To the CCTMC Community,
Welcome to our Summer 2021 quarterly publication. The second quarter of the year was extremely busy for CCTMC community, with multiple educational events and the conclusion of the 2021 Greater Houston Case Competition. In this issue, we highlight club alumnus Stephen Yan to hear about his journey to becoming a consultant at BCG and how his experience has been thus far. We also speak with Madeline Monroe, a former PhD student at Rice University to bring you first-hand information about the consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners. Lastly, we will highlight what each division accomplished in the first quarter of this year, and share what we have planned for the remainder of the year.
As always, we hope that the information provided here is valuable and helps you as you explore the consulting career.
Editor, CCTMC Connect
Vice President, CCTMC Finance and Operations
Editor, CCTMC Connect
Assistant Vice President, CCTMC Finance and Operations
CONSULTING AT TMC
The Consulting Club at the Texas Medical Center is non-profit organization for advanced degree candidates (MD, PhD, and Postdoctoral Fellows) that are interested in management consulting. We aim to train the brightest minds in the biomedical sciences to transition from academia to careers in management consulting.
Our team expertly curates a collection of programs designed to hone the business acumen of our members. We also host an array of networking sessions, panel discussions, and training sessions to rigorously prepare our members for the management consulting recruitment process.
SUMMER 2021 BY THE NUMBERS
180+ active members
Members represent 7+ institutions across the Houston TMC
Concluded 2021 TMC Case Competition
1st Place: EnVested (Baylor College of Medicine / Houston Methodist / UT Health San Antonio
2nd Place: Palladium Health Consulting (Johns Hopkins / Yale)
3rd Place: Golden Snitch Group (UPenn / Yale / UConn Health / UT Southwestern)
How CCTMC alumni are making an impact
J. Stephan Yan, PhD
Stephen is a Consultant at Boston Consulting Group. He earned his PhD in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering from Rice University where he evaluated gold nanoparticles for cancer immunotherapy. We sat down with Stephen to discuss his path to BCG and what he enjoys about the profession.
Stephen, thanks so much for joining us. Why don't we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself?
Stephen: Sure. So I attended both undergrad and grad school at Rice. In undergrad, I did research in cancer therapy, and for grad school I worked mostly on medical devices, like wearable electronics and flexible implants. I graduate with my PhD in March of 2020 and started at BCG in August. In my free time, I'm a huge movie fan and used to write movie reviews. I also played a ton of sports both in college and grad school, and also through adult leagues in Houston.
I did some consulting work with CCTMC and Enventure. I also ran Enventure's educational programs, where we taught young entrepreneurs how to value their technology and start their companies.
What drew you to management consulting as a career?
Stephen: I would say two reasons - the first being that I'm curious and interested in how things work. You see companies make these big decisions, especially during COVID. These are big, strategic changes in directions which have very large impacts on everyone in society as a whole, and so I was interested in how those things work and those decisions are made. The second reason is that I'm impatient. During a PhD, I really enjoyed the process and learned a lot, but a lot of the PhD takes very long. I wanted to see the impact of my work on the scale of months or a year, instead of 10 or 20 years. So that's what really drew me to consulting over academia in the end. But that isn't to say that academia isn't very valuable work, it's just on a different time scale.
What kinds of skills did you develop during your PhD that translated to being a consultant?
Stephen: So there are many things that you develop during a PhD that will translate to a consulting career. The ability to learn things quickly is very important, because often times you are on a case and you have no idea about the industry. So you have to really learn about the company, learn about the landscape, and you need to do that quickly to contribute. If you're on a short case, say 6 weeks, you can't take a week or two to learn things, because that's a third of your case right there. Secondly, you have to make the best informed decision based on incomplete information. During your first two years of your PhD, you're trying to figure out which direction you want to take the project, and you're not an expert in the field. So, you can't just keep waiting around trying to build up on your knowledge base before you make a decision, or you keep trying things to figure out which project you want to move forward with. I unfortunately didn't do this during my PhD, and had I done it, my PhD would have been shorter. But this is a very important skill to learn in consulting - making the best informed decision based on the information that you have.
How is it different for a PhD coming into consulting vs an MBA?
Stephen: I wouldn't necessarily say anything is different, but there are two mental aspects that are important. First, you have to be willing to learn and not get discouraged. You will encounter just a lot of words that you don't understand in your first few meetings, or a slide deck for background information that, again, just has a lot of information you don't know. It's really important to not get discouraged and to just keep learning, which is also similar to a PhD. And secondly, you have to have confidence in yourself. It's not really about having a PhD vs an MBA. You have to realize that they have no consulting background either. While they may understand some of the words or economic principles better, they are starting at, in my opinion, a similar starting point as a consultant. That really helps you to build confidence, both in your work and when you're communicating with other people.
Can you describe a little bit about your transition from academia to consulting? What was most difficult and most surprising?
Stephen: The most surprising part is how supportive and understanding people are to helping you with the transition. This again comes down to the mentality. You aren't expected to make this transition alone - so many people have done the transition and they've seen many people do it, they know what you'll need help with. I was more scared than I should have been because I didn't expect there to be so much help and support. If I had to pick one thing that has been the most difficult is that you have to make a first impression very fast. What's different is that in academia, when you meet someone for the first time, they are at least familiar with your work during, say, a conference or a presentation. In consulting, your first impression is made before you are talking about any business. At your first meeting for a client, you don't start with why you're there or what problem you are trying to solve. You go ask them about their day, ask about themselves, you tell them about yourself, so that's when your first impression is made. The first impression really matters for how your relationship will be when on the case. You have to build that rapport and trust in a very short amount of time.
How did you prepare for interviews?
Stephen: When I was preparing, I read some books and actually watched a lot of YouTube videos. There are so many videos out there of case practices, some good, some not so good. It's nice to be able to just listen and learn while you're driving or walking the dog. This was really helpful for me. Also, just practice cases with a few different people. In my opinion, I don't think that you need to practice a hundred different cases with a hundred different people, but I'm not going to say that it isn't helpful. I found it helpful to do a case or two per week with a person, which gives you time to change your framework if you have to and think back to things you did and didn't do well.
Another thing that I want to mention that people don't put enough attention into is that you want to prepare for the personal experience aspects of the interviews. Coming back to the first impression point made above, the personal/fit interviews is where you make that first impression and can set the tone for the rest of your interview process.
What is your work-life balance like at BCG?
Stephen: It's true that, as a consultant, you do work a lot. So before we start a case, at least for BCG, I speak with my manager about having protected time during the week. For example, I will try to protect an hour for dinner every day. I'll have to go back to work afterwards, but it's an hour to unwind. Also, during past cases, we try to do one of night of the week where we don't work past 7pm, so you have the evening off. So far, all my managers have done a really good job of protecting the weekend for us. Sometimes though you do have to work on the weekends. Normally you have a conversation of, if there is extra work, do you want to do it weeknights or on the weekends.
Do you envision any long term changes from the pandemic to the management consulting industry?
Stephen: So this is really interesting because there are a lot of conversations being had about it. I think that what people have to come to realize, and this isn't just management consulting specific, is that you're able to do a lot of things remote. That saves a lot of money. The productivity from working at home is actually a lot higher than people expected. And a lot of people like it. So there is a lot to be considered there because the relationship building is a lot better in person. Do I see the industry changing? I don't know. A lot of people want to be back on the road. There is a very fine balance of working from home and being on site with the client to further strengthen those relationships.
SUMMER 2021 DIVISION UPDATES
Recap and Outlook for the Remainder of the Year
QUARTER IN REVIEW
We exist to help students learn about consulting careers and to provide all the resources they need to get there. We have been working throughout the the year to improve the club and better serve the TMC community.
So far, we have offered free educational workshops attended by 700+ people, held a successful nationwide case competition, and created new partnerships with companies like Harris Health, Health Advances, and McKinsey & Co.
For the remainder of 2021, the executive team and a core group of talented training members are continuing to create new ways to bridge the gap from academia to consulting: in-depth training workshops, consulting projects across industries, networking sessions and panels, and much more.
We want to see the TMC produce some of the best consulting candidates in America, and we need talented people who are committed to achieving this same goal. Come and build with us!
Assistant Vice President
The Education division is continuing to work on providing our members with quality educational materials to help our members become familiar with the consulting career and how to prepare to land jobs at the top firms. March saw us conclude our Business Basics Series, where we provided our members with foundational business concepts that can be applied in case interviews as well as real-world consulting cases. We also hosted multiple career development workshops, from crafting effective resumes and cover letters to successfully navigating the consulting fit interview. We kicked-off the 2021 Case Competition with an event aimed at providing members with basics on solving a case.
We are currently developing a series on how to land interviews at consulting firms, as well as focused workshops on how to solve cases once you land the interview.
The 2021 Greater Houston Case Competition was a huge success! Over 15 teams from around the country presented their solutions to our client sponsor, Harris Health. Teams were given the opportunity to present in front of executives from Harris Health as well as consultants and ex-consultants from various firms around the country. If you're a training member, you can check out the 1st-3rd place presentations under the "Resources" for reference to future case competitions as well as how to structure a case for case interviews!
We continue to develop relationships with different universities, consulting firms, and alumni as additional channels for our members to learn more about consulting and gain exposure to consulting professionals. Stay tuned as we are currently organizing our first in-person social at Valhalla in late July as a chance for our members to meet everyone in person!
Assistant Vice President
Assistant Vice President
The Consulting Agency has been working hard to develop relationships and potential consulting projects that our training members can be apart of. We are excited to share that we are currently developing project ideas with multiple potential clients. Training members will have the opportunity to gain real-world experience in client-facing roles, and bring forward solutions to clients as it relates to business problems such as market sizing, marketing and pricing strategy, and profitability analysis.
Consulting firms highly value real-world experience, and we aim to provide our members with the opportunity to gain that experience.
The Finance & Operations Division continues to work behind the scenes to ensure that both financials as well as logistics are running smoothly to support all divisions and ensure that our members are continuing to gain the most value for their investment in both us and themselves. We played an instrumental role in coordinating the Case Competition and were able to give our training members an opportunity to participate in putting the competition together.
Additionally, we continue to work to bring you the Quarterly Publication and provide valuable information that will be of help when preparing for consulting interviews and thinking about which consulting firms you may be the best fit at.
FINANCE & OPERATIONS
Assistant Vice President
Highlighting management consulting firms
FROM THE FIRM
“Simon-Kucher helps our clients grow their revenues and profits. Faster, better, and more sustainably than anyone else. We do this by optimizing their pricing, sales, and marketing strategies.
Simon-Kucher is a global consultancy firm with a clear focus on top-line growth. With more than 1,400 employees in 26 countries worldwide, we deliver measurable revenue and profit growth for clients from all industries and regions. Our projects increase our clients' profitability by 100 to 500 basis points on average.
We have 35 years of experience with monetization topics of all kinds - from pricing strategies, customer segmentation, user experience, offer design, and packaging, to negotiation techniques, and sales excellence. We are a growth consultancy and a specialist in all top-line and profit levers - with pricing still the core of our work.
Simon-Kucher was founded in 1985 as a university spinoff by Dr. Hermann Simon, Dr. Eckhard Kucher, and Dr. Karl-Heinz Sebastian.
Their vision: Use scientific methods to address real-life business challenges and help companies grow.
Initially focusing on the life sciences industry, Simon-Kucher expanded project work to all industries as the idea of strategically using pricing to drive profits rapidly gained acceptance."
Madeline Monroe, Ph.D.
Madeline is a consultant in the Life Sciences Division at Simon-Kucher. She completed her Bioengineering Ph.D. from Rice University in June 2020, where she studied the roles of extracellular matrix composition and sex-linked factors in influencing heart disease progression. After graduating, she joined Simon-Kucher as a Consultant in October 2020, and has since been working there.
Can you tell us a little bit about Simon-Kucher as a firm?
Madeline: Simon-Kucher (SK) is a relatively small firm when compared to a McKinsey or BCG. There's approximately 1,800 employees across the globe. At SK, you get to work with a lot of different experts in a lot of different project types, both geographically and in different focus areas. SK primarily works with large, well-established companies, private equity firms, or venture capital firms. So, it's been really great to work with well-known pharmaceutical and med-tech companies.
At SK, you will join of two divisions. One division is called "The Americas" division, and that deals with areas like consumables, financial services, and software. The other division, "Healthcare & Life Sciences" (denoted LS) is the division that all Ph.D. holders will join. The offices for the LS division, at least in the United States, are concentrated in Boston, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley. When I first started at SK, I was placed in the med-tech subsegment of the LS division, which I have really enjoyed so far.
What types of projects are you typically involved in? And how are they staffed?
Madeline: The big saying at SK has to do with "top-line power", which means to bolster revenue without cutting costs. So this tends to be a lot of projects around optimizing marketing and analyzing different types of market access, analyzing buyer perception through interviews and focus groups. Another big theme at SK is pricing, so you take that market research and you can analyze different aspects of it to give a recommendation about pricing products.
For staffing, it's typically 2-3 consultants, a director, and a partner. But for bigger, more international projects the staffing is different. As an example, I just got started on a project that involves a lot of different people across multiple countries. For that project, there are 10 consultants, multiple directors and partners, but this is a special case.
Within the LS division, do a lot of the consultants have PhDs?
Madeline: The people who founded SK actually all had PhDs! But I believe it was in economics and not STEM fields. Back to the question, the team that I'm familiar with, there is a significant number of PhDs. 25% of LS associates have a PhD, which is another reason I really enjoy the team and SK's culture. The LS division is very concentrated in associates straight out of undergrad or PhDs.
Does SK offer internships to advanced degree candidates?
Madeline: I was actually first introduced to SK through their internship program. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my career, I just searched on Indeed "PhD Consulting Internship", SK popped up and the division of life sciences sounded interesting to me! As far as a specific internship, similar to say a "Bridge to BCG", SK doesn't offer that. I know that we are trying to come up with something more formal for local candidates in the Boston and San Francisco offices. That being said, typically in the fall SK will begin posting MBA and PhD internship slots. The interview process is the same as it would be for applying to an actual consultant job, which included first- and second-round interviews over the phone, which was a mix of behavioral and case questions. For the final round, they flew me out to Boston and I went through a series of 4 interviews, with one interview being behavioral, and the other 3 being case interviews. The internships are 10 weeks long, so you obviously need to check with your advisor about taking that amount of time off. During the internship, you get placed on projects as if you were a consultant, and you do get paid.
But another thing that I want to touch on regarding interviews, especially for PhD students - it's not how perfectly you do the case study, it's how creative you are with it. Obviously you want to get it correct, but a more interesting and creative approach is valued over something that is typically acceptable, as in whatever the boiler plate answer is. And with regards to resumes, they want to see some type of consulting experience. Not necessarily at a firm, but science-to-business application. Having that on your resume is better than, say, just a case competition.
What is the work-life balance like at SK?
Madeline: Consulting is going to be a job that's a lot of hours regardless, but if you want any time for your life or your family, then joining a smaller firm like SK makes a huge difference. You don't have to travel as much and it's more specialized. There is definitely a company culture of having your own hours and not being ashamed to take the rest of the day off. It's very supportive. When I was applying for consulting jobs, I was very much caught up in wanting to join the top firms (McKinsey, BCG, Bain), and if I didn't land there, then I didn't want to do consulting. I wish that I had someone to tell me more about these smaller opportunities and to remove the stigma of not landing in a top 3 firm then it isn't worth it. It's the same skills, same premise of what you want to do, but it's not the most extreme environment.
As far as having to work on weekends, it ebbs and flows with your project. There's always a life cycle to a project and times where it will be super busy, so there may be times where you have to work on a Sunday.
Can you describe where PhD's fit into the employee hierarchy and what the compensation is like?
Madeline: Consultant levels 1 & 2 are typically employees from straight out of undergrad. Incoming PhD consultants start at Consultant level 3, and MBA's start at Consultant Level 4. The incoming salary for PhDs is comparable to the top 3, but it is slightly lower. The starting salary for PhDs is going to be 6-figure though, no question. The compensation is more than fair given the input and time.
What opportunities exist for growth at SK? And will Consultants typically stay for ~2-3 years before moving on to new jobs?
Madeline: So at SK, there isn't a culture of "up or out", which is where you have to get promoted or they counsel you to leave, which to me was a huge relief, as it took some of the stress out of the job. Promotion at SK is done through 360° evaulations, which happen twice a year. You are graded by your colleagues and partners, and you talk with a partner twice a year about your strengths and weaknesses, and at the end of the year you are either promoted or stay at the same level.
As far as the second question, I don't have exact numbers, but there are people that consistently leave, but not after only a year or so. People typically stick around until they reach the level of senior consultant and manager. This isn't because of SK, but because of consulting as a job and how conducive it is to what you want to do. You get to be exposed to all of these different projects and meet clients and executives. Some people will actually get offered jobs from those projects, and consultants decide to take that.