IBM Business Analytics and Optimization

clouded's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 22

Hey Guys,

I've been a reader of this forum for quite a while but first time posting. I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on IBM's Business Analytics and Optimization consulting arm. I'm an undergrad senior who just interviewed with them for an FT entry level consultant position and after doing my research still can't quite figure out a few things.

  1. What kind of work is this? Is this closer to a strategic management consultant role or more along the lines of IT consulting?
  2. What kind of exit opps are available from this position? I'd hate to be pigeonholed in data analytics. Would this position look good for MBA applications?
  3. How respected is IBM within consulting? I understand it doesn't even come close to MBB or Oliver Wyman, but what firms are more or less equal with IBM.

I've searched around the site and found some scattered information but was hoping for some more detailed info. Thanks for any help!

Comments (7)

Oct 27, 2010

I can answer your questions.

Is this for commercial or federal BAO practice? The type of work is different depending on where they place you.

To answer your questions:

  1. It's definitely not traditional strategy case based consulting unless you are lucky(they have at most a couple of strategy projects). It is not IT implementation either; however it is incredibly data focused and highly technical.
  2. People from IBM GBS have great results to grad schools. Stanford and Harvard are unlikely, but think UChicago, Columbia, and Kellogg. I would say that even if you are pigeonholed into Data related projects, IBM for some reason looks great on a resume for grad schools.
  3. It depends on who you ask. It doesn't carry the prestige like an MBB, but amongst regular people it is more recognizable. It also has a good name for grad schools. I would say at least in federal it is very comparable to Accenture and Deloitte as they often bid on and even work together on some of the same projects as IBM. Booz Allen in federal is also a major competitor.

I think the biggest issue with IBM is management. It is not a "hold your hand" type of culture. You have to really find your own way within the matrix. I will say that the work life balance at IBM federal really can't be beat. 45-50 hour weeks getting paid 60-70K to start.

Oct 27, 2010

Thanks for the response, seems like a good option! It's the federal practice. Would you know anything about travel for a position like this? Since it's federal and based in Washington DC I assume there isn't much travel required.

Oct 28, 2010

Depends on the project. 90% of projects = limited or no travel. You should evaluate your interests before choosing bao. If you are set on classic case based white glove strategy, I wouldn't pick it. However it's a good option for a two year and done if you want to go to a good grad school. You can get promoted to senior consultant in under two years which looks good on the resume. My understanding is that you have to do a lot more to get promoted at competitor firms.

One piece of advice: it's very hard to lateral to mbb from IBM. It's also difficult to lateral into private sector work. Mainly because commercial consulting is so lousy right now in terms of business. Even mbb is starting to move into federal.

Oct 28, 2010

Yeah, that's what I thought. It does seem like interesting work but for my situation it looks like if I took this position I would essentially have to go to grad school since my interests lie closer to finance but with the recruiting season winding down it doesn't look like I will be getting any worthwhile front office offers. Would two years really be a realistic time frame to go for an MBA? I've seen many more people work for 4-5 years before going back to school.

Oct 29, 2010

You are right, this position is not really finance. However, on many projects, BAO will really solidify your excel/VBA, MS Access, or SAS skills; which a lot of banks look for on a resume.

The other advantage is that working 45 hour weeks gives you the time to test out to prepare for your next move. You can take a good amount of time preparing for the GMAT, LSAT, and/or CFA depending on what route you want to go down. If you progress in your CFA and combine that with client facing/technical skills you will be in good shape making a lateral move to a bank or other consulting firm. A lot of this also hinges on your networking ability.

Two year move to a top MBA is tough, but not impossible. I know of a couple of people who have went on to a top MBA after two years at IBM. Most go after 3 or 4. As long as you can do well on your GMAT and perform well you will be in good shape.

Oct 21, 2013

Hi. I was wondering, does anyone feedback on the BAO Consulting by Degrees interview? I have an interview coming up this week and wanted to know how to prepare.

Oct 22, 2013
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