1. Please describe your current position.
I am an Associate Consultant with IMS Consulting Group in New York City. IMSCG is a healthcare/life-science focused management consulting firm that advises pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies on pricing, market access, branding and commercialization strategies. Our clients range from big pharmaceutical and biotech companies to high-growth start-ups. My primary responsibilities encompass conducting primary and secondary market research to come up with actionable insights and strategies for solving our client’s problems.
2. How far in advance of your planned starting date did you begin looking for jobs?
3. How did you learn about your current position?
I went to a career panel in my school on management consulting. I talked to the consultants who came there to volunteer their time, and I decided that it would be a really good fit for me.
4. Were any resources (inside or outside your university) particularly helpful in your job search?
Friends of mine started a student-run management consulting organization called Fourth River Solutions, in Pittsburgh. I worked with the organization for over a year on pro-bono consulting projects with clients in the Pennsylvania/Ohio area. This opportunity honed my critical thinking skills and I learned how to break down complex real-world problems into simpler parts and solve them.
5. What was your work or educational background before you were hired?
I got my PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and prior to that I went to Sastra University in India for a BS in chemical engineering. I completed the CFA investment certificate program while I was in graduate school to learn more about finance. I also took certificate courses on commercialization of science offered through the school of engineering at Pitt.
6. Which aspects of your background (doctoral training, postdoctoral training, internships, etc.) were required for your position?
My consulting and internship experiences helped me get the job. Doctoral training prepared me to quickly skim through scientific literature and understand the key-takeaways, and this helps me do my job effectively.
7. How long after your interview did you start your position?
Three months. I was interning in a Mergers and Acquisitions firm before I took this position. In general, most management consulting firms hire exclusively in fall, and some recruit in spring as well. It is important to keep track of these two hiring cycles if you want to avoid delays in starting your position.
8. How would you describe the interview process and how did you prepare for it? Were there any skills or experiences in your CV that seemed to stand out?
There are two components to any consulting firm’s interview:
1. Personal experience/Behavioral interview:
a. Prepare three to five personal stories around your leadership capabilities, times when you faced conflicts in a workplace, your team-work experience, and how you dealt with failures
2. Case Interview
a. Go to YouTube/Google and search “case interviews” to get an idea about case interviews
b. Masterthecase.com hosts several business school case-books; find a case-study partner and practice these cases
c. Learn to do back of the envelope calculations and quick math, it will save you time in your interview
• Consultants like to see evidence to any claim; so try and quantify any real world impact you may have had through your past experiences
• Limit your resume to one page
• McKinsey & Co’s website lists things they would expect to see in an advanced degree candidate’s profile, make sure to mirror them in your resume while applying for consulting opportunities
• Oystir is a HR start-up run by ex-consultants and they do a really awesome job of reviewing consulting resumes
9. Did you pursue any other position or career path prior to being hired in your current position? If so, what factors led to your ultimate job choice?
I was a postdoc in the lab I did my thesis in for one month before starting an internship with a Mergers and Acquisitions firm. I joined my current position right after my 10-week internship.
10. Has your career trajectory followed the path you had expected when you started graduate school?
No, but I am glad I had an open mind. It is important to try out new career paths while you are in graduate school to see which ones would be a good fit.
11. Are there any particular skills or experiences you wish you had before you started?
I wish I knew more about the healthcare system in the U.S.
12. How do you spend an average workday?
On any given day, I may be working on a project proposal, or conducting primary or secondary market research for the project I work on. My work also involves building financial forecasts and Excel modeling. I spend close to 90% of my time focusing on project deliverables and this is my billable time. The rest of the time, I try to contribute to internal initiatives within the firm.
13. What do you like the most about your work?
Every project is different from the other, and I get to work with really smart and talented people. There is immediate real-world impact for every project, and the learning curve with every project is very steep. Average length of projects is eight to ten weeks, and this gives you an opportunity to gain expertise across different aspects of the healthcare and life science industry.
14. What do you find the most challenging about your work?
15. What skills do you think are absolutely essential for your position?
• Critical thinking
• Soft skills
16. Do you think it helps to have a certain personality to do the work you do?
It definitely helps if you are analytical and amiable if you want to succeed in consulting. You should be able to get along with clients and co-workers, at the same time have analytical rigor to solve complex problems.
17. At any point, do you regret not having pursued a career in the academic field?
I miss the bench at-times. But as a part of my job I read a lot more scientific literature on a daily basis, and I keep up with changing trends in different therapeutic areas.
18. What advice would you give to someone looking for a position like yours?
• Practice, practice and practice case studies—it is the most important part of the interview process
• Join a consulting club and network with other people who are focused on pursuing consulting for a career
• Participate in case-competitions—most of these events are sponsored by top firms, and you can gain visibility just by participating
• Always have a well thought out one-minute pitch of the work you are currently doing
• Don’t give up if you fail in a few interviews—Getting into consulting requires both persistence and presence of mind during the interview