How to get to MBB from here?

Engine3r's picture
Rank: Chimp | 5

I have been pleasantly surprised with the responses I have seen to people asking for help on the forum, hoping you can assist me in my decisions here...

I would like to get into management consulting, specifically MBB, but am wondering if I stand a chance, given the background of everyone in the company profiles...My main reasons for wanting to get into consulting is that it offers a challenge, and there is such a significant amount of knowledge to be gained that I don't think I will ever get bored. I don't feel like I am really challenged at work, and the career development prospects in the defense industry are lackluster...

My background is
Undergrad - top 20 engineering school stateside, 3.735 GPA in Electrical Engineering
Graduate (Masters) - top 15 grad school stateside, (as of now) 4.0 GPA in Electrical Engineering, currently attending after work.

I currently work for a large defense contractor in the Washington D.C. area. I have roughly 2.5 years of experience, in the engineering industry. For the last 1.5 years (since I have started with my current company) I have been able to transition from doing technical work to project management. I have been getting promoted into positions of increasing leadership responsibility within the company every 4-6 months and am currently responsible, along with two other people, for a $2.1 million program. I should also have my PMP (Project Management Professional) Certification in May.

I would like to apply to MBB in a year, after finishing my MSEE. I have read that they value engineering backgrounds, but do I even stand a chance of getting an interview if I submit through their website?

What can I do to further increase my chances of getting (then rocking) the interview? I have begun doing case studies. Could someone recommend any good material to learn the business fundamentals necessary for the case studies?

What is the best way to network with people in MBB? Has anyone made a similar transition from engineering and could reflect on the process? (yes, I used the Search bar and I have read the first 5 pages of hits)

I currently am 23 and make slightly above 70k. What kind of salary could I hope for, and could I join as an associate?

I really appreciate your inputs in advance. Thanks!

Comments (7)

Oct 27, 2010

Man, you're just like my friend. A friend of mine also graduated with engineering and is currently getting his master from UMD. He works for a defense company as well and makes a little more than you and is also interested in getting into MBB one day.

Based on my conversations with him, my impression was that you will need to go to a top MBA program, unless you know someone there. Correct me if I'm wrong, but MBB don't come to UMD's business school or engineering school right? Despite the fact that you guys might be qualified for a job, that's what makes hard to get an interview opportunity.

Well, this is what I told him. You're 23-25 years old who makes more than 70k, has a good work/life balance (work around 40-45 hours a week), and will have a decent shot at getting into a top MBA, then why do you want to go get a job as an entry level at MBB? Just work one more year or so, and go get your MBA. Once you're in a top MBA, they will call you to set up an interview.

Good luck!

Oct 27, 2010

Yeah, ValuationCFA has it about right. You have two options.

  1. Try to leverage your network to get an interview. If you have connections at MBB, I would try this before number 2; you want to get in the quickest way possible. If you do, be aware that you're most likely going to have to be a Business Analyst/Associate/Associate Consultant; a masters doesn't let you come in at the same level as an MBA?MD/JD/PhD. As for applying online, you can do it, but if you don't know anyone, odds are nothing will come of it. Bain gets something like 12000 applications per year and the completely unsolicited ones just get chucked.
  2. Keep working at the engineering firm and really rock out for a couple of years. It sounds like you're something of a star there, and if you get a solid 3-4 years work experience, advance rapidly, get glowing recommendations, and rock your GMAT, you'll be a strong candidate for top bschools and will likely get into an elite one. They have a standard recruiting process for MBB - although nothing is guaranteed.
Oct 28, 2010

ValuationCFA, that's funny about your friend - I did my ugrad at UMD, but doing my masters at Johns Hopkins. Maybe you could put me in touch with your friend, we'll figure out a combined strategy :)

Your comments are pretty much right on guys, I'm using my network right now to get in touch with a few people at MBB, we'll see where it leads. In regards to the interviews themselves, is there any good material to acquaint (and by acquaint I mean get it down 100%) myself with the business fundamentals that us engineers lack?

And you're right - I wouldn't want to come in as entry level - the only way I'd join is either as an Associate/next step up from ugrad or as entry level and have an agreement that within 6 months I would be promoted. I was leaning towards bschool, mainly top 5 - time to start studying for GMAT I suppose haha.

Oct 28, 2010

You know, if you start at the entry level you could do that for two years, and they would then pay for you to go to business school--not to mention your chances at HBS / Stanford would be much better. If you are interested in McKinsey Operations, they hire experienced people as analysts and then directly promote to associate after 1-2 years.

Oct 29, 2010

I would suggest that you focus your efforts on business school, or possibly lower-tier consulting firms. I don't think you have a realistic shot at getting an analyst role at MBB, let alone associate.

Getting a job at a top consulting firm is about a) the right credentials to get an interview and b) rocking the interview.

On paper you don't seem to have the right credentials. I am not assaulting your character or your long-term potential, I am just giving you my candid assessment of where you stand on paper. Analysts at MBB tend to be either from great schools (top Ivies, Stanford, top liberal arts), or good schools (top state schools like Berkeley, UVA, Michigan) with amazing grades & EC's. You have a good but not amazing GPA at an average state school. Do they even recruit at UMD? If they do they are probably hiring the kid with the 3.95 GPA who is president of the student council and/or a 1550 SAT.

Moreover, while experienced professionals can get hired as associates, a 23 year old project manager is not what they have in mind, more like a 32 year old general manager with deep expertise. You would be in the analyst pool, and as I said I honestly don't think you have the credentials to get an interview.

You do have the right credentials to get into business school, including a top b school like HSW, IF your essays and ECs are good and your recommendations sterling (which it sounds like they might be). Business schools are actually much less elitist than MBB when it comes to educational pedigree. And coming out of any top 15 business school you would be able to get an interview at MBB as an associate, although of course getting a job there requires rocking the interview. But please bear and mind that your credentials are not enough to ensure you a spot at even a top 15 business school, let alone top 3. Sadly, the world is full of engineers trying to get into business school; it is hard to stand out. I go to a business school in the bottom half of the top 15 and trust me, I've seen plenty of former engineers' resumes that look like yours or better.

If you don't want to go to business school, you could consider an analyst at a lower-tier consulting firm and/or a more operational consulting role. But be aware that this could actually reduce your chances of getting into a top business school, since they tend to trend fairly young. For better or for worse, I think HBS would be more likely to accept the 24 year old rising star engineering project manager than that same 24 year old rising star who then spends three years at Deloitte and applies when he's 27.

As for your question about books to get smarter about case studies, I'd suggest:
-Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter
-The Essays of Warren Buffett
-Case in Point

The last one is more of a case interview guide. The first two are more about building general business sense. IMO 95% of what matters in strategic theory is covered in Porter and Buffett's shareholder letters. I will also say that if you don't find Porter and Buffett fascinating, management consulting is probably not something you'd enjoy.

I hope this didn't come across as har sh--you seem like a talented guy and I'm sure you have enormous potential. I just don't think an MBB associate position is realistic in the near term.

Oct 29, 2010

High GMAT -> Top MBA -> MBB

Oct 29, 2010