Monday, July 21, 2008

Horizons - Alum Interaction Series kicks off on 21st June 2008

As part of its continuing efforts to tap into the large pool of highly successful alumni base of the institute, especially in the arena of consulting, the Consulting Club organized its first chapter of the alumni series, aptly titled “Horizons”. The event was made special by the presence of our distinguished alumni, representing different consulting firms, sharing the same dais and coming together to address some of the burning queries that the batch had on consulting, as a career.

The following alums attended the event
Rohit Kapoor, ISB Class of 2006, currently with Mc Kinsey & Co
Ankur Warikoo, ISB Class of 2006, currently with AT Kearney
Sunil Rana, ISB Class of 2005, currently with Oliver Wyman
Varun Gupta, ISB Class of 2007, currently with the Boston Consulting Group
Tarun Pandey, ISB Class of 2003, currently with ZS Associates
Aman Sood, ISB Class of 2005, currently with Accenture

The entire event was organized into three sub-sessions, with each session covering questions related to one facet of consulting. The alums took their turns addressing the critical questions in each of the sessions.

Leveraging your past experience for a career in Consulting

Tarun and Varun kicked off the session. Giving a snapshot of his career pre and post ISB, Tarun explained how relevant experience in niche industries could get one into his or her choice of a consulting role. Having started out as an architect post his graduation from IIT Roorkee, Tarun went on to start businesses of his own, designing various web portals such as e-greetings etc, and working on pilot projects for Indiatimes, before joining ISB to pursue his MBA. At ISB he worked on developing his skills in the areas of Leadership and Marketing. Tarun joined Infosys in the USA as a CRM consultant. It was there that he was able to leverage on his experiences in customer relations and marketing to apply and land with a lateral placement offer with ZS Associates. The firm which focuses on sales force and marketing related consulting found a direct match in his experience in marketing and customer relationship management.

Building on Tarun’s observation, Varun, in a trademark consulting style, elucidated the key aspects of one’s experience within three silos:-
· Deriving direct value from one’s experience e.g. in marketing, sales etc to apply to specific roles in consulting,
· Developing transferable skills while on the job, and finally
· Using the courses available at ISB to build upon one’s own prior professional experience.
These three combined, he vouched, could act as a good recipe for success in terms of using one’s prior experience for a successful consulting career.

All the alums were unanimous on the opinion that a right choice of electives was very important in deriving the best out of one’s experience at ISB, in terms of a successful career. “Use your electives wisely and carefully, in terms of completing your overall picture, whichever career you go for” was what Varun had to say. Sunil elaborated further by saying that even though consulting firms never really looked at the electives one had chosen, what mattered was the depth of knowledge one had acquired in the chosen electives. Reflecting on their experiences, the alums mentioned that it was also important to balance one’s workload with respect to electives to allow room for other activities. Some electives required huge amounts of work, while others were comparatively lighter. “Choose a tactical mix of heavy and light electives, and take your alums help for this” – opined Rohit.

What to do to make the most of your stay at ISB

“There aren’t really any trade offs that one has to make here at ISB – you can do just about everything – what you may have to decide perhaps is what the next batch would remember you for” – Rohit said. To concretize the statement, Rohit suggested a strategy in terms of trying and deciding by the end of term 3, what one’s primary focus should be – top of the line academics leading to a dean’s list, very good extra curricula and so on . Without negating the significance of a decent academic performance, all the alums opined that it was more important to do at least one thing really well and to come out on top in that.

On the issue of whether to go for an ELP or a PaEV, Ankur said again that it was more important to do something with full passion and achieve at least a semblance of a good result. At the end of it, “A partner interviewing you would perhaps have no clue about what an ELP is unless you choose to talk about you, but if you do, make sure you are ready to be grilled”. To sum it all up Sunil had this to say “Choose something you really like, put your heart into it, get some results, then go ahead and use it”.

There were some “early” questions on CV preparation and Case Studies, however these were just touched upon, given the fact there would be more detailed sessions on both.

Consulting as a Career
Moving to the last topic of the day “Consulting as a Career” – Ankur addressed the questions in a unique way by talking about three reasons why one should not choose consulting as a career:-

Do not go for consulting if you are not very receptive to change – most firms look for generalists, and you have to be willing to switch between projects in different industries within a short time period.
Consulting requires detail orientation - if you do not have that inkling for detail, this might not be just the right space for you
Do not take up consulting if you don’t like being the weekend parent – consulting is a demanding travel oriented job.
Consulting as an industry is unstructured – do not go for it if you are not adaptable to ambiguities.

Ankur elaborated on the above points; by saying that these were important reasons why many MBA’s would not be happy doing the job, even if they did it well. Having said so, all alums were unanimous on the fact that consulting as a career was immensely satisfying in terms of the impact on clients – financial or related to implementation and change management.

The alums also fielded questions on exit options after consulting and cited private equity, corporate strategy and entrepreneurship as the three primary options for consultants. Sunil and Aman also explained how some of the consulting firms offer short sabbaticals in between projects, where consultants actually go and work in the industry, thus making it easier to choose their exit options. Rohit elaborated on the primary reasons why consultants choose to exit the industry –money, change in approach from advisory to action, or just a general slowdown with more meaningful work being on the top.

One primary concern that seemed to have been raised by quite a few students, was the work life balance – especially for women in the industry. This question was addressed very positively by all the alums. While all them maintained that they would really not be able to elaborate on specific problems faced by women in the industry, but would be glad to direct interested students to their female colleagues, they cited very clear cut guidelines laid down as policy in most firms. Aman for example explained how Accenture has clear cut policy documentation on caring about the female workforce.

Rohit had an interesting perspective on the entire issue of work life balance for all consultants. He explained that first, an engagement manager had a huge incentive to ensure a good work life balance for his team members, for fear of losing a good team in the future. Second, with other industries too catching up with consulting as top career choices, it was up to the consulting profession as a whole to offer a good work life balance as a positive. The alums also gave examples of some of the policies adopted by their respective firms – the 0% travel factor at ZA Associates, to the across the board work from home flexibility. Aman in fact pointed out that Accenture allowed all its consultants to work from home if they were not on a live project. Sunil further advised all students to specifically engage firms coming to the campus in conversations on how well they addressed the issue of work life balance.

This first in the “Horizons” series turned out to be a success in terms of bringing alums from a range of firms up close and personal with the students. All the alums were kind enough to make themselves available for further one on one session even later into the night, both during the barbeque party and outside.

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