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Okay full disclosure: This piece is purely a biased version of my experience at a leading strategy consulting firm, which competes fairly well with Big Three for clients & talent and stands 5th on Vault Rankings for consulting firms globally. When I say biased, I really mean it because this “summer internship” was done after my job at the World’s largest VC firm. Hence this post could really use a #humblebrag in the title. This story is eccentrically crazy, so by all means stop reading now if you’re looking for a nicer fairytale.
This would honestly need another blogpost in itself, given the fact that getting a consulting internship was really my holy grail and our campus is visited by 2 firms only.
After getting shortlisted for the interview process, I had to undergo 5 rounds of interviews, the trickiest being the last one wherein a case problem was made from my resume itself. I had prepared from a book by Victor Cheng and another book called Case Interviews Cracked; though my in-sem professional engagements and work experience helped a lot in shaping the right kind of attitude and getting through the process.
People: I found the senior leadership to be charismatic and got to work very closely with them. Consultants were very kind, helpful and accommodating in nature. I tried to pick up conversations with the people and initiated discussions around the solutions we deliver to our clients, potential business streams for the firm etc. One of the most salient features of working at a consulting firm like Oliver Wyman is the non-hierarchical construct and readily accessible leadership, a rare proposition in the industry otherwise.
Culture: The firm heavily invests in their human capital and internship program, which is easy to ascertain from the fact that 3 people were specifically allocated roles namely Intern Buddy, Intern Captain and Intern Mentor to nurture my professional growth and cultural integration. Apart from this, the Human Capital and Talent Management teams from Singapore kept catching-up regularly to check if my internship expectations were being met.
I was almost surprised by their efforts to maintain a great culture within the firm.
Every Friday, consultants fly back to their home office to work together. There is a ‘Lunch & Learn’ session where a consultant presents his learnings from past project over lunch.
In the evening or late afternoon on Fridays, we have ‘happy hours’ which is a social event planned by one of the consultants and could range from a lavish culinary indulgence to a bowling night or sometimes just an opulent ‘salmon-over-a-glass-of-wine’ dinner.
Work: After spoilers from Victor Cheng and the general outlook of consulting industry, I had set very high expectations from this internship (also factoring in the opportunity cost of setting aside my VC engagement – the stakes were really high).
At Oliver Wyman, they treat interns at par with entry level consultants, and hence you get to work on a live project. Also their unique ‘regional staffing model’ allows you (even the interns) to work anywhere across Asia Pacific. Think about flying business class and staying in an upscale 5-star property, if that helps. Hence I got to work in my preferred sectors and geography and was fortunate enough to get a decent piece of client interaction.
Caution: A lot of times entry-level professionals in this field end up working on piece-meal based analyses supporting someone in the mid-level of the organisation.
It is highly preferred that you work on a piece end-to-end, taking the ownership of your work and being more responsible about the solutions you deliver.
My purpose of this internship was to develop a strong business sense. Commenting on the gratification of the same, I would say that it is integral for every actor to have a skin in the game and mature into an ‘Antifragile’ system. As I endeavour to make a meaningful contribution amidst my client project, I might be inclined to test the hypothesis of Vinod Khosla’s wisdom contained in his session at Stanford GSB. (highly recommended). If I were to summarise the experience so far, I would call it one that has appropriate hand-holding with significant headroom for growth.
Alas, I would emphasise that though an internship of good repute might be a Herculean task for most of us, one must not trivialize the importance of adding a significant value by consciously taking initiatives and aligning it with their “5-years down the line” story. Because leaving your internship totally confused about your experience is not a good idea, even if you can dumbfoundedly carry the haughty brand on your shoulders.
And to all the fellow readers underwhelmed by this, I am sure my friends working elsewhere will be able to paint a rosy picture of the consulting industry and help you revive the prestige associated with working at one.
But, if you have myopically chosen for the gold rush, Oliver Wyman is surely a jackpot.