There's obviously a balance, but I wish I had known to be a little less gun-shy and conservative about sharing my point of view with senior people from Day 1.
  2. Having a process for detailed checks is paramount. There's a great YouTube video of Stephen Schwarzman welcoming the newest analyst class at Blackstone (I wish WSO would let me share it, but apparently, I'm not "trustworthy" enough to link to content). He spends a couple minutes about how painfully difficult it is to achieve the "100% standard" of having all your work be completely correct the first time and how it took him some time to feel comfortable doing that. Consulting is no different from finance in this regard and having a good process for checking your numbers and deliverables is critical to delivering the right recommendation to the client. I say process because there's usually about 30-40 drivers that I'm evaluating at once at any given time, and sometimes, I might be under great time pressure in doing so. Having a systemized way of sanity-checking your analyses, making sure that the content on your pages is neatly presented and follows project guidelines, and accounting for all the major scenarios which could affect your recommendation or key takeaways is vitally important to the project's success and to your credibility to the team and client stakeholders.
  3. Have clear logic and structure in your thinking process at all times. This is probably one of the two things that differentiates a good associate / senior associate from an exceptional one (the other one being sheer raw intelligence). Fortunately, this can be taught, starting with the structure of a particular page or analysis, progressing to that of a workstream or portion of the deck, and finally to managing the outcome of the project and entire decks themselves. I admit that I struggled a bit with this one at first and there's no substitute for repeated practice with managers and partners - to quote one partner who gave me feedback about 18 months into my career, the (relative lack of) ability to drive the story with clients was what held him back (at the time) from letting me manage major workstreams with 1-2 direct reports. While I got quality reps towards the tail end of my 2-year stint, I definitely could use some more practice going forward.

Unsurprisingly, these developmental points are important in private equity as well. Other posters with actual private equity experience have said this more eloquently than I have, but it's fair to say that I'll work on pushing these skills along once I've got the technical details of finance and accounting down pat.

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Feb 26, 2018

hey man, thanks for doing this. Very informative!

I am aiming to enter strategy consulting post MBA. I got into a lower T15 MBA this year, but didn't get any scholarship. Got shut out of M7 MBA's..

My friends working at MBB advised me not to do the lower T15 MBA, because it's expensive as hell and the OCR for consulting isn't as robust as M7+Tuck.

Given my situation, I am thinking I should reapply next year. If I don't crack M7 MBA next year, I am thinking of doing part time MBA (at Kellogg, Booth or Stern)

Do you happened to know anything about part time MBA recruiting for consulting? My gmat is solid (750). background in back office finance. I will prep hard for consulting interviews, but I obviously will need to land interviews in the first place. Thanks!!

Feb 28, 2018

Sorry to hear about your rejections. Keep your chin up!

Unfortunately, this is not really something that I can talk to, as I was never involved in MBA recruiting. Off the top of my head, I can maybe think of 1-2 part-time MBA hires, but the vast majority came from full-time programs, including some non-M7 schools such as Ross, Darden, and Haas. I'd suggest reaching out to people at your target programs to get a better sense of this, keeping in mind that part of the reason that recruiting is less robust at those schools is for the reason that the average student tends to be somewhat less qualified than at M7 schools. I suspect that equally qualified and driven students have similar odds (or at least, less of a differential than many might think) of getting consulting offers regardless of whether they are in a "T15" or M7.

Good luck!

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Feb 28, 2018

I am in a T10-T20 MBA program and got Interview invites from both MBB and Tier II firms. @strategyand_alumni alludes to a few reasons why this occurs. Simply, it's not just about degree and school prestige, it's mostly about talent pool, talent pool interest (think conversion rate), and ROI.

On average you have a larger pool of interested talent to pick from at M7, as such consulting companies spend more of their recruiting dollars at M7.This means more staff to interview larger amount of people (think easier to get an interview- what your friends are alluding to) who have a high chance of passing the case and most importantly accepting the offer to join (ROI Component).

Now at T10-T20, fewer resources mean less staff to recruit/interview folks, and as such you have to work harder to get noticed and to eventually get an interview. This long rant, just to say if you are hungry enough and do the work required T15 is not going to stop you from getting an offer. I have other friends who joined MBB from FT T10-T20 as well as PT M7 (booth, Kellogg) and PTT10-T20 (Ross, McCombs) and are "tracking" fine so far.

Good luck man!

Feb 27, 2018
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Feb 28, 2018