Q&A: Ex-BCG Project Leader / Current head of strategy at a MNC

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Hi Guys, 

Let me know if you have got any questions regarding BCG and/or my experience at a multinational pharmaceutical company. I would be happy to share my opinions and facts within confidentiality agreement. Please do send me a msg as well if you prefer.

Background (in detail) 

  • Currently leading long-term growth innovation strategy at a European pharmaceutical company
  • Spent ~4 years at BCG (Worked in Seoul, Tokyo, and Munich offices) and left as a project leader / recruiting interviewer. 
  • Most of my education was in the UK and received a PhD in Medical Sciences from Oxford

Want to work with me? Check out my profile here.

 

Comments (20)

 
  • Intern in Consulting
Sep 14, 2020 - 10:18am

Hi, thanks for doing this! I was wondering if you might be able to share what you have seen in terms of Tier 2 folks exiting to your industry? 

Array
 
Sep 14, 2020 - 9:44pm

I assume you meant consultants from Tier 2 firms exiting to pharma industry. Yes, I have seen a number of cases. Those ex-consultants typically have various experiences in pharmaceutical projects and relevant educational background. They either go into marketing role or strategy role, not very different to MBB folks. Compensation package and position tend to differ.

 
Sep 15, 2020 - 3:45pm

Thanks for doing this Q&A! I want to follow-up on this question. I'm finishing my Ph.D. in molecular biology. Long-term, I want to be involved in biotech venture creation at a Flagship/Third Rock/Atlas type-institution.

 

I am thrilled to have recently got an offer for a Life Science Specialist role at LEK. I also believe there is a strong chance I will get an interview at Bain (I got an internal recommendation from a senior manager). I am more excited to stay within the life sciences industry and am a bit tired of interviewing. I also enjoyed all my conversations with LEK consultants/partners, so feel like LEK will be a good fit culturally. Therefore, I plan to accept the LSS offer, rather than waiting for any Bain interviews (or reaching out to the Bain recruiter).

 

Do you think this is a bad idea? Would there be potentially more doors open for me in biotech/pharma if I get a MBB position versus Tier 2?

 
Sep 14, 2020 - 9:51pm

For me, 4 years was enough to learn about consulting and managing a team of 4~10 people as I reached the project leader level. Furthermore, I want to specialise in one area which was healthcare. Without working for a pharmaceutical company, my personal view was that you are missing a big part to be a healthcare specialist.

 

Many project leaders reach a point whether they should remain at the firm to try to make a partner or leave and do what they want to do by leveraging their consulting skills. Being a Project Leader is a privilege as you get to advise very senior clients directly and manage most bright and hard-working junior consultants. I loved the job but it was time for me to move on.

 
Sep 14, 2020 - 3:04pm

Thank you for this Q&A!

(1) What are some things you liked and didn't like about BCG as a firm? Would love to hear your thoughts on BCG's culture, strategy (e.g. focus on digital -- Gamma, DV, etc.), firm initiatives, and other things specific to BCG.

(2) If you had to describe each of the 3 offices you worked at in one sentence, how would you do it? (Have heard bad things about German PTO, how do Japan and Korea compare?)

 
Sep 14, 2020 - 10:20pm

Hi there, thank you for your questions. Here are my opinions on your questions. 

(1)  Development of problem-solving skill set was my favorite part of being a BCGer. I was challenged by most difficult questions that clients had and I had to come up with good solid answers within short time frame. I learnt how to define a problem, structure it and develop most efficient way of solving it. Furthermore, you get to work with most amazing people. My colleagues from Seoul, Tokyo and many European countries were super helpful despite their own stressful work. 

In terms of what I did not like, I would rephrase the question to what I found challenging. I had to put work over anything else. Fortunately, I was young and fortunate to have very supporting families but life style is not something you would expect it to be like everyone else. To be honest, I did not know how intense BCG was as it was my first job. I realised it was after I left BCG. Working for a pharma company can also be very stressful (also I worked at a start up), but it is much more flexible and shorter hours (Different kind of stress exists though)

 

BCG's culture is very collaborative and professional. We do not allow any slackers or people not helping each other at least in my experience.  Senior consultants and project leaders above continuously have discussions around how to become a role model not just internally but to external people as well. In terms of overall BCG strategy, it may be wrong to generalise as each office may have different initiative, but I can see many of us are moving into a lot of digital transformation, turn-around and operational type of cases. Strategy cases become fewer but much more important to agenda to C-level executives are given to BCG. But again, this is my opinion.

 

(2) I would say BCG is a truly global firm. I was very surprised by the fact that we solved problems, wrote slides and spoke in a very similar manner. Even WIFI password was the same across the 3 offices! I felt really glad to join BCG as I experienced what my German, Japanese and other colleagues learnt and experienced. 

In terms of PTO (assessment of overall satisfaction of the job), 3 offices are not the best ones to be honest with you due to work-life-balance, but this depends on clients. However, a number of BCG offices now adopted compensation pay and flexible working hours to give more appreciation for consultant's hard work. Now I am hearing that it is getting better.

 

 
Sep 14, 2020 - 3:04pm

Hi - Thank you for the Q&A. I have a few questions:

 

(1) How feasible is it to transfer between offices or rather work 6months - 1year in international offices?  You've done Seoul, Tokyo, and Munich.

(2) Does Case Type affect ability to get promotion? For instance, for those that avoid DDs and other traditionally harder cases, are they compared to those that do take on harder cases?

(3) What is your perception of the various BCG business lines (digital ventures, B capital, Lighthouse, Gamma, etc.)?

(4) Why did you leave after 4 years? What is your perception of BCG's outlook compared to McK and Bain (especially NA offices).

 

Thanks

 
Sep 15, 2020 - 12:36am

(1) It is feasible with some prerequisites. a) You need a good track-record of performance in your home office. Partners would not let you go if you are struggling in your own office or you would not be eligible to apply for any international transfer programs within BCG b) Your experience and background should match with other offices' needs. For my case, I had a strong healthcare background and Tokyo and Munich offices needed someone like me quite urgently. c) You need to be very proactive with networking with other offices. Although you may have a) and b), competition of international transfer is fierce. I had established a good relationship with a senior partner in Tokyo office early and when the time came I reached out to him for sponsoring my move.

 

(2) I would say no unless you continuously complaint or try to avoid difficult cases like DD (You have no future in BCG). Promotion much more depends on who you are working with. Let's say you work with a partner who brings in stable businesses to BCG and you work with him continuously. If you prove to be helpful to him / her and get on with him / her quite well, promotion would not be much of an issue. However, you do challenging cases here and there and did not build good rapport with any of those partners or project leaders, your promotion might be challenging. 

 

(3) I think those businesses will continuously grow as we have hired really talented people in various areas not just consultants. In addition, culture has been very much customised according to types of employees and professions.

 

(4) Answered about why I left above. Regarding BCG's outlook compared to McK and Bain, I can't give you any specific numbers. What I can say is that BCG tends to perform better in NA regions than the other firms currently, but things may change as I believe McK and Bain are equally good firms.

 

 
Sep 14, 2020 - 6:03pm

At a high-level - what strategic considerations does a company take when determining if they should bring a new drug to market?  How do pharmaceutical companies determine their go-to-market price when launching a new drug?  In your opinion, are the high prices for drugs justified, or is it as gluttonous as most outsiders perceive?

"A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."
 
Most Helpful
Sep 15, 2020 - 2:57am

The fundamental basis of choosing which drug should be produced is the market needs. Pharmas are extensively collaborating with HCPs and hear their needs. We collectively and extensively assess the market size and current portfolio in terms of patent expiration date, economics and etc. 

 

Go-to-market price is much more complex than as it seems, and it is not that easy to be excessively greedy. It also varies market by market due to different healthcare insurance structures. If healthcare insurance is covered by the government like many European countries, Government drills down on price proposal submitted by pharmas and try not to give very high price in order to reduce spending of their budget. They assess on market needs, competition, drug efficacy and etc and challenge pharmas. This may differ in countries like the US where there is strong private insurance market. 

 

If you think about how much a pharma invests in developing one original drug, being very commercial about drug once they are successfully developed, it is quite understandable. Normally it takes >10 years with billion dollar scale investment and the success rate is <2%, so essentially it is a high risk and high return business. However, the fundamental is that pharmas try to put patients first and believe in science. We all really focus on those principles. Once the drug is successfully developed, commercial part of the pharmas go aggressively to increase ROI. I understand this process could seem quite greedy.

 
  • Prospect in Consulting
Sep 14, 2020 - 7:17pm

What do you think of BCG's culture? I heard it can be a lot more political and has worse WLB than the other MBBs.  Did you enjoy working at BCG and would you do it all again if given the choice?

Array
 
  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Ind
Sep 15, 2020 - 1:54pm

Thanks for the AMA! This is fantastic 

 

I am currently a banker looking to make the switch to MBB. I had some (longer) questions to ask: 

 

1) Can you walk me through the day to do of a BCG consultant (I presume that is the level at which you entered)? 

2) How much client interaction did you get the opportunity to do? Did you feel like the C-suite of these companies were generally very receptive to your suggestions? 

3) Did you find the level of responsibility given to you as a junior consultant was good at BCG? 

4) If you do not mind, would it be possible to share general comp progression? 

 

Thanks a ton. Really appreciate someone as experienced/knowledgeable as you taking the time to help out and answer questions- it really is great.

Array
 
Sep 16, 2020 - 6:39am

1) I think this kind of information is widely available, but let me share my experience in short. Typical day of 3-months project as a Consultant (Post-MBA position)

  • 9:30 - 10 am: Check-in with a project leader to discuss yesterday's output and what I am going to do today. Agree on direction. It is very important to remember that you should be prepared to give opinions, not just hearing PL's opinion
  • 10 am - 12 pm: You work on your module of the project e.g., analysis, making ppt, storyline writing
  • 12 - 12:45 pm: Lunch 
  • 12:45 - 5 pm: Continue working on your module. I personally tried to do any expert interviews during this time as this will give me time to make slides and analyse in the evening
  • 5 - 6 pm: Check-out with a project leader or discussion with Partner
  • 6-7 pm: Dinner at the office or go home
  • 7-11 pm: Continuously work on your module and send your output to a project leader to review

2) As a Consultant, you will be typically interacting with Sr. Manager / director level clients regularly. You will occasionally get a chance to interact with VP -> C-Level clients during Mid-project review/ final review.

Since the project agenda is generally designed by the client, their normal stance is quite receptive. However, if the output quality is poor, they will challenge you straightaway. 

3) Yes, absolutely. I never felt that the exposure was not enough.

4) Please refer to Glassdoor which gives you a quite accurate estimation.

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