Q&A: Career Transitions - Corporate to IB to Corp Dev to Independent Consulting

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I've made multiple career transitions so far
1) Engineering and software development for a Fortune 100 firm
2) MBA and IB
3) IB to corp dev
4) Corp Dev to business transformation (COO) role
5) Independent strategic advisory for small to medium businesses

Not everything was planned on Day 1, and different paths opened up at each stage. Happy to answer questions.

Mentoring

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Comments (25)

Feb 27, 2020

Thanks for posting. Can you share the recruiting experience from IB to Corp Dev. In particular, how long did it take you to recruit and what actionable steps worked?

Feb 27, 2020

It took me about 4 months to find a corp dev role. It was not easy though. In IB, I had a list of recruiters I could call and could land 2-3 interview within a couple of weeks (whether or not I could convert them was a different matter). But for corp dev, the process of finding out which places had open roles was all from networking.. none of the jobs I applied to online for corp dev yielded any call-backs.

I was able to convert the first corp dev interview I had, fortunately (but this is not common). The lead came from an ex-IB VP who had interviewed for the same role but did not take it because it was not senior enough for him. So he sent it my way.

Strategies that worked - showing that I understood how things worked in a corp, talking about strategy and execution (not just the deal process but getting internal approvals etc.). And demonstrating fit with the team.

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Feb 27, 2020

so you went from IB to CD? was there a reason why you did so? How are the exit opps for CD?

Array

Feb 27, 2020

Interested in how your experience in software development intersected with with your subsequent finance-related roles.

  • Did your programming ability/technical knowledge give you any advantage when you ventured into finance? Or are the two fields unrelated to the point where it was no longer applicable? Did you do any interdisciplinary work?
  • For people currently in finance, do you think it's useful to gain some tech/programming skills? What kinds of opportunities might arise by combining these two skillsets?
Feb 27, 2020

I found the analysis and the "flow" of the modeling to be fascinating and I really loved making the the numbers all work (not just making the three statements balance but really seeing that the modeling was just plain and simple math). Once I got the concepts, I knew I could build any kind of model. Also, though I had never done accounting before, I found it relatively intuitive - not saying I was an expert by any means but I just enjoyed it to the point where I would research some concepts (even if it was not needed for the model) just so I could have it clean in my head and build my intutive understanding. My analysts could always model 2-3 times faster than me and make my head spin - I never matched their efficiency but I could take a new concept and muddle my way through to get a model that I could explain to my MD. I have my engineering skills to thank for that. I didn't find any advantage from my technology skills though - never used any of my programming knowledge except to maybe pickup some shortcuts etc. a touch easier than others.

Now, its a whole different world. I think traditional Excel modeling skills are getting commoditized. Its very accretive to pick up some data analytics (data visualization, dashboarding etc.) and combine that with finance skills. Valuable not just in corp dev but also in FP&A and PE. You can build analytics that make your whole team's work very easy and be known as someone who is useful and can combine both. I don't think data science (R / Python etc.) are that used in traditional finance yet but it's going to change a lot in 2-3 years, so its not a bad idea to start now.

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Mar 2, 2020

Great post! Have a buddy who heads up IT for a bank service co. They handle the payment processing and other items for many hundreds of community banks. He knows some of the corp fin guys and said not many know anything about Python Tableau, etc. However, the few that do are rock stars. They combine their finance knowledge with SQL , Python, Tableau and are invaluable to their team.

I think this will become the norm shortly so the kids on this forum ought to start planning now. So many resources to learn this stuff on the side for those with an interest.

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Most Helpful
Feb 28, 2020

Thanks for doing this. Quick questions for you:

  1. How did you build a book of business to consult for small/medium sized companies? I've been lately considering contracting on my own someday because the idea of avoiding the politics/bureaucracy of mega companies in corporate America is pretty appealing to me. The thing that always stumps me is how I'd go about winning business, so what steps did you take to do this?
  2. You touched on this briefly in another response, but do you have good resources for learning python/R in a way that's actually helpful for corp fin? There's plenty of free resources to understand what a dictionary/tuple is and some information about doing basic things in pandas. That said, I find it very hard to apply these tools to most of the finance/accounting work I've done so far. I feel like SQL is more useful so far, since I can create smaller datasets by filtering from larger databases that excel can't handle. Can't say the same for Python thus far, so what am I missing and where can I inform myself?

Thanks!

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Mar 1, 2020

1) I started with my network - ex-bosses, ex-colleagues, close friends, and asked them to consider me for projects or to tell people they knew. There are other ways like working with project consulting companies who can send business your way for a (big) cut of the top line. Its very much a work in progress, and I spend about 50% of time in biz dev, instead of executing, so be prepared to hit the road, make calls and follow-up. Not very different from networking for a job but can be much more stressful if thats your only source of income.

2) I don't know Python or R, and am beginning to learn, so I'm not the best resource for this. I've done C and C++ programming at the operating system level, so R is new but not hard for me to learn. But there is a great course on Coursera on R-programming (complete with weekly assignments and a certification), and you can get some excellent books on Amazon for under $20. Its really not that hard to learn if you are willing to roll up your sleeves, but just requires some practice. I agree that SQL is more useful than R, so I'd start with the basics of SQL (selects, joins) before moving on to R / Python.

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Mar 1, 2020

Thank you for posting. Can you comment on your transition from IB to Corp dev; specifically, what group/sector were you in in IB and what sector was the company that you went to do Corp dev in?

Array

Mar 2, 2020

I did IB in Industrials coverage, followed by M&A (generalist but more focused on Industrials and TMT). Corp Dev role was in transportation.

Mar 2, 2020

Just want to give Kudos on a good AMA (including questions as well)!!

Mar 2, 2020

Thank you! Its a pleasure.

Mar 4, 2020

my own career path has been diverse if perhaps unusual so curious to hear what you feel was maybe the most difficult jump or worst setback you experienced. put slightly differently, was there ever a point where you made the move from A to B (or B to C) and you had a moment where you realized you didn't know nearly as much as you might have thought?

Mar 5, 2020

Yes, when I made the decision to go into IB, I didn't really know what I was getting into. I heard the stores multiple times from B-school seniors, VPs, MDs - but it felt like the hours and the work were something I could handle without too much effort. I had worked pretty hard to get into a good college and didn't feel like this was any different. What I didn't realize though is that it never ever ends - you're always running night and day, and if you slow down you get fired. If I had known that, I might have looked at other options more carefully. I probably still would have chosen IB because the experience I got was amazing, and I did not mind the trade-off of work-life balance. But I wish I had internalized the stories better so that I went into IB with a more balanced mindset.

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Mar 11, 2020

Thanks for the AMA.

I'm a 1st year 24 year old investment banking analyst with a no name boutique currently working in Germany. I have no Masters degree, my bachelors degree is from a non-target Eastern European university, and I am a level 2 CFA candidate.

I would like to lateral to a Tier 1 or Tier 2 bank in London or NYC over the next two years. What would you advise me to focus on now, and how to position myself in the future to be able to lateral to a strong shop with large deals in the near future? Is it even possible to lateral from Europe to US without being a US citizen due to visa constraints?

Thanks a lot for your time.

Mar 26, 2020

I thought of sharing a related article about career transition from a consulting perspective.

https://www.firmsconsulting.com/quarterly/consulti...
Hope it will be useful for those looking for similar career aspects.

Jun 18, 2020

I had same multi career changes through out my career too.

From Global IBD to Listed Industrial Corp to Boutique IB then Real Estate

Pros and Cons of many career changes
Pros- seen a lot, lots of stories to tell, and interesting perspective to bring to the table
Cons- employer will think of you as a job hopper, no loyalty, or something wrong with your performance that caused you to change jobs so many times

Would you say you faced the same issues when looking for next job? And how do you mitigate those concerns if arises?

Jun 19, 2020
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