Strategy& Ex Employee - AMA

I believe this has been done here before, but I'm a recently resigned Strategy& employee creating this AMA. I recently posted the below review on Glassdoor which sums up my thoughts, but happy to take questions.

Great potential, tragically horrible execution

Pro's

  1. If you are a favorite of the right Partners/Directors - or if you're lucky - you will work on McKinsey-caliber projects solving incredibly interesting, complex problems at the Board/C-suite level
  2. Industry-leading compensation package - potential to earn $230K+ within a short timeframe of finishing business school
  3. Travel perks (e.g., partially subsidized Corporate AMEX Platinum card, almost certainty of top-tier elite hotel/airline status)
  4. Wickedly smart, humble, friendly, and diverse colleagues (at least below the Manager level)
  5. Ability to be promoted rapidly, again provided you have the political support of the right Partners and Directors

Con's

  1. Most politically toxic environment in which I've ever worked. Everything - and I mean everything from staffing decisions to promotion decisions and even minor deck edits - has a tendency to devolve into a zero-sum-game political turf war conducted with a take-no-prisoners mentality
  2. The toxic "beat your staff to death to develop them" culture which sunk Booz & Co as an independent firm is alive and well. For example, you will be cursed and berated like a naughty 5-year-old in front of your peers for the most minor misses in deck edits (e.g., using the "wrong color" on a slide.) Partners are often outright hostile to each other; I observed multiple occasions where Partners cursed out other Partners in front of junior staff. This nasty, unprofessional mentality obviously trickles down through the ranks. And the senior leaders are just as guilty - sometimes more so - of this than the rank and file Partners. The fish rots from the head down
  3. Toxic culture of work for the sake of work. 80+ hour weeks are common. Weekend work is common. Having to cancel dates, vacations, weekend plans, etc. at the last minute is common. What is particularly frustrating is that, 90% of the time, the work is pointless busy work - endless deck edits for inconsequential details, pumping out more slides for the sake of having a thicker deck to "wow" the client, etc. It was routine to stay up at the hotel past midnight to crank out a 35-slide deck for a 30-minute status meeting the next day, where of course only the first 2 out of 35 slides would ever be discussed. Efficiency (i.e., actually getting work done in a more effective fashion to enable a sane 45 or 50-hour work week) is highly frowned upon as it doesn't align with the old school Booz cultural values of overwork
  4. Woefully inadequate training for new hires. There is a Culture Task Force making minor improvements here, but you will be expected from day one to conduct complex Excel analysis and build incredibly intricate slides with minimal training on PowerPoint, Excel, or the Firm's tools - and no mentorship. Make any mistakes at all on those things, and you'll want to refer to point #2 above
  5. Extreme difficulty in getting staffed as a new hire. Because of point #4, new hires are treated like lepers by more experienced Seniors and (especially) Managers. Mentorship and development take time, which is obviously limited when you're constantly cranking out 500-slide decks at 3 AM on a Saturday. Therefore - particularly at the Manager level and above - new hires are viewed as far too costly to onboard to new projects, setting up a vicious cycle whereby new hires languish on the bench and never acquire the skills necessary to be successful strategy consultants. In my first year, I had business school peers who were summarily terminated within their first 6 months solely because they couldn't be consistently staffed - through no fault of their own, obviously
  6. Constant turnover and layoffs. Part of this is to be expected given the "up or out" nature of the Firm's development model, but even given that design the turnover I experienced at Strategy& was the highest I ever saw in my career by far - and I've worked at multiple consulting firms. As a Senior it was not uncommon to start a 3-month project and, at the end, have witnessed the resignation or termination of the Director, Manager, and Associate on the team - and lest you think I jest, this happened on 3 of my projects within 2 years
  7. At the Manager level and above, emotional intelligence and the ability to develop people seem to cease to matter in terms of performance evaluations - which is odd, because this is when it really starts to become a critical skillset. Never in my life have I worked with a group of less emotionally intelligent Managers, folks who were adept at quickly cranking out massive decks, but completely incapable of managing human beings at even a basic level. Only the ability to criticize and throw people under the bus, zero ability to coach or to mentor. Often you would see Managers in particular "kiss up and kick down", currying favor with Directors/Partners while treating their teams like garbage. Having now exited to industry, I avoid the ex-Booz/Strategy& managers in my own company like the plague - and they, not surprisingly, do indeed have a reputation for nastiness and not working well with their peers and subordinates
  8. Forced to choose an industry specialization early in your career and stick with it. A minority of people do like this model, but in general folks go into strategy consulting in order to be exposed to a wide variety of industries and business problems - PwC's industry vertical-centric model is fundamentally at odds with that aspiration
  9. Extreme over-reliance on a few key clients. Due to channel conflicts (e.g., situations where PwC was the auditor of a former Booz client), PwC's preference for selling massive multi-year transformation projects, and some other factors, the portfolio is heavily focused on a few big initiatives at a few key clients. I found myself constantly being rotated being busy work projects at the same few clients, limiting my ability to gain broad strategic exposure. And...
  10. ...because of PwC's focus on big transformations, much of the current Strategy& work has little to do with true strategy consulting. If you're expecting to work side-by-side with CEOs, CFOs, and the Board to craft corporate-level strategy (e.g., which markets to enter or which products to sell), you will likely be sorely disappointed. It is rare for Strategy& to win against MBB for those types of projects and, when they do, those projects are virtually always staffed by the folks who have been the most consistently obsequious to the right set of Partners (see point #1 under Pros). If you're a new hire, don't expect to see that type of work for a long time
  11. Promotion decisions are not based at all on performance evaluations. PwC has a tool (Snapshot) which captures your performance data on each project along dimensions such as technical competence, business knowledge, etc. On each of those dimensions you are rated on a scale from "not performing at level" to "performing at next level." Even if your full year of Snapshot reviews consistently shows "performing at next level" across the board, promotions are routinely denied - if you don't have "visibility" with the right set of Partners (notice a pattern here?) On the other hand, people with "performing at level" reviews are granted promotions with no objections if the right Partners pound the table for them. This becomes particularly problematic because of utilization expectations. If you simply chase work (including work outside of your assigned group) to stay busy and hit your utilization targets, you may end the year with great performance reviews but not with the right Partners in your group - tough luck! On the other hand, anybody on the bench for an extended period waiting for the "right" work within their group is at risk of being shown the door at any moment for low utilization
  12. The integration with PwC has been an unmitigated five alarm dumpster fire. So much has already been written on the topic that I'll stop at that

Advice to leadership

Fundamentally, the Strategy& leadership needs to finally recognize a hard truth: that if Booz & Company were such a great firm with exemplary values and a productive culture, it would still be around today as an independent firm - period. Booz failed as an independent firm because of its toxic culture and its inability to scale in the pure strategy space to effectively compete against firms like McKinsey and BCG which, for all their own faults, have always had much more effective, value-creating cultures than Booz.

Once that hard recognition is made, the Strategy& leaders need to leverage what little political capital they have within PwC to stop the bleeding and define an effective, realistic operating model within that behemoth of a firm. Regardless of their sales performance and C-suite relationships, the destructive ex-Booz Partners who perpetuate the toxic culture of cruelty and overwork need to be shown the door. Ex-Booz Partners who constantly belittle their fellow non-Strategy& PwC Partners - because they didn't go to the Ivy League or don't do "elite" strategy work - also need to be shown the door. If Booz were so darn great, let all of those toxic characters use their own capital to reincarnate it as an independent firm and blow it up again. PwC will be far better without them.

Below the Partner level, Directors and Managers must see a strong incentive shift to focusing far more on mentoring and developing people as opposed to serving as highly compensated slideware monkeys. An entirely new ecosystem of support - everything from a full month of strategy consulting training to zero cost staffing of new hires for project teams - must be put in place to ensure new hires receive the support needed to be successful.

As I wrote in my review headline, Strategy& does have great potential. The firm is able to hire incredibly talented staff and has a potentially paradigm-shifting platform with PwC. And there are many talented Partners who are able to bring in true strategy work. That potential is far from being realized today because of toxic cultural practices from the past which must be jettisoned. Eliminate the worst aspects of that culture, start treating your people right, and focus on getting the operating model right with PwC - do those things, and you will truly have a strategy-through-execution powerhouse unrivaled in the market.

Comments (62)

Apr 18, 2019

Thanks for sharing! Can you speak at all to the Deals Strategy team at Strategy&? It seems as if this group has been growing rapidly post-acquisition, and that many of the partners helping to grow the Deals business are ex-MBB. Any stories or anecdotes to share on the performance of this group and its culture? Thanks.

Apr 18, 2019

Cannot unfortunately speak specifically to that team as I wasn't part of that group or involved in any of their projects, but I will note that they were somewhat siloed from the rest of S& in a sort of hybrid operating model with PwC Advisory (which of course has its own substantial deals team.) Overall I would say that PwC broadly does have a good reputation in the deals space, but I couldn't really go deeper than that.

Apr 19, 2019

Not my AMA but OP hit it on the head. The Deals Team isn't Ex-Booz (although some of the partners / directors are ex-booz). Honestly, the best way to describe the deals team is that the team is aligned to S& in human capital initiatives (S& comp, promotion, recruitment etc.) but G2M strategy is all-over-the-place. We generally sell our strategy work as S& since those sell organically, but much of our traditional CDD work is sold as PwC since it was pull-through work from our other deals teams. Also from an associate's very limited visibility, the branding is a mess. Some partners in our deals team exclusively G2M as PwC, others are using old or new S& templates while others use PwC template while citing PwC Strategy& throughout the deck. But overall, the group is growing like crazy, partly in due to the fact that we're poaching partners from MBB and other reputable shops.

In terms of culture, the group is definitely silo'ed. We rarely interact with S& or PwC for that matter. And because the group is still so small, the culture swings dramatically from partner to partner. You might work for one partner who expects regular 5-6 am nights for a CDD, while others may push back to the client or staff more resources. But much of our pros and cons align with OP's take of S&. You get to work with some amazingly gifted people and you're constantly learning. Another bright side of the Deals team is that we don't really have issues with staffing. Our utilization is generally lower because of the nature of deals projects, but we submit so many proposals that they're treated as pretty much project work if you're juggling multiple at once. But at the same time, it is very political in the sense that some partners have much more sway than others. Mentorship and training is also a bit unstructured, in the sense that while we do get offered some trainings, it's really up to your project work for you to learn. If you get staffed on great projects with a strong team, you'll learn a ton. If not, you'll have a very different experience.

Overall, the Deals Strategy team is just in a strange phase of its growth. 2-3 years ago, it was still an underdog, both in the market and at PwC. Now it's quadrupled in size, meaning it's really lost its luster of being a "start-up" while lacking all of the logistical tools that behemoths in the space like LEK or Bain PEG has. I don't want this to comment to deter people from joining the team, but I'll restate what OP has said. Be prepared to be proactive if you want to succeed. That means reaching out to the correct partners, working on proposals during downtime, practicing technical skills, and developing mentor relationships. It definitely isn't a team that will hold your hand through your personal development like other consulting firms (although all the cutesy PwC videos may make you feel that way)

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Apr 20, 2019

After I read your blurb on the branding I was sitting here thinking what a complete disaster that must be...then read your next line "the branding is a mess."

Comical.

Apr 18, 2019

Which region did you work in? What type of work did you specialize in? I'm interested in this firm since there seem to be so many conflicting opinions about it on all forums. Do you see the firm going in the right direction in the coming years?

Apr 18, 2019
themanthemyth:

Which region did you work in? What type of work did you specialize in? I'm interested in this firm since there seem to be so many conflicting opinions about it on all forums. Do you see the firm going in the right direction in the coming years?

Not disclosing too many details for sake of anonymity, but I will say that I was on the East Coast and in the HIA vertical. Primarily tech strategy and ops strategy work with some FFG and CDS mixed in. The conflicting opinions absolutely make sense if you think about what I wrote - folks who are fortunate enough to have the favor of the right Partners will have a fundamentally different experience at S& than those who do not - and performance has little to do with this.

In my opinion - and this is what ultimately pushed me to leave - the firm is not fundamentally changing any time soon. Window dressing with things like the Culture Task Force, but I saw the implementation of no major, culture-shifting changes while I was there. The bad actors continued to be promoted over the folks who actually tried to develop a more positive culture, and a horrifically abusive senior HIA partner based in Chicago just boomeranged back into the firm after a ~1 year stint in industry - and he was quickly promoted back into a major leadership role.

Apr 20, 2019

This is a really stupid question, but could you define what the acronyms HIA, FFG, and CDS mean in this context?

Also, all things considered, do you 'regret' your pit stop at Strategy&? Would you have taken another firm's offer in hindsight?

Thanks so much for your insight in this thread!

Apr 18, 2019

Very accurate, but nothing new here. It has been known that the booz acquisition will likely go down as the worst ever in the strategy consulting space. Disaster from start to finish. Always feel bad when I colleague of mine falls for the trap and laterals there.

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Apr 18, 2019

OP- which vertical were you in? And what level did you exit at? I have heard many of the things you've listed but in my short time with the firm my impression is that things have been much improved, at least compared to 3-4 years ago. Do you still see MBA hires still being let go after 6 months? My understanding was that was due to a over-hiring spree around 2016 and hasn't been the case since.

Do you have advice for new hires joining the firm?

Thanks

Apr 18, 2019

Also have these questions.

I also don't quite understand why getting acquired would indicate the firm has serious issues. Bain is frequently talked about as a potential target, joking or not. Was Monitor in terrible shape prior to the Deloitte acquisition? Was Lunar in a terrible position prior to its acquisition by McKinsey?

Also, 80+ hour work week exceeds every other consulting firm by a lot and is not what is reported on any career web site: glassdoor, transparent mba, poets and quants, CMC page at my school.

This post seems to totally contradict a lot of other stuff out there and reads like the IB rants that are typically posted on WSO.

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Apr 18, 2019

This post is in line with what I've heard about S& from ex employees.

Also monitor was bankrupt

Prior to its acquisition by Deloitte in January 2013, Monitor Deloitte was an American strategy consulting practice known as Monitor Group, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012

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Apr 18, 2019

Yes, Monitor was indeed bankrupt. When Bain is acquired by EY, perhaps we can talk.

If you don't believe me for whatever reason, just do an informal poll of ex-S& employees. I guarantee you that my opinions of the firm are fairly mainstream and hardly "rants." I don't bemoan the entire management consulting profession, just the woeful state of this particular firm - so not sure why you think I'm like some of the IB ranters here? I also think IB is categorically a worse career than consulting in terms of everything except the financials, but that's another conversation.

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Apr 19, 2019

Yes, 80+ hours per weeks seem way off and I don't think this is accurate.

Apr 19, 2019
CCPD:

Also have these questions.

I also don't quite understand why getting acquired would indicate the firm has serious issues. Bain is frequently talked about as a potential target, joking or not. Was Monitor in terrible shape prior to the Deloitte acquisition? Was Lunar in a terrible position prior to its acquisition by McKinsey?

Also, 80+ hour work week exceeds every other consulting firm by a lot and is not what is reported on any career web site: glassdoor, transparent mba, poets and quants, CMC page at my school.

This post seems to totally contradict a lot of other stuff out there and reads like the IB rants that are typically posted on WSO.

This guy is probably one of the ass kissers at S&.

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Apr 18, 2019

I was in HIA and left as a Senior. While I did not personally see any new MBA hires being let go after 6 months in my last year at the Firm, I still did hear plenty of stories of new hires languishing on the bench for months and in fact had many Associates and less experienced Seniors desperately reach out to me for work - so I hardly assume that problem is fixed. There absolutely was a major overhiring spree in 2016 which resulted in a bloodbath midway through that year.

As a new hire, if you still have time before you join, I would immediately take a strategy consulting PowerPoint and Excel bootcamp, even if you have to pay for it out of your own money. Try to get your hands on as many deliverable decks and financial models as you can and, on your own, try to reconstruct them. Do not expect anybody to give you the time of day for mentorship or development; assume you will have to train yourself 100% of the time. Insist on conducting a thorough (not a perfunctory as is often the case) project close loop (PCL) before each engagement and, in particular, ask your management team what their quirks are about slideware - things as trivial as the wrong weight applied to a dotted line can throw those people into a rage (not kidding!) And from day one, learn who the powerful Directors and Partners are and kiss ass every day to ingratiate yourself to them. If that last point makes you uncomfortable, you're likely not going to be a long-term survivor and thriver at S& - that is what it takes.

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Apr 19, 2019

@LamarExConsultant - I can't seem to find the thread now, but did you read a WSO thread on S& about a year ago when they royally screwed people fresh out of B School?

Can anyone find that thread?

Edit: Found that thread. OP please read it.

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/ama-i-work-...

Apr 19, 2019

Thank you for reposting that - I was employed at S& when that happened and I believe I know that person. I previously read that post and it is important that everybody - including some of the few folks accusing me of being overly dramatic - realize that this is a consistent refrain among ex-S& staff.

Apr 19, 2019
LamarExConsultant:

Thank you for reposting that - I was employed at S& when that happened and I believe I know that person. I previously read that post and it is important that everybody - including some of the few folks accusing me of being overly dramatic - realize that this is a consistent refrain among ex-S& staff.

Thank YOU for helping people out here. As someone headed to B School and looking to recruit for Consulting, I know where to not waste my time.

Apr 19, 2019

Did the Strategy& brand lead to a good exit opportunity? Did they provide any resources or alum in finding your next job?

Apr 19, 2019

It did, but in my opinion nothing that I couldn't have gotten with the imprimatur of any other strategy consulting firms on my CV. I voluntarily resigned so I had zero help or resources from the firm with finding the next gig. We do have an alumni network on paper but it appears to largely be dead as far as I can tell, nonexistent activities and I haven't received a single email from them since signing up months ago.

Apr 20, 2019

OP-Thanks for doing this-certainly helps someone like me heading to Business school to decide where not to apply. Have a few questions.

  1. Given the competition is fierce for Consulting, would you advice recruiting for Banking since getting MBB or Deloitte S&O is quite hard? If the top performers at MBB work weekends, one might as well work in IB and make little more money?
  2. How do you see the impact of 'diversity recruiting' on getting an offer? Most people I see on Linkedin and other websites that MBB and D hire are women-is that a conscious attempt to keep the guys out or are the women outperforming the guys? I just want to understand where I have a higher probablity of getting an offer-Consulting or IB?
  3. Why do only around 25% of those who recruit for Consulting make it to MBB/D/ATK? I am sure the calibre of a lot of people who recruit is more or less the same?
Apr 20, 2019

You are very welcome. To your questions:

  1. This is really a "to each his own" thing. I briefly considered IB during business school but every piece of my research confirmed my early hypotheses: horrific frat boy culture, hours which make consulting look tame by comparison, endless Excel drudgery, etc. There is no amount of money on the planet which would make the NYC IB lifestyle worth it for me personally, but I don't know your values or priorities. I'll also add that, in my opinion, management consulting work (at least strategy) is far, far more intellectually stimulating than typical banking work, and rounds you out more holistically as a businessperson.
  2. I can't speak to diversity initiatives in IB, but certainly at S& this did not seem to have much of an impact on the hiring process. Frankly, I think for most firms this stuff is primarily more a PR and marketing move as opposed to something which truly impacts the hiring process. In my pool a majority of the new hires were non-Hispanic white and Asian, and I believe Asians were the plurality. Token handful of black and Hispanic recruits who in my view were just as qualified as everyone else. Women were underrepresented somewhat but nowhere nearly as much as in comparison to, say, technology. And having conducted interviews for Associates, I can promise you there was no box on the evaluation form which gave anybody extra points for being in some historically underprivileged group. I actually think the candidate evaluation process was one of the least political and most well-oiled aspects of S&.
  3. Easy - the top tier firms know they'll always be inundated with the best of the best and can be far more discerning and demanding in the criteria they use to filter folks out, as opposed to a firm like KPMG. A relatively small math or logic mistake in your McKinsey interview may get you eliminated, whereas the same mistake might not matter at all at EY or a similar firm. I made it into the final round at BCG and when I got feedback on why I didn't get an offer, one point was that I "didn't consistently make eye contact." Seriously.

Hope that helps.

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Apr 21, 2019

Yes-That certainly helps. For someone like me heading to Business school in the fall, this thread is a great resource. Also, it will be great if you can do an AMA on Banking vs Consulting Post MBA thread here-will add lot of value to the forum. Thanks.

Apr 28, 2019

Don't recruit for IB and Consulting at the same time. don't waste your time. Been there, done that. If you wanna try both do IB for summer and then consulting FT.
I went to a top MBA and I'm now at MBB if that helps.

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Apr 28, 2019

Quick couple of questions if you don't mind answering

  1. Why did you move to Consulting after securing an IB internship?
  2. If you recruited for Consulting FT, how did you go through the Consulting internship unless Consulting FT recruiting is before internship starts?
  3. If one does manage to secure an IB internship, is it time to press the panic button or are there ample opportunities tor recruit for other jobs?

Thanks a ton!

Most Helpful
Apr 20, 2019

For a balanced perspective I'd encourage readers to also look for "AMA: Former Strategy& associate" thread. I don't have the points to post a link but that thread shows a much more positive side.

On the critique of being overly dramatic- I don't think this is valid. OP's experience is his/her experience and its valuable to learn about their views of the firm.

However, what is frustrating to me is that there seems to be an over-representation of all-is-doom AMA's for S&. The people more likely to post these threads are ones with some sort of bone to pick with with firm, and then the WSO hive mind seems to enjoy pouncing on S& without much actual knowledge.

Not to say that these AMAs are not important, but I feel its equally important for readers to understand that there are many positive experiences at S&. As a recent MBA grad I have had numerous former classmates at MBB complain about absolutely terrible WLB, pressure from managers causing physical illness, and a crazy competitive and political staffing environment (e.g Mckinsey) that has led them to be on longer implementation style projects that are not representative of the strategy engagements they were hoping to experience.

The difference though, with MBB and many other firms, is more of a reluctance to publicly criticize their experience (at least on message boards). From MBB and other firms, I believe this is a reflection of "making it to the promised land" and the importance of keeping a pristine perception of the firm, even if it might not be consistent with the reality of their experience. (for example- look at LEK's ratings on glassdoor vs. S&. LEK has been tanking while S& is steadily improving. Yet what you read about on WSO are the over-representation of bad experiences for S&)

I'd encourage potential consulting recruits (@gibbs and others) to try to form their own opinion of S& when they arrive on campus. Try to separate out systemic negatives about the consulting industry against the valid firm specific critiques. Like others have alluded to, I was very skeptical about the firm when I arrived on campus but have honestly been appreciative of my experience so far. For many of the reasons that OP listed, I do not think this is a long term career for me, but that is more of a function of knowing what I want to get out of the experience and knowing what job I want to transition to. For the time that I am with S&, I have felt supported so far.

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Apr 20, 2019

Useless in going back and forth here, but I'll just add that never once did I imply that it was impossible to have a great experience at S& - but I do believe, having worked there nearly 3 years, that it is improbable for most new hires. Out of the gate some people will be lucky and have supportive Managers who focus on developing them and shielding them from aspects of the toxic politics, which will likely help ingratiate them to the right Partners; it then becomes a positive self-reinforcing cycle. I have friends whom this happened to. And there were many great aspects of my S& experience too, for sure - but most were negative.

I've heard that point re MBBers strategically not complaining about their firms in public before, and I simply disagree with it. Having worked at multiple consulting firms, my experience is that Strategy& was orders of magnitude worse than anything I had ever seen in my life. Even the rest of PwC Advisory was miles ahead of S& in terms of having a positive, constructive culture. I had almost no adverse reactions with other parts of PwC Advisory (Tech Consulting, GHRS, etc.) when we partnered with them. The cultural toxicity was almost exclusively limited to S&. How often do you see people complaining in public about the rest of PwC Advisory, as compared to S&? That should tell you something.

As a good former consultant, I would absolutely encourage folks to seek out multiple data points when making recruiting decisions. But I think they will find, until S& makes fundamental changes to the culture - not the window dressing crap like the CTF - that opinions like mine are far more numerous than the more rosy ones.

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Apr 20, 2019

Straw man and a cowardly post on a throw away account

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Apr 20, 2019

Thanks for that extremely insightful comment which added a great deal of value to this convo. You must be great at parties.

I've had my WSO account for nearly 4 years - I'm not a bot or "throwaway."

Apr 20, 2019
Panychoo:

For a balanced perspective I'd encourage readers to also look for "AMA: Former Strategy& associate" thread. I don't have the points to post a link but that thread shows a much more positive side.

On the critique of being overly dramatic- I don't think this is valid. OP's experience is his/her experience and its valuable to learn about their views of the firm.

However, what is frustrating to me is that there seems to be an over-representation of all-is-doom AMA's for S&. The people more likely to post these threads are ones with some sort of bone to pick with with firm, and then the WSO hive mind seems to enjoy pouncing on S& without much actual knowledge.

Not to say that these AMAs are not important, but I feel its equally important for readers to understand that there are many positive experiences at S&. As a recent MBA grad I have had numerous former classmates at MBB complain about absolutely terrible WLB, pressure from managers causing physical illness, and a crazy competitive and political staffing environment (e.g Mckinsey) that has led them to be on longer implementation style projects that are not representative of the strategy engagements they were hoping to experience.

The difference though, with MBB and many other firms, is more of a reluctance to publicly criticize their experience (at least on message boards). From MBB and other firms, I believe this is a reflection of "making it to the promised land" and the importance of keeping a pristine perception of the firm, even if it might not be consistent with the reality of their experience. (for example- look at LEK's ratings on glassdoor vs. S&. LEK has been tanking while S& is steadily improving. Yet what you read about on WSO are the over-representation of bad experiences for S&)

I'd encourage potential consulting recruits (@gibbs and others) to try to form their own opinion of S& when they arrive on campus. Try to separate out systemic negatives about the consulting industry against the valid firm specific critiques. Like others have alluded to, I was very skeptical about the firm when I arrived on campus but have honestly been appreciative of my experience so far. For many of the reasons that OP listed, I do not think this is a long term career for me, but that is more of a function of knowing what I want to get out of the experience and knowing what job I want to transition to. For the time that I am with S&, I have felt supported so far.

The OP never made any blanket statements about anyone's experience. In fact, he goes out of his way to mention that it is possible to have a great career at S&.

You are "talking your book." Career wise and for exit opps, it is important for you to defend S&'s reputation. I notice that you have brand new account as well. As far as I'm concerned, you have no credibility.

I've read two earnest threads on the firm a few years apart. No reason to believe that these posters have any ulterior motive - they are only trying to help people from ruining careers.

Tell me one thing, read the thread below, and let us know if stories of fresh B School grads being let go is false.

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/ama-i-work-...
Like the OP in that thread says, these are people with student loans, families and sometimes kids to take care of. If those stories are true, decent B Schools should ban S& from recruiting on campus. As for me, I have the facts I need to make decisions this fall on campus.

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Apr 20, 2019
Gibbs:
Panychoo:

For a balanced perspective I'd encourage readers to also look for "AMA: Former Strategy& associate" thread. I don't have the points to post a link but that thread shows a much more positive side.

On the critique of being overly dramatic- I don't think this is valid. OP's experience is his/her experience and its valuable to learn about their views of the firm.

However, what is frustrating to me is that there seems to be an over-representation of all-is-doom AMA's for S&. The people more likely to post these threads are ones with some sort of bone to pick with with firm, and then the WSO hive mind seems to enjoy pouncing on S& without much actual knowledge.

Not to say that these AMAs are not important, but I feel its equally important for readers to understand that there are many positive experiences at S&. As a recent MBA grad I have had numerous former classmates at MBB complain about absolutely terrible WLB, pressure from managers causing physical illness, and a crazy competitive and political staffing environment (e.g Mckinsey) that has led them to be on longer implementation style projects that are not representative of the strategy engagements they were hoping to experience.

The difference though, with MBB and many other firms, is more of a reluctance to publicly criticize their experience (at least on message boards). From MBB and other firms, I believe this is a reflection of "making it to the promised land" and the importance of keeping a pristine perception of the firm, even if it might not be consistent with the reality of their experience. (for example- look at LEK's ratings on glassdoor vs. S&. LEK has been tanking while S& is steadily improving. Yet what you read about on WSO are the over-representation of bad experiences for S&)

I'd encourage potential consulting recruits (@gibbs and others) to try to form their own opinion of S& when they arrive on campus. Try to separate out systemic negatives about the consulting industry against the valid firm specific critiques. Like others have alluded to, I was very skeptical about the firm when I arrived on campus but have honestly been appreciative of my experience so far. For many of the reasons that OP listed, I do not think this is a long term career for me, but that is more of a function of knowing what I want to get out of the experience and knowing what job I want to transition to. For the time that I am with S&, I have felt supported so far.

The OP never made any blanket statements about anyone's experience. In fact, he goes out of his way to mention that it is possible to have a great career at S&.

You are "talking your book." Career wise and for exit opps, it is important for you to defend S&'s reputation. I notice that you have brand new account as well. As far as I'm concerned, you have no credibility.

I've read two earnest threads on the firm a few years apart. No reason to believe that these posters have any ulterior motive - they are only trying to help people from ruining careers.

Tell me one thing, read the thread below, and let us know if stories of fresh B School grads being let go is false.

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/ama-i-work-...
Like the OP in that thread says, these are people with student loans, families and sometimes kids to take care of. If those stories are true, decent B Schools should ban S& from recruiting on campus. As for me, I have the facts I need to make decisions this fall on campus.

@Gibbs - thank you for this post.

I'll note that I had two motivations for starting this AMA:

1. I'm not a fan of human suffering in general, so I'd like to use my voice to let potential candidates know what they are likely to experience at S&. I have close friends who were legitimately hurt, financially and psychologically, by this firm. If people then do decide to join S& after having done their due diligence, they have no reason to be surprised when things start going south very quickly.

2. Re the point on "talking your book", I think this is spot on and aligned with how I view things. I take zero, absolutely zero, pleasure in the fact that S& has the well-deserved reputation of being a culturally toxic wasteland among peer consulting firms. That hurts me, after all, since I will forever have S& on my CV. So long as S& continues to perpetuate those toxic and destructive practices (e.g., the recent boomerang hire of the particularly toxic HIA senior leader in Chicago), I will continue to speak out to at least try to publicly shame management into acknowledging these problems and doing something about them. That is far more effective in my view than remaining silent and hoping these problems are magically sorted out inside of PwC.

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Apr 20, 2019
Gibbs:
Panychoo:

For a balanced perspective I'd encourage readers to also look for "AMA: Former Strategy& associate" thread. I don't have the points to post a link but that thread shows a much more positive side.

On the critique of being overly dramatic- I don't think this is valid. OP's experience is his/her experience and its valuable to learn about their views of the firm.

However, what is frustrating to me is that there seems to be an over-representation of all-is-doom AMA's for S&. The people more likely to post these threads are ones with some sort of bone to pick with with firm, and then the WSO hive mind seems to enjoy pouncing on S& without much actual knowledge.

Not to say that these AMAs are not important, but I feel its equally important for readers to understand that there are many positive experiences at S&. As a recent MBA grad I have had numerous former classmates at MBB complain about absolutely terrible WLB, pressure from managers causing physical illness, and a crazy competitive and political staffing environment (e.g Mckinsey) that has led them to be on longer implementation style projects that are not representative of the strategy engagements they were hoping to experience.

The difference though, with MBB and many other firms, is more of a reluctance to publicly criticize their experience (at least on message boards). From MBB and other firms, I believe this is a reflection of "making it to the promised land" and the importance of keeping a pristine perception of the firm, even if it might not be consistent with the reality of their experience. (for example- look at LEK's ratings on glassdoor vs. S&. LEK has been tanking while S& is steadily improving. Yet what you read about on WSO are the over-representation of bad experiences for S&)

I'd encourage potential consulting recruits (@gibbs and others) to try to form their own opinion of S& when they arrive on campus. Try to separate out systemic negatives about the consulting industry against the valid firm specific critiques. Like others have alluded to, I was very skeptical about the firm when I arrived on campus but have honestly been appreciative of my experience so far. For many of the reasons that OP listed, I do not think this is a long term career for me, but that is more of a function of knowing what I want to get out of the experience and knowing what job I want to transition to. For the time that I am with S&, I have felt supported so far.

The OP never made any blanket statements about anyone's experience. In fact, he goes out of his way to mention that it is possible to have a great career at S&.

You are "talking your book." Career wise and for exit opps, it is important for you to defend S&'s reputation. I notice that you have brand new account as well. As far as I'm concerned, you have no credibility.

I've read two earnest threads on the firm a few years apart. No reason to believe that these posters have any ulterior motive - they are only trying to help people from ruining careers.

Tell me one thing, read the thread below, and let us know if stories of fresh B School grads being let go is false.

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/ama-i-work-...
Like the OP in that thread says, these are people with student loans, families and sometimes kids to take care of. If those stories are true, decent B Schools should ban S& from recruiting on campus. As for me, I have the facts I need to make decisions this fall on campus.

I concede the first point- OP did point out ways in which people can succeed at S&. I also can appreciate that the probability of succeeding might be lower than at an MBB. However, I do not agree with the order of magnitude difference in probability of success, at least from what my experience has been. OP of course has his/her own experience. That's why I'm trying to bring publicity to the 2nd AMA from the other associate that was done on WSO a year or so ago.

Of course I am "talking my book". It's in my upmost benefit that the firm is thought of well. I believe criticism is deserve, but I feel that the WSO consensus is way to far on the spectrum of burning ship. Learning that I shouldn't pick arguments on an internet forum, but I felt the need to jump in here.

The stories of fresh B school grads being let go in 2016 is true. This was my number one concern with the firm and frankly still scares me. I have a strong contingency plan though and encourage others to think the same way. You never now why things might go south even at another firm. That said- this is 100% a terrible black eye for the firm.

On your last point- the facts you've gathered have seemed to have very strongly anchored your opinion. Which is fine but the point I'd like to make is that consulting recruiting is hard. At my M7 MBB is far from a guarantee, and not an insignificant amount of people struck out of consulting for any firm. Try to keep your options open and be willing to change your opinion based on facts outside of the internet. Either way- good luck and enjoy your journey.

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Apr 22, 2019

I'll throw in my 2 cents here...

OP's post is very consistent with what I've heard about S& from other current and former employees. In fact, I haven't heard a single person from S& describe their experience positively except during an on-campus recruiting event. Granted, I don't exactly have a gigantic sample, but it's enough (probably 10-12 people lifetime) where it's meaningful.

As for comparison to other MBB, life at those firms certainly isn't all rosy either, and there is some truth to your point about the incentive to pump up MBB for self-validation purposes. With that said, when you talk to enough people, it becomes pretty easy to tell what's genuine and what's being said through rose-colored glasses, and while your mileage may vary, what goes on at S& seems to be consistently far worse than what people at MBB experience. Some people at MBB do get the short end of the staffing straw and have pretty bad experiences, but cases where people get screwed as much as people seem to at S& are pretty rare.

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Apr 23, 2019
humblebot:

I'll throw in my 2 cents here...

OP's post is very consistent with what I've heard about S& from other current and former employees. In fact, I haven't heard a single person from S& describe their experience positively except during an on-campus recruiting event. Granted, I don't exactly have a gigantic sample, but it's enough (probably 10-12 people lifetime) where it's meaningful.

As for comparison to other MBB, life at those firms certainly isn't all rosy either, and there is some truth to your point about the incentive to pump up MBB for self-validation purposes. With that said, when you talk to enough people, it becomes pretty easy to tell what's genuine and what's being said through rose-colored glasses, and while your mileage may vary, what goes on at S& seems to be consistently far worse than what people at MBB experience. Some people at MBB do get the short end of the staffing straw and have pretty bad experiences, but cases where people get screwed as much as people seem to at S& are pretty rare.

Thanks for this note, and I agree with your take on things. The people having an adverse reaction to my comments are probably being truthful, as they likely are part of the minority of employees who have a consistently good experience at S&. And a lucky few people have truly great experiences at S& - but they are an even smaller minority. Occam's razor holds - there is an easy-to-understand reason why S& generates a uniquely horrific bad:good ratio in online feedback.

I'll reiterate again because some people have inaccurately characterized what I've said: while it is certainly possible for a new MBA hire to have a consistently great experience at S&, it is relatively improbable. Unless you are hell-bent on management consulting as a profession and S& is the only consulting offer you have, I would advise extreme caution before signing on the dotted line with this firm. Nothing that I and my few peers who remain at S& have seen suggests that management has any intention of addressing the root causes of the more serious concerns.

Funniest
Apr 20, 2019

$230k for 80 hour weeks, toxic culture, and B-level consulting grind with horrific travel (thanks to the state of u.s. airports and infrastructure) sounds like hell on earth.

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Apr 20, 2019

80 hours per week is simply not accurate. Confirmed with multiple sources it was largely 345 model.

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Apr 21, 2019

Can you clarify what the 345 model is please?

Apr 22, 2019

you can still work 65+ hours week witha 345 model. The only thing that controls is where you will be working not how long.

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Apr 21, 2019

@LamarExConsultant and @Panychoo

Thank you both for doing this. Very informative.

Quick question - when you recruit into Deals from B School, do you recruit into PWC or Strategy &?

Asking because the comp structure seems to be different.

Apr 21, 2019
RussianBot:

@LamarExConsultant and @Panychoo

Thank you both for doing this. Very informative.

Quick question - when you recruit into Deals from B School, do you recruit into PWC or Strategy &?

Asking because the comp structure seems to be different.

I'm not in the Deals vertical but I believe this depends on which team you recruit for within Deals.

From a recruiting standpoint the S& teams are Deals Strategy (mainly commercial due diligence and growth strategy) and Private Equity Value Creation (I am not 100% sure what the project categories are for PEVC)

PwC also has teams within Deals. These are DDV (Delivering Deal Value), among others. PwC did not recruit at my school so I don't have much insight into their process for Deals teams.

Sorry- don't have too much more to add here. BullishMan has a pretty thorough post above and I've recalled seeing some topics about the Deals team on WSO before.

Apr 21, 2019

PEVC focuses on operationally-focused optimization strategy projects for PE portco's mostly, as well as operational due diligences. Something you're going to start noticing as you read / hear about people's experiences at all these different PwC / S& groups it that it isn't MECE at all - meaning there will be non PEVC / S& groups that sell ODD and value creation work as well while PEVC may sell a CDD or Growth Strategy project (which is supposed to Deals Strategy's work)

Might do an AMA later. There seems to be a ton of chatter about S& and the Deals Strategy group in particular. I think we just extended offers to 70+ candidates with a 75%~ conversion rate, so not particularly surprised.

Apr 22, 2019

@LamarExConsultant Do you have any advice for folks joining the firm regarding relationship-building? What's the best way to go about aligning yourself to the rock star partners / directors if they don't happen to be leading your first engagement or one of your coaches/RP? I assume proposal work is one way to go about this, but fingers crossed that simultaneous proposal work + project work is no longer expected...

Apr 22, 2019
winnowprotein_2:

@LamarExConsultant Do you have any advice for folks joining the firm regarding relationship-building? What's the best way to go about aligning yourself to the rock star partners / directors if they don't happen to be leading your first engagement or one of your coaches/RP? I assume proposal work is one way to go about this, but fingers crossed that simultaneous proposal work + project work is no longer expected...

In my experience the only thing which S& Partners tend to appreciate is raw horsepower in cranking out slides which consistently pass their particular view of solid horizontal and vertical logic. Reach out to your targeted Partners early on and offer yourself up to them for whatever grunt work they need help with - and don't expect them to care about your work-life balance desires or offer much guidance in terms of helping you get up to speed. Be prepared to sacrifice your weekends, and occasionally even a vacation, if they call on you last minute with an urgent need. Every minute you are "on the beach" should be filled with some type of research or slide generation for prominent, politically-connected leaders in the firm. And being on a billable project - at least during my tenure at the firm - was no excuse for not helping out with proposals, because there are plenty of ass-kissers (especially at the Senior and Manager level) who will happily throw away their weekends to do this in order to ingratiate themselves to the right people. "Extracurricular" stuff like participating in ERGs or PwC-wide initiatives tends to give you a demerit, because the S& Partners only consider work in their narrow sphere to be worthy of consideration for promotions, etc.

Do all of this consistently - without any quality or analytical issues, and without throwing the wrong Partner into a rage because you formatted a slide the wrong way - and you will be in a good spot.

Apr 29, 2019
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Apr 30, 2019