Learn how to transition to management consulting
Prerana Pradhan is a Senior Manager in Accenture's Life Sciences R&D practice. She studied Biomedical Engineering and got her masters from Cornell University, with a focus on cell and tissue engineering. Prerana first worked at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she worked on microfluidic devices and circulating tumor cell capture. She joined Accenture sooner after, and has been there ever since.In her free time, Prerana watches movies, goes hiking, and spends time with her friends and family. She loves travelling with her husband, and can't wait to go to more places as the pandemic gets more stable!
1. Why and how did you decide on a career in consulting?
I had pursued a bachelor's and master's degree in biomedical engineering and went onto working for a medical device startup. Through this industry experience and conversations with mentors, I became more interested in working on the applied side of life sciences, which lined up with my interest in consulting.
2. What are some helpful tips for the case interviews and your specific experiences with Accenture?
The best interviewers can summarize their daily experiences and outline them in a way that highlights why those skills translate to consulting. What normally is being tested is how the candidate can think through a standard problem that could come up with clients. For example, if you have a lab background, day-to-day experiences may include running protocols and taking insights from the data to check the validity of the hypothesis. So the skills that you want to apply to your case interviews involve data analysis, the ability to understand a problem and synthesize a plan on how to solve that problem.
3. What makes Accenture stand out from other consulting companies?
Accenture was my top choice since its life science practice is very strong - they do everything from tech to strategy consulting. Accenture originally started off as a tech company, but at the time that I joined, it was expanding to management and strategy consulting. What attracted me to Accenture was its culture as well as the opportunity of shaping the expansion into different branches of consulting.
4. What made you switch from technology consulting to management consulting? Could you describe this transition?
Tech consulting involves solving problems through various technology or product solutions, for example managing clinical data better and taking it to the FDA submission stage, etc.
Management consulting solving problems through organizational and operating model solutions, for example changing management or business operations to better operate the company. Personally, the transition was a bit of luck and a bit of networking. When you go into consulting, you do networking within the firm and meet individuals doing different services/consulting. When I would work with leadership or the space I was interested in, I would express my interest in getting involved in their projects. Accenture values blends of expertise - both management and tech, clinical, regulatory, research etc – so I was able to work with different types of leadership.
5. How has your personal experience been with work-life balance in consulting and at Accenture specifically?
One of the biggest reasons why I have loved and stayed at Accenture is because of the people.It’s very much a collaborative environment - people are always available for guidance and mentorship as you grow and transition in your career. The model of the culture is people centric - mentors that look out for you and help you find what you want to do. Work-life balance varies based on projects - some projects can have long hours and others do not. Typically, the range is 40-60 hours, but again, that depends highly on your project. But my teams have always been supportive of me if I needed to do something for myself.
Tech consulting projects tend to be longer, taking months or even years. Within that, there are weeks that can be especially busy and some not. Management consulting projects are typically shorter in length.
6. How long did it take you to transition from consultant to Senior Manager and what was that experience like? What are your recommendations for aspiring consultants looking to do the same?
I have been at Accenture for 8 years and became Senior Manager this past year. Everyone’s journey can be different and can also vary depending on the consulting firm. When you come in as an analyst, you need to be building the ability to understand what the client is saying and working with your team on tactical things to be done to solve the problems. You need to own the ability to make slides, excel sheets and grow your responsibilities. In the beginning, you could be owning a deliverable. As you move forward in your consulting career, you want to be owning more deliverables and establishing strong advisory relationships with your client. Once you have that advisory relationship and can manage multiple work streams/deliverables, that’s when you become a manager. From there, it’s about growing the scope of work as well as growing your team. As the senior manager, I have certain clients that I’m focused on, and I need to make sure that the team delivers per client expectations.
7. How competitive was it to get to Senior Manager and how did you stand out from others?
Everyone’s story is different on how they have grown and what they excelled at. What worked for me I think is that I chased what I was passionate about, which was the clinical space. I built my name, network, and quality of my work around those interests and focused on how to do the best that I can do. I worked with good people within the practice that would give me valuable feedback and help me grow.
8. Have you considered getting an MBA?
At one point, I did consider getting an MBA. However, I finally decided not to get one since I felt I was getting the necessary skills and experience through the projects I had completed in Accenture. Some consultants do get an MBA if they are interested in exploring different sides of business that they didn’t have the chance to explore through their projects and would like to learn more about, such as finance or stats.
9. What are some things you wish you knew when looking back on your career journey?
The thing that was most challenging for me when transitioning from research to consulting was learning the business/consulting language. The way we communicate in research is different from consulting – consulting is broader and action oriented: what is the purpose of the meeting, what are the roles, and why are defined roles important. It took me some time to be comfortable asking simple questions. I needed to continuously learn and adapt to speak a certain way. One helpful resource I found is Barbara Minto’s tips on logical ways to understand problems and gain good communication skills.