Learn how this bright and talented lady joined Bain Europe despite tough odds. She had no business background whatsoever, she was from a non target school in a developing country, she had never even heard of a consulting club (this is how non-target her school was) and was previously rejected in the 1st round with MBB. If your background is not ideal read this client’s story to see that everything is possible if you are disciplined and get the right guidance.
Did you enjoy the case interview coaching program? If yes, how?
Yes. The reason I joined the program was that I was rejected at round 1 with an MBB. Feedback was that I had great fit but no idea what a case is, though I visibly enjoyed problem solving.
I come from a country with no target schools, never heard of a consulting club and obviously had no access to case materials so I started looking for cases online. What I have found was so robotic and non-creative that it made me reconsider consulting as a career. Then I found one of Firmsconsulting videos on youtube, and for the first time saw logical thinking that a non-business school person could understand. I find that this methodology is what made the program enjoyable.
I knew my starting point so I could see my progress over time. The improvement was smoothly incremental instead of big leaps. In a way the pace which was adjusted as needed helped me fully internalize each layer to become if not second nature, something I consciously think about.
When it comes to case practice, my lack of experience was double-sided. On the one hand, I was not competing on the same skill level as applicants from other backgrounds who were very polished on cases. On the other hand, this meant I was a blank page and had no bad case habits to correct.
I watched the videos on TCO I and TCO II very diligently. They were very clear and the rationale of any step used was thoroughly explained. These were a great base to prepare for my coaching sessions with Michael. While the online content is very detailed, the coaching sessions helped address different things: for instance my pace, my excitement level. I have very little experience in interviewing so being in a call with Michael helped me prep for the live interview setup instead of just practicing alone. As a person with a very short attention span, Michael knew exactly how to help me focus by only giving me 2 or 3 development areas to work on.
I must say the initial rejection combined with my strong desire to change career paths did hurt my self-esteem. I found that Michael used aspirational teaching model on me. There is nothing more empowering than having a senior consulting expert telling you “it is OK if you do not know what Gross Margin is, let me teach you, you’ll see it’s easy“. This is very important as I come from a culture where shaming and ridiculing the other is a norm in the corporate world. Knowing that it was safe for me to ask any question made the learning process very enjoyable.
As we were progressing in the sessions, I appreciated the feedback even more because I did not want to fail someone who had this level of trust in my abilities when everyone else it seemed at the time did not see my potential.
Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?
When I contacted Firmsconsulting, I had listened to over 200 Firmsconsulting podcasts. I was very clear on the value system of all partners involved and that is what attracted me to the program. In all honesty, I was not expecting to be retained, I just wanted advice as I felt desperate.
I knew the program would be excellent, but the part I didn’t expect was the emotional involvement. I felt that Michael cared deeply about my success and that dynamic was very present in the calls. As I work full time, it was my responsibility to have the discipline to carve out time to watch videos, but the calls with Michael were never a constraint, we even had calls on weekends. Also, while I suppose other programs would be strictly technical, what made the difference was the intangible part.
Michael addressed my insecurities instead of belittling them or discarding them as irrelevant to the training. This is what makes this program a league of its own.
What was the most important learnings from the program?
The most important learning for me was that everything you do in an interview is meant to show that this is exactly how you would act in front of a CEO. The techniques taught are bullet-proof, but it is up to you to present them in an elegant way.
Quality over quantity always. I did not prepare for a very long time nor did I have access to a case partner to practice at home so I made the most out of each coaching session.
My last interview of 3rd round was with the strategy practice leader and I did not use a pen, I did not stutter, I even told jokes and my hand gestures were all over the place. I would have never imagined that I’d be this comfortable with someone that senior. I obviously knew I was not his peer, but I held my ground in a professional manner and showed I can have a very smart yet pleasant conversation with someone of high caliber. Ultimately, this was the reason why they hired me 20 minutes later.
Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?
I had no resource in my country to practice cases, let alone polish my fit stories. I sought advice from friends who worked abroad and knew colleagues who were applying in consulting. The feedback was that I needed case partners, had to practice dozens of cases every week and get answers exactly similar to what was on the case books.
As a creative person, I felt this widespread approach was mind-numbing and as a company manager I would not trust someone who memorized a book to solve my issues and command the fees of a top consulting firm. I knew I needed something different, tailored to my personal style of learning and the program allowed me to thrive and retain my personality instead of conforming to a mold.
Can you recall any memorable moments?
As my interview date was getting closer, some changes occurred at my work and added to an already challenging personal life. I was even more desperate in getting into consulting because my family’s welfare depended on it. Yet, I did not discuss this in detail with Michael and really wanted to focus on cases.
Because of my background and my current motivation to leave my job and my country, I felt I would be rejected very fast and started losing sleep over it.
Somehow, Michael sensed my desperation and said that in the last 2 sessions we will focus on my concerns. Every cell in my brain wanted to do cases because maybe if I do one more I would cover a topic I didn’t know. But I trusted Michael so we dedicated the sessions to address the fit questions I was most scared of. I did the last call from the hotel the night before my interview and Michael repeated some things over and over until I overcame the paralyzing fear about my background. I was confident again and that night I did not practice any case. I simply rested and started my next day with the intention of getting an offer few hours later because they need my talent and will see it.
What would you like changed in the program?
I would love to see a TCO with a candidate with absolutely no exposure to consulting. The candidates in seasons 1 and 2 went to business schools or to Ivy league or McGill type of institutions. While I learned a lot from the episodes, as someone who never went to a target school, never heard of a consulting club, and who did all their studying and work in a developing country, I could not relate.
Do you believe your coach was effective?
Yes, I think Michael instilled the right balance of care and firmness in the program.
He has very high professional standards and I knew he had notes on a file tracking my progress so I had to reciprocate. I too kept a journal on my progress, made sure to never come unprepared and carefully acted on his feedback.
Michael’s feedback is very straightforward. Maybe not for everybody but I needed the truth and appreciated it. I did not invest all my savings to have someone tell me comforting things. I needed to progress for a chance of a lifetime and I felt Michael was very candid, tough and reassuring. The most important was that not only he gives you feedback, but he tells you how to work on fixing the problem. It could be demoralizing to know that you have a development area, but as long as you know how to fix it, then it is up to you to work on it.
It is an immense chance to have someone tell you exactly what a partner is silently thinking when interviewing you. The way I see it is that it’s better to get the feedback in a safe no judgement environment when practicing than when your offer is at stake.
Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?
Yes, absolutely, I was strong on some areas so focused on my improvement opportunities instead of going through a generic curriculum.
What are your thoughts on using former worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?
I had my interviews before getting a chance to practice with one of the other coaches but I have watched TCO II and this changed my perception of how senior partners interact with interviewees. I must say my last round interview was with a worldwide strategy practice leader and had I not watched Kevin Coyne‘s videos, I would have been too intimidated to function properly.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think this is an amazing program that quickly sets apart the candidates who are serious about a consulting career with the right value system and not because it is an apparently glamorous lucrative job.
The success of this training is highly dependent on the candidate’s personal motivation and discipline. The rigor required to go through the content should be a reflection of how you would approach your first engagement within an MBB. The way you will use Michael’s time and feedback should mimic your interaction with your client so learn as much as possible and know that you have an opportunity that many others will not have. Good luck.