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Getting into consultancy with a PhD

 
#1 Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 11:42

PhDMathematician

I've got a 1st in maths from UCL and am just about to have my viva for a PhD in maths from LSE. I like high pressure environments too much to stay in academia and was thinking of strategy consulting. Unfortunately, I find I've missed all the recruiting deadlines and careers events for this year. I don't want to sit around for months getting bored till they come round again. Does anyone have advice as to what I should do next?

Many thanks.

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#2 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 12:01

rc to PhDMathematician (#1)

first step is just get on the phone to your target companies' recruitment functions to explain the situation and find out how rigid their processes are. you won't get marked down for showing a bit of gumption..

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#3 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 12:19

Dave to rc (#2)

I'd go join a bank where your skills will be rewarded. If you join an MC, you will end up working on a team of liberal arts majors and with people who think that 'soft skills' (read "fluff and BS") are more important than solid, robust logic. You will be chomping at the bit to produce a 50-dimensional stochastic financial model, and your team mates will only just about know how to do a pie chart. It will drive you mad.

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#4 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 12:53

ZB to Dave (#3)

Been a while since I've frequented this forum, although as eagle-eyed as ever to spot a thread worth my wisdom, acerbic and inimiitable wit.

Listen pal, you really have to kidding joining MC with your background. Contary to popular belief, MC does attract a fair few engineers, scientists, economists who are bright, logically-minded and numerically literate. The trouble is they have no avenue to exercise these skills. At that level it's all about PMO support, (write me a turgid status report, or update this risk log in excel or go and draft me up a dry incomprehensible ppt slide riddled with consultant-esque buzzwords. This is not the way to Davos, the top of a fortune 500 company or even a building blocks of an entrepreneurial career.

Get into banking pal - build-me a fancy options model to value exotic commodities, go an then get of group of guys together and start-up a hedge or private equity fund, then get a pad in Hampstead and send your kids to a posh public school and retire at 50 and spend the rest of your life taking up hobbies you wish you started when you were 30

Note Bene: Nice to be back

ZB.

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#5 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 13:20

Dave to ZB (#4)

Thanks ZB, glad to see you agree with me. It is very clear that the luvvie-duvvie, fluff and BS, waffle-your-way-out-of-tricky-situations, no-hard-skills-required world of consulting is good for those who have no real skills and need to pay the mortgage.

Let me as you this: When was the last time you ever saw a city trader with a degree in modern languages? Or a dentist with a degree in geography? Or a lawyer with a degree in history (and nothing else)? Or a surgeon with a degree in english language?

Answer: Never.

And do you know why? Yes, that's right... it's because these are PROFESSIONS where you actually have to know what you're doing.

Yet in consultancy it seems that any old liberal arts major with an opinion feels qualified to make recommendations regarding organisational strategy and management.

You wouldn't let a surgeon operate on you if he/she only had a degree in geography. So why would you let the same person tinker around with your organisation?

Madness, sheer madness.

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#6 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 13:22

Bill to ZB (#4)

Have to disagree with ZB. Don't know which firm you work/worked for but to say "This is not the way to Davos, the top of a fortune 500 company or even a building blocks of an entrepreneurial career" is just rubbish.

Orit Gadiesh (Bain CEO) - regular at WEF in Davos

Vittorio Colao (ex-McKinsey) - CEO Vodafone

Marius Kloppers (ex-McKinsey) - CEO BHP Billiton

Indra Nooyi (ex-BCG) - CEO Pepsi

Kenneth Chenault (ex-Bain) - CEO American Express

Innocent Drinks, Intuit, MORI, Apax Partners and other companies founded by ex-MBB people.

To 'PhDMathematician',

I know PhDs at MBB who really enjoy their work and find it challenging and rewarding. The modelling may not be at the same level of complexity as in banking but you will learn how businesses work across all industries which you would not in banking. Coming from an academic background I would assume this is something that appeals to you about strategy consulting.

My advice would be to contact HR at the top strategy firms, explain your position and see what they say. They are normally pretty flexible and because you are coming from a PhD which doesn't have fixed finish dates like undergraduate degrees I think they'll be pretty accommodating.

Good Luck.

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#7 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 14:06

billum to Bill (#6)

actually Dave, I know a fair few traders, desk heads and division heads in IBs who have arts backgrounds (I can think of some very senior individuals with degrees in history, modern languages and English) - but the truth is that these are guys over 40 and the world has moved on for new entrants. I agree with the advice - PhD in maths is wasted in MC (exception being somewhere like Oliver Wyman) and quant is the way to go

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#8 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 14:48

Dave to billum (#7)

The other thing to keep in mind is how much money you can make. Let's face it, with consultancy you sell your time - and hence your earnings are capped. You'll never get rich in this game. It's all based on a pyramid model, and there are natural limits to the size of the pyramid you can have under you. With trading or banking however, you can earn proper money. Consulting is just temping with a high daily rate.

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#9 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 16:18

ZB to Dave (#8)

To Bill

Firstly, let me set a precedent here: I'm going to agree with what you wrote. However, when I said the road to consultancy does not lead to Davos, Fortune 500 CEO or business career, what I meant was doing the garbage PMO support and process mapping in visio stuff that most consultants do. Of course the names you mention had consultancy experience, but did do you think they got to thier jobs in industry doing the nonsense PMO, process mapping stuff or do you think they were honing valuation skills, developing business strategy and developing new ideas.

To Dave: Coming as an engineer, I do agree with you (about 10%) but for 90% of what you say about liberal arts degrees its utter nonsense. Consultancy is a game of renting out brains to clients. If you're sharp, commercially literate and communicate ideas well why does it matter what degree you have. Why is an engineer more intelligent or commercially more astute than someone doing a degree on Classics or History. In fact Boris Johnson is a trained classicist and Micheal Portillo did History, are these guys dunces by virtue of their degree choice? A lot of the report writing, reading lots of reports and documents and extracting useful info are directly tested in these courses.

ZB

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#10 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
04/02/2011 17:21

Bill to ZB (#9)

ZB,

I think you hit the nail on the head with: "but do you think they got to their jobs in industry doing the nonsense PMO, process mapping stuff or do you think they were honing valuation skills, developing business strategy and developing new ideas".

I think what 'PhDMathematician' should do depends on what he is after in a job.

If he wants business training, to learn about strategy, add other skills to his maths etc to open up more options for his career - do strategy consulting

If he wants a job where his Maths will be used/valued the most and isn't as bothered about opening up avenues outside finance - do banking

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#11 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
06/02/2011 12:18

PhDMathematician to Bill (#10)

This doesn't sound encouraging but thanks for the input. My PhD is in stochastic processes so I thought about banking, but everyone I know who does it hates their jobs and despises their colleagues. They said it's too much routine calculation and not enough creative thought, so I wondered about MC as the firms websites claim they are about creative problem solving. I taught a problem solving-based course to LSE undergrads and was driven up the wall by the lack of logic on display, so I'm guessing you're saying MC might not be the best thing for me. Unless anyone knows of firms which aren't as bad? How depressing.

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#12 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
06/02/2011 14:10

quark to PhDMathematician (#11)

Go for Hedge Funds / PE firms. Failing that go for some niche consultancies with more focus on models etc. If you are looking for freedom and creativity big banks are NOT the place to be. My 2 cents

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#13 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
10/02/2011 22:22

Anon to quark (#12)

I'm an engineer...did a Masters in it....loved the Maths....became an Engineer designing buildings using Finite Element Modelling.....decided to do an MBA as didn't know much about business... thoroughly enjoying it....opened my eyes to things outside number crunching and modelling....and now looking for a way into MC....

Rubbish post I know, but I was/am in similar position, but going for the MC route due to options later in career. I have read several posts (as above) and spoken to a few who feel somewhat 'stuck' in finance.....they're MINTED, but claim they're not happy.....you do the maths??

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#14 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 08:36

Mars A Day to Anon (#13)

They may be 'minted' but they are also trapped...and more vulnerable to redundancy than anyone else - just look at the cull before bonus round each year.

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#15 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 09:04

Anon to Mars A Day (#14)

Mars a day, I'll take your word for it as I'm not exposed to the banking world....sounds tough??

....I assume this is another point for the MC camp then?...

I don't want to change the topic of the original post, as it's not mine, but can anyone give an approx salary for a new entrant into consulting with and without experience? I appreciate this is a bit of a 'string length' question, with lots of variables but is there a rule of thumb to use? I will be moving to London, (away from the wife and house) and therefore need to work out whether I need to sell the house (and wife). Any thoughts?

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#16 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 11:42

DCF to Anon (#15)

I would guess your piece of string could be anywhere from £45k to £65k long. I had someone working for me with a similar background and an Insead MBA who must have been at the bottom end of that range, but he just wasn't very good. can't your careers people give you some figures for what last year's class were getting?

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#17 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 13:10

Able Baker to DCF (#16)

As a fresh PhD graduate sans experience, the start point of that range would be nearer £30k

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#18 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 15:28

Coventry Boy to Able Baker (#17)

I graduated in August but have not yet obtained a job, so I presume you would consider me a fresh graduate.

I’ve been applying for consultancy jobs in the 25K region. I do not have any SANS experience.

What is this, and if I had it would I be qualified for jobs at the 30K level?

Is there a course I can do? How much does this cost?:

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#19 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 15:47

geeza to Coventry Boy (#18)

@CB - I'll do you a certificate for £4K saying 'SANS experience' then we'll both be quids in

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#20 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 15:51

Coventry Boy to geeza (#19)

4K? Can I just ask how necessary this is. I appreciate 4K expenditure might seem a good idea if to a payback of 5K in salary every year, but for a recent graduate spending 4K on a course of this nature is quite prohibitive.

Is ther no way into consultancy without this?

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#21 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 17:02

DCF to Coventry Boy (#20)

I'm afraid there isn't.

However, there is some good news. I'm prepared to provide you with this certification for £3k.

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#22 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 20:48

PA and proud of it to DCF (#21)

What does stochastic mean?

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#23 RE: Getting into consultancy with a PhD
11/02/2011 22:52

Stochasticasist to PA and proud of it (#22)

"random" (wikipedia, 2011)

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