|Company: Bain & Company, a top 5 global management consulting company.
Current Job Title: Senior Manager.
Current Age: 34
Years in industry: 8
Education: Ph.D. in Medical Physics and B.A. in Physics.
Hours per week: 50-60
Entry level salary: $60K+ for Analyst, Experienced Entry Level: $140K+ for Technology Strategy and Management.
1. How did you get your first job in this field?
In short, I was able to get my first job in a large consulting firm by networking with people. An alumnus from my PhD university working at Bain showed interest in me during an informal information session and helped me to get an interview with the firm. This led to my offer as an experienced manager. I interviewed with various consulting firms (some through their normal recruiting processes), but I felt the Bain offer provided the best opportunity for me.
The longer answer is that I was able to get my first job because of my academic records and my experience outside my Ph.D. research. During graduate school I ran a small technology consulting business, worked with a number of large medical instrument and pharmaceutical companies, patented some of my work, worked with the Graduate School of Business on doing science consulting for industry, and worked at the technology transfer office at the University.
Although I had a promising career in academics and was on the tenure track as faculty at a university, after my Ph.D., consulting seemed to hold the allure of interesting projects, people, a “jet-set” profession with travel, and good pay.
2. How do most people break into this field nowadays?
For entry level positions, people get jobs in consulting by applying and interviewing during college recruiting sessions. For entry level positions, a strong record, strong analytical and logical problem solving skills, and good people skills help to get positions. No particular major is required for consulting in general. For consulting firms that focus in technology, economics or accounting, degrees in those areas is likely to be required (such as computer science, economics or accounting) for most positions. Although it should be noted that there are likely positions in these firms don’t require these types of degrees. For experienced hires, most come from personal contacts. For experienced hires, specific skills are a must.
3. What is a typical career path in this field? How often are there advancement opportunities? Is most advancement within or across organizations?
The typical technology consultant track is: Analyst Consultant -> Senior Analyst Consultant -> Manager -> Senior Manager -> Partner\Principal\Director.
Here are some typical technology development tracks: Non-Management Architect Track: System Engineer -> Senior System Engineer -> Designer -> Architect. Management Track: System Engineer -> Senior System Engineer -> Designer -> Architect/Manager -> Director
Generally, it takes five or six years before being considered for the Manager position. Beyond Manager, it will typically take six more years before potentially being considered for Partner\Principal\Director. You can move laterally within the firm. This is easier at lower levels.
4. What do people in your field look for in a candidate? (Skills, personal qualities, etc.)
In technology consulting, various backgrounds are acceptable. Most junior people only have undergraduate degrees, while most senior people (manager or higher) have advanced degrees (typically Masters or MBA). Technology management typically have science, math, computer science, or engineering backgrounds. Consulting management, in general, can have almost any background or degree, although most have graduate degrees. Skills that are looked for: strong communication skills (writing and verbal), good leadership skills, good team player, delivery focused, organized, and client focused.
5. What personal qualities are necessary for someone in your job to thrive?
Client relationship management skills, communications skills, strategy skills, IT architecture strategy, business development skills, process development skills, diplomacy skills, organization skills, portfolio management skills, product management skills, project management skills, writing skills, and large amounts of patience. Be prepared to have two (or more!) partners vying for your time.
6. What advice do you have for someone with a bachelor’s degree looking to enter this field? What about someone with a master’s or doctoral degree?
Get good grades as positions are very competitive. Being fairly well rounded with hobbies and sports is a plus. If you have a master’s degree (except for an MBA), you will likely come in at the same level as someone with a bachelor’s degree. Your master’s degree will be viewed as a plus. A doctoral degree can be advantageous if you are getting a job as a domain expert. On the other hand, a doctoral degree can be viewed as very theoretical and academic and so may be considered a liability. Experience outside your doctoral degree should be sought out and emphasized on your resume.
7. Are there any books, journals, web sites, resources, associations, etc. that someone looking to break into your field should be aware of?
The Vault has some great books on consulting.
8. What do you like best about your job?
Great benefits, retirement package, prestigious firm, interesting projects, and good pay.
9. What do you like least about your job?
At the management levels, the pressure to continuously succeed and improve is high.
10. What is your typical day like?
7-7:30am: Arrive at office
7-8:30am: Check and respond to email and return phone messages.
The bulk of my day is typically spent meeting with various clients as well as managers of my teams. Clients can be either internal business management interested in building and using technology (i.e. software) to sell their services or external clients who need technology for as part of a Tax services engagement that the Firm has. My team helps to determine how technology can be best used to deliver Tax services. We are responsible for the whole technology life cycle: from an idea to a business plan to a technology project plan through build and testing, then deployment and operating. My team is primarily comprised of technology and project management. In most cases, we use outside consulting groups (some inside and some outside the Firm) during projects. 5:30-7pm: I generally leave the office between 5:30 and 7pm.
When traveling, the work days can be long and include expectations to go to dinner. There is an expectation that you can travel when requested. Currently, I am not traveling much, but in the past I had periods of months where I traveled every week.