Posts Tagged ‘consulting’

The end of P2 is nigh.  I didn’t think I’d find myself waxing nostalgic about the Singapore split, but here I am getting sad about the folks who are going to move on.  I’m wishing I had gotten to know some of them better, wishing some folks I was just starting to get to know weren’t leaving, wishing I wasn’t staying behind, wishing my tennis partner/carpooling friend/get drunk while studying buddy wasn’t ditching me. The two-campus school is a weird animal. Among the P4s, there’s a pretty clear split between the folks who started in Singapore, the BFFs who have gone in P3, and the Fonty lifers. While two campuses gives INSEAD the ability to have a much bigger intake, I have a hunch that it results in a much more segregated class.

I haven’t made up my mind about whether or not to go to Singapore. My 25 point bid for Wharton got me a second to last place on the waiting list, so Singapore is my only choice for an escape from Fonty. I’ve spent time in Singapore and found the frizzy-hair weather relentless, the food the most amazing I’ve had anywhere, and the city somewhat void of culture. While you might not be able to afford the performance of the LSO or the NYPhil on tour at the Durian-shaped concert hall, there’s always the St. James Power Station – a favorite of every post-colonial hangover white douchebag with an Asian fetish.

The Singapore campus offers access to the rest of Asia. If not for jobs – if you don’t have Asia experience before, getting a job in Asia might be tough – then certainly it offers access to travel. To travel, you need $$. And I’m a child of the financial crisis, and a bit conservative with my funds.

I’m excited to meet a whole new group coming over from Singapore. In fact, I already feel like we’re so close because I’ve seen countless shameless close-ups of their cellulite on Facebook.

I am also excited about my new group for the core courses.  Turns out, I’m the only girl in my group. I’ve already told my groupmates that I would like them to address me as ‘Princess’, to stand up when I enter the cubicle, to eat only if I’m eating, and to have an emery board nearby in case I chip a nail while using a calculator. [Lame attempt at humor]

As for the out-going group… While we all had the best intentions at the beginning – making pronouncements of how much we wanted to learn from each other, how we wanted to become better people through team-building. Bollocks. I can safely say that I learned absolutely nothing from the interaction with my group. While I’m still on perfectly good terms with all of them, and will probably stay in touch (via wallposts…), I doubt we’ll have any group reunions post-INSEAD.

The paper that I wrote on our dynamics during LPG has been paying dividends in consulting interviews though.  

-Have you ever been on a team that didn’t work well together?

-Well, funny you should ask, Impersonable Interviewer Lady.  Actually my current group at INSEAD is so conflict avoidant that we can’t stand to spend more than an hour together.  Usually within one hour of working on a case that took other groups 5 hours to do, someone invariably says, ‘guys, I think we’re wasting time here.  Let’s just split this up.’  And then we each go our separate ways, and hand something in last minute that’s half-assed, incomplete, lacking thought, with conclusions contradicting the analysis, with half of it not even written in English.  

Actually, I’ve been trying to put a positive spin on this for the interviewers.  “The homoerotic tension among then men in the group…”  Wait, no, that’s not it either.

Maybe my powers of introspection are not all that well appreciated at the second-rate consulting firm I tap danced for last week. Despite having a first round interview that felt like pulling teeth, I made second round. This was a group interview – which was a bizarre experience. Everyone has a case to read, and their own set of questions to answer. Then you get to lead a brief discussion of your set of questions with the group.

I came out of the interview feeling pretty good about the outcome, but while some of my co-interviewees have gotten phone calls, I’m still waiting for mine.

In the meantime I’ve convinced myself that (a) I don’t want to do consulting, and (b) that I don’t want to do it at this particular firm because they don’t have a good practice in my area of interest. Yet, I’m on pins and needles waiting for their call. Nothing has changed. I’m still a 15-year-old eager for approval and external validation. Pathetic.


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P1 ended with exams that (with the exception of Accounting) certainly did not insult anyone’s intelligence, and probably did a fine job of separating the men from the boys.  While everyone pretended not to care how they did, most people stuck around afterwards discussing the exam questions.  I had a dream about one of the finance questions some 2 days later – I think I had to do that question in an interview.  WTF?

Post exam, it was curious to see the nationalities all grouping together, and debating Question 3 of finance in Italian, Greek, Arabic, etc.  Immediately after UDJ, everyone got properly drunk at the bar, and eventually headed off to get more drunk and very sunburnt in Chamonix.  

Being antisocial, I did my own thing and got yelled at by some INSEAD alumni friends of the boy who said that we both should have gone on the Chamonix trip.  

Now I’m officially a P2.  I so didn’t want to be back on campus today.  I wanted to be somewhere in a real city, with real shops, and real restaurants, and real chamber music.  Where you can walk 8 miles in a single day, feel exhausted and barely cover a part of the city.  Where they have kebabs and curries that are to die for.  Where jeans still cost an arm and a leg despite the recession.  Okay, that last part I’m not so keen on.  And then at the end of the day, instead of leafing through your 6 binders of course readings and wondering how you’re going to read 4 cases and still be up by 7AM, you can watch episodes of Lost and 30 Rock, or read a novel about that really cool city you’re visiting.  Yeah, a novel.  With fictional characters that you can relate to.  And a plot.  Remember those?

But after the first session of Strategy, things started looking up.  P2 is going to be far more interesting than P1, if the first case of Process Operations Management (deliciously abbreviated to POM) is any indication.  P2 is also when the on-campus recruiting starts out in earnest.  I’m really torn about whether or not to put on a monkey suit and go make nice with the consulting firms.  

On one hand, consulting would be a great way to pay off those loans early.  On the other hand, I might be too precious to work 90 hour weeks.  Consulting is the easy answer to the question of what to do with yourself.  This is of course my being presumptuous that these jobs are mine for the taking.      

During my extensive soul-searching (read: unemployment) prior to INSEAD, I thought a lot about what motivates me.  One of those things is ownership.  I’m very possessive.  I need to be responsible for whatever I’m doing.  Owning “strategy recommendations” or a pretty PowerPoint deck at the end of a project just doesn’t seem right.  

But I suppose taking hors d’oeuvres from McKinsey can’t hurt.

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My best friend – let’s call her Tina – works for one of the top consulting firms.  She’s constantly jetsetting between Rome, Mumbai, London, and Johannesburg (or Jo-burg, in her parlance) for the different projects she’s not allowed to talk about.  She joined the firm almost 3 years ago after finishing her MS, and has been talking about quitting in 6 months for the last 2.  But every 6 months there’s a new project that she’s crazy excited about, and so she puts off leaving the firm.  One of the reasons she wants to quit is because she doesn’t have enough personal time, and wants to be able to start a normal relationship.   

We don’t usually talk about work, but last weekend I got an interesting glimpse into her career when I sat in on an information interview she gave to a first year MBA from Stern who was looking to get into consulting.  

The thing that struck me is her firm’s focus on professional development – the constant striving for improvement through continuous feedback, the availability of training sessions around the world, the career coaching and mentorship.     

It was also revealing to learn just how little Tina is motivated by impact.  She actually said, “It doesn’t matter to me that these two pharma companies merge, or that a deal I’m analyzing goes through, or that a company successfully starts an office in India.”  What matters is that she can be in London when Darcy Bussell dances in Balanchine’s Jewels or in New York when Karita Matilla gets naked in Salome.   

I’ve been torn about whether or not this is something I’d want for myself.  As much as I’m attracted by lifestyle, the prestige, the brand name of being at McConsulting & Co, I don’t know that I could hack it.  I could probably be good at it, but I’m not sure I would love it.  Following this weekend’s discussion, Tina sent me a book called “Now, Discover Your Strengths”.  One of those self-help books for the overachiever set.  I’ll keep you posted on what its brilliant insights bring.  

The thing that made me crazy about my own small firm design consulting experience was that I never felt like I owned anything that I did.  We would design a product for a client, or create a strategy for a new product direction, or recommend a branding strategy – but after 4 months, or 6 months, or a year we would walk away.  

So, years down the road when one of those products became a top seller for Proctor&Gamble, we could look back and talk about why that product was successful and why we were responsible for that succes.  For the other 85% of projects, we were happy to collect our fee, and were free to blame the client’s execution, or their entrenched way of doing things, or inability to understand our brilliant direction if things didn’t pan out.

Mostly, what bothered me was the nagging feeling that we were often working on the wrong project. The project that Business Development sold to the client wasn’t the project that was going to make any impact – or wasn’t the right application of the technology the client was developing.  

Working for a top-tier consultancy can certainly be a spring-board to an amazing career in arts administration, or private equity.  You could potentially gain the skills needed to run a start-up or a pharma giant. 

But at what cost?  At this cost: Tina mentioned that the thing she liked least about McConsulting is that 20% of the people she worked with were “hard-driving assholes.”


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