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Experienced IT Executive on Joining BCG

This article is a discussion with a reader of our site, an experienced IT executive, on his journey to BCG. Italic sentences are from Firmsconsulting.

Thanks for maintaining such superb information at your site and allowing potential consultants to ask questions!

I tried to look if this question was answered in your forum but could not find it hence the question. The question is representative of many experienced professionals from top IT consulting firms who are looking to make a career change. I would like to mention that these firms also derive 5% of their revenues from management consulting, examples being Infosys, TCS, IBM, Cognizant, Wipro.

The type of consulting work done at these firms is totally different from McKinsey, BCG or Bain. Even where you are doing IT strategy, the technique, values and approaches you use are totally different. They are not comparable at all.

I am currently employed with one of these firms as a business consultant. Now Accenture, Deloitte, E&Y and KPMG also have advisory services/management consulting arm which is as big as their core audit or IT services.

My first question is what is the difference in recruitment methods in the BBM + other top pure consulting firms and the firms noted above?

The recruitment methods are different because BBM does different kind of work, hires different kinds of people and conducts IT strategy work in a different way. BBM is looking for very talented, quantitatively strong people who have a track record of excellence. When you are young, that means graduating with distinction from a good undergraduate program and a good MBA school. In older candidates they want to see rapid progress, demonstrated understanding of your field, and demonstrated ability to solve problems using the BBM approach. So recruitment is heavily focused on demonstrated competencies: strong case, fit and sector knowledge, as well as strong profile, image and communication skills.

Do we have to prepare our cover letter and resume in the same way for Accenture, Deloitte, E&Y and KPMG management consulting as we would do for BBM + other top pure consulting firms.

If you mean write it like the Harvard, Wharton, Ivey, Kellogg etc. MBA format, then I would say yes. Same with the cover letter. You don’t have to network if you have a very strong background. A good resume and cover letter will get you an interview provided you apply for the appropriate role.

My next question is whether I am eligible and appropriate for applying to BBM? I ask this because I have an MBA from India, hence no GMAT/SAT scores. But I am working in US for the last 4 years in (overall 8 years of experience) in IT business consulting where I am often a consumer of the recommendations of these top consulting firms. I am now a permanent resident of US and would like to apply for consulting firms in their US offices.

Your GMAT score, undergraduate schools, MBA school name, grades, actual work experience etc. are important to know to answer this question. I cannot do this on the information you provide. Age is also important. Once the “paper” screening is done, it is also not enough. I would need to speak to you to see how well you communicate and present yourself. So my advice is to get someone in consulting to provide this feedback. Though, I will point out that the more usual your profile, the more useful it would be to get feedback from partners who are better equipped to find value in such unusual profiles.

I tried to network my way to get an interview and the biggest challenge is on how to convince them that we do a very similar work to management consulting and regularly, and at the senior levels of managing client relations for top Fortune 500 companies.

Right here is the biggest problem. You do not do similar work. Trying to convince them you do is a direct indication to BBM that you are unwilling to be retrained and unwilling to learn new techniques. If you think your work was the same as BBM, why would you be willing to make the effort to learn? That is the biggest fear when hiring an experienced executive. When considering experienced hires, the main concerns are energy levels and the ability to quickly learn the right approach to conduct engagements. So going with this approach of trying to convince them you already do the right work is going to fail. Better to explain you have a good background and willing/able to learn the BBM approach to solving problems.

They seem to view our role as more technical.

That is because the work is more technical – and that is perfectly fine. Embrace your strength versus trying to massage it into something else! Of course Tata is trying to leverage their programming strength as a differentiator into consulting work. I have spoken to well over 200 IT professional trying to make the jump into BBM. All think they understand IT strategy, but some really do not. It takes a LOT of time re-educating and training these professionals to get ready for a BBM interview. One very popular video we have is “What is IT strategy?” and when IT professionals see this, then only do they realize why BBM does things differently and why their own work is so different. The video is a jarring eye-opener. We prepared this for the CIO (one of our corporate clients) of a media company in Spain who came from Accenture as a senior manager equivalent. It was a learning experience for him as well, and totally changed his view on his role. It is difficult to know the difference until you see it. BBM work is so different it requires a fundamental shift in the way you think and approach problems.

To break this barrier can we use quotes of independent research firms like Forrester and Gartner who are saying “MBA consultants at company X” are their prime differentiator and excellence in the resume footnotes?

No, that will not work. BBM is all about demonstrated competency. Quotes will not help. You will need to demonstrate you understand the difference between your previous experiences and demonstrate you have the skills to be at BBM.

Let me know how can I take my best shot while applying and interviewing for BBM firms.

First, your mindset needs to change. You need to understand how the work is different and how much more you need to learn and be comfortable with this. Last year, we placed about 28 people in McKinsey BTO. All very capable people, but they also needed to make this jump. As well, rewrite your resume.

I think my odds are higher with Accenture and Deloitte because they have a technology flavor. But If I go for Accenture, I read in your blog that I cannot go to BBM firm – is that true and why is that?

The more time you spend at Accenture, the more ingrained you become in the Accenture culture. The more ingrained you are in the Accenture culture, the less easy it is to relearn the BBM culture. That is why spending more time at Accenture makes it harder to break into BBM. In fact, the largest problem when dealing with E&Y, Deloitte (to some extent), PWC and Accenture clients is teaching them to speak and write English. They tend to use excessive jargon in their work – jargon which no one understands. Take 10 Accenture IT strategy resumes and count the number of times the word “transformation” appears. I am going to guess about 20 times! Transformation has a special meaning at Accenture, Deloitte and even Capgemini. Accenture people forget this and use it. If the word has different meaning what does it really mean? Write in English!

What’s my best course action here?

Rewrite your resume in the Harvard format, get someone to explain the differences between BCG/McKinsey IT strategy work and your work, and then prepare a strategy of NOT trying to show you already know everything. It must be a strategy of demonstrating you know enough to make the transition to BBM, understand the differences and willing/able to learn the new way of conducting IT strategy work. And do not give up or feel worried about my blunt feedback. I think it better to get this feedback now before you start preparing for interviews and realize things are much harder than you anticipated. McKinsey BTO is competitive but I would strongly urge you to try and join. Just do it.

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