AMA: Non-Target to Strategy Consulting to Director

remeiko's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 188

Given that I've been able to gain a lot of insight through this forum I figured it was time to give back.

Quick background on me:
- I went to a non-target school in Toronto
- Went from academic probation (less than 2.0 gpa) to graduating with a 3.6 GPA (in yrs 3/4)
- Joined a top Tier Strategy Consulting firm
- Promoted yearly, exited after 4 yrs.
- Joined a fin-tech company to run strategy -> it later sold to a large card brand
- Joined a SaaS tech company as a Director to run corporate strategy
- Total YoE = 6

Ask me anything, I'm happy to be as candid as I can be about my journey here and what's next.

@AndyLouis @WallStreetOasis.com

Comments (26)

Apr 16, 2019

Thanks for doing this...I'll start!

  1. In your jump from consulting to tech, did you have a lot of offers? Were you dead set on tech and if so, how did you successfully choose the correct horse to join (at least it sounds like it was successful since it sold, correct me if I'm off)?
  2. That fintech company, approx how big was it (employees, revenue, etc - whatever you're comfortable sharing)? Do you think this is typical for someone to be head of strategy with only 4yrs under their belt? If not, what do you think made you stand out?
  3. On the SaaS company, again, how did you research or get inside information on the true trajectory of this specific firm? research through linkedIn? talking to employees? investors, etc?

Thanks!
Patrick

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Most Helpful
Apr 17, 2019

Great Questions!

  1. I periodically received interviews and offers throughout my 4yr consulting tenure; most notably from banks, insurance companies, and some tech companies. I think this was driven primarily by my exposure and work at the firm (i.e., working with very senior lvl management and delivering meaningful core / operational strategy and transformation projects). I wasn't dead set on tech so much as the right company contacting me.

I was really sold on the management, who were also ex-consulting from my firm and more so the ability of the organization to weather almost 2 extinction events. The venture was successful and there was no reason for me to exit at the point of sale other than pursuing a more meaningful role in a much larger, public company where the strategy that I am currently driving has direct market impact (e.g., stock price/valuation etc.) vs. the tech firm that was privately owned.

  1. Fintech company was approx 8 yrs old when I joined with 170 employees and 45M in revenue. Its not typical for someone with 4 yrs to lead core/ops strat and transformation at all. But it helped that the CFO was a visionary that realized that he needed to offload work to smart people and focus on scaling the business / attracting investors etc.

What made me stand out I think was my attitude and the ability to connect with people at all levels of the organization, I think this is an underrated skill and provided management with the confidence that I was able to think, execute and deliver (which is tablestakes for a fintech company, can't really just sit around looking at a strategy and waiting for everyone to get on board - you need to drive the change)

  1. I had a few friends who work in sales at the SaaS company, its also a large public company that is a market leader; the combination of the two allowed me to get a feel for what I was walking into. It's not really all flowers and roses but I think that's largely why this opportunity exists to build out the strategy, team and deliver.

A lot of organizations have taken to building an in-house comprehensive strategy/execution team vs. hiring consultancies, I think my quick trajectory is directly a result of this marketplace shift in thinking.

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Apr 17, 2019

awesome, thank you for the detailed response - very enlightening!

Apr 16, 2019

Thanks for this!

What was the process like to get your consulting offer? Specifically:

  • Did you network & get a referral > first round interview? Or did you network w/out a referral > first round interview?
  • What was your "spike" and how did you best portray that through your resume or FIT?
Apr 17, 2019

No worries, happy to do this!

  1. I actually networked my ass off and really tried to differentiate myself from other students through initiatives/groups that I created in the university + summer internships at places that other students never ventured before (e.g., top 10 law firms). Despite all this, the first time I applied, I actually got rejected. Before I applied for a second time I spent more time meeting key directors/partners and trying to really impress them at the on-campus events and trying to show that I can hustle without coming across too arrogant, I think it worked to have their endorsement the second time to pull off an interview
  2. I am not sure what you mean by 'spike'; but if you're asking how I showed that I pivoted hard from terrible GPA, its through these extra curriculars and being honest that I fucked up in year 1 & 2.
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Apr 29, 2019

Hi,

I'm wondering about your networking path. Did you focus mainly on campus events? Or did you also invite partners/directors for coffee chats, etc?

I'm an ADC, but have had zero success applying to MBB bridge programs. I feel like I've been making a strong connections at events, but not sure how to follow-up for full time recruiting.

Thanks

Apr 16, 2019

What were the biggest differences between your role as a consultant and leading the in-house strategy generation? Skills you developed in your start-up that were nascent as a consultant?

Apr 17, 2019

Being a consultant, no matter how senior or junior you are, you always have a burning platform for being at the client. In a nutshell, something fucked up needs to be turned around quickly or a board needs to validate a strategy quickly or management needs you to pull something out of your ass in an expedited timeframe etc. As a result, you have very senior air-cover. If you have detractors on your projects from the client's side, you can request they get pulled off from more senior people. I've seen folks get fired for not giving me and my team the right info/cooperation on projects. So you can really manage with what I'd like to call the "flamethrower approach".

You can't take this approach in-house or you will find yourself with 0 friends and 0 people to follow you and 0 real results.

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Apr 17, 2019

Awesome response, never would have thought about it that way.

Apr 16, 2019

how did you overcome the feeling of failure from academic probation. was it like you felt like you hit rock bottom and did a 180 or was it more of a gradual process in terms of chasing success

Apr 17, 2019

It was difficult, I'll be honest in saying that I wasn't sure what to do with my life or what direction to go in for a long time. Definitely hit rock bottom and realized if I didn't change something I'd be out of school after the next semester.

I saw it as an opportunity to create my own destiny, first by doubling down on academics, I am not the most book-smart guy and would have to work 3x as hard to get to the same place as someone else. I just learn differently through doing vs. reading and theory.

Secondly, I realized if academics isn't something I can excel in, I need a stake in the ground for myself. As a result, I ended up creating a few new student groups on campus which I was able to leverage for networking with some very high industry profiles, summer internships etc. This really set me apart.

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Apr 20, 2019

Was your school a complete non-target or a semi-target? You mentioned that the firms had on-campus events, so I'm just curious.

Do you mind sharing any more details on your firm? MBB/T2/Big4, etc.?

Apr 22, 2019

My school was a non-target during the time I was there, it was only during the last year or so when firms started to visit (also it was not all firms). It's a semi-target now for certain firms and this bridge has been entirely built by alumni from the school.

I don't want to share any more details on the name of the firm other than it has a well-established strategy practice and easily recognizable brand in the Canadian market. Some may say it is one of "Canada's top employers" in the last 10 yrs.

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Apr 22, 2019

Awesome, thanks for the response! I'm also a Canadian undergrad at what I'd call a semi-target, so just wanted to say kudos on breaking in since I know how tough it is outside of pretty much 2 schools lol.

Apr 27, 2019

Hi there, thank you so much for sharing. I was reading through the posts and saw you mentioned something about having an edge because of the student groups you founded. Would you mind explaining a bit more about what kinds of groups these were? Like for an academic competition or?

Apr 29, 2019

Sure, one was a student interest group focused on bridging the gap between business / regulation / law etc. Another was a group that focused on providing information sessions about the consulting industry / hosting case competitions etc. And finally a third was rounding up summer interns that had Big 4 exp to sell (for money) consulting services at a discount rate to the market (typical clients were Small/medium businesses etc.)

May 6, 2019

Did they ask about standardized test scores?

May 6, 2019

Sorry, more context is needed here...we don't have SAT in Canada. Also at what point are you referring to? During my consulting interviews, I wasn't asked about any standardized tests.

May 6, 2019

You answered it. I believe a near perfect SAT/ACT score is important for consulting out of undergrad.

May 14, 2019

So, my challenge is actually getting the interview (while the interview for the FT positions season did not officially start, but I am judging based on the rejections I got for the bridge to BCG and the McKinsey Insight programs) . My school name is not a target (doing my PhD) to be more clear, my school has 2 schools in 2 locations: one is very well known and is definitely a target and the location I attend is not considered a target but it is not bad in the area, it is a big known school in Michigan !

I have 4 years Industrial experience working as Engineer in one of the biggest automotive companies in the US (Leadership experience, team work etc ...) and I have a great GPA (3.9). I am trying to network on LinkedIn and using the contact forms online, but let's be real no one replies with the intention of giving a recommendation and get called for an interview ! My resume is tailored according to the standards of each of the top tier consulting companies (based on their workshops and online events about resume) !

Is it Luck? I am not being able to depict the brick that I need to add to make a successful application. Any advise ? I appreciate your input.

Array

May 16, 2019

I think you're doing all the right things man - I'd try to set up a phone conversation with the people you meet at networking sessions. One thing that I've seen thats very unorthodox but creative is to attend another target school's networking session (even if you don't go to that school). I personally have seen that happen and consider it resourceful.

But the odds are not good since the demand is always high to enter top tier consulting firms. Keep hustling and never give up.

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May 21, 2019

Thank you for the reply. I honestly thought about it but sometimes ID is required and they might not let me in. Will keep trying to reach out to people ...

Array

May 19, 2019
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