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PhD’s unusual path and strengths to BCG Asia

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

I enjoyed the program in all respects. I was ill throughout the month of the interviews and cancelled or postponed every session and FC understood my situation. Michael offered to cancel and redo 2 sessions when I was too sick to handle the questions posed.

I did not go through the entire program and only completed 6 sessions of the 12. I enjoyed the six sessions and liked the effort Michael made to teach me simple ways to solve math problems, brainstorm ideas and solve cases. The brainstorming techniques were very good and I liked this. In my PhD class, I practiced with colleagues who had spent months preparing and they always struggled to build frameworks. Michael dissuaded me a few times from memorizing frameworks and forced me to learn how to build them. I think this allowed me to learn more with fewer sessions.

Michael was generally very professional and supportive at the same time. I felt he took extra time to help me understand the challenges I would face as a female PhD applying for a BCG consultant position in Tokyo/Singapore/Hong Kong and this was useful in my interviews.

Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?

The training exceeded my expectations!

• I was able to land a position in BCG. I feel this was almost entirely due to the detailed guidance I received from Michael and the techniques he used to help differentiate me from the other candidates. I was most interested in cases but Michael explained that image will play a big role in Asia and we spent a long time practicing “how” I deliver my answers. I was surprised about the emphasis Michael placed on my voice and he was adamant that it would be a major advantage for me. I did not really understand this until I noticed the behavior of the interviewers. I failed my first round but was allowed into the final round and given an offer shortly thereafter. Michael did say that interviewers will forgive mistakes if they liked me and we focused on that.

• I really liked the video library. When I was ill and lost my voice, I used the videos for the majority of my training and used the sessions with Michael to help with any questions I had and the image work Michael wanted to do. The videos were excellent. I was able to do all my preparation here, post questions to parts of the videos and receive Michael’s feedback. Michael also loaded solution videos on the steel industry when we discovered the partner interviewing me was a metals partner. Although we never discussed a steel case I was prepared for this. In my view, the videos were probably the largest factor in training for the cases.

• Michael spent a lot of time building my confidence. I was struggling to handle the logical problem solving and analyses parts. Michael was firm on improvement areas but did this in a nice way. I noticed when I struggled a lot he would introduce anecdotes and stories to make me feel better. I found it useful.

What was the most important learning’s from the program?

The methods to solve cases are very different from what I had seen and practiced with colleagues:

• Math/estimation/brain teaser questions are done in a structured approach using 5 steps. I liked this since it made solving any case very simple. I though the supply-demand / top down-bottom up approach was also very unusual but clever.

• Most of my training was about brainstorming and I thought this was unusual but useful. My colleagues in the PhD program did not spend so much time on brainstorming. No one else was doing it, but it set me up well for the final full cases.

• Communication and learning to use my voice to control the discussion was a very valuable skill I had never considered before. I always thought my voice was funny and deep for a Japanese lady and listening to Michael changed that a little. It was good for my personal feelings!

Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?

I would not have gotten into MBB without the coaching and videos so the advantage was apparent. I had used books and guides previously but they all recommend memorizing frameworks or using very generic frameworks.

None of these services could guide me specifically as they were written for a general audience, so maybe it is unfair to compare them. FC, as far as I can tell, picks a few clients a month and works with them very closely. So they look like having a different approach to training.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

Michael’s stories about working in the Asian offices were very amusing. Michael is also unusual in the amount of attention he gives to details of a person and the conclusions he draws. He looks at what people wear, eat, say, how they walk etc to determine their profile and then explain why they do those things.

That was interesting, more interesting than the project discussions since he would discuss the reasons the team members acted in their way.

His observations on female consultants/managers/partners were useful to me to know how our actions are perceived. I feel FC took more care to guide female clients though I could not know for sure.

What would you like changed in the program?

I did not have expectations of BCG coming into the program and was pursuing IMS so the program helped me achieve my deep and personal desires and I am grateful for that. I do not see anything that should change based on my personal experiences.

Do you believe your coach was effective?

Michael is a very precise and intimidating friend who is also very humble and a nice person. I say friend because he does not keep a distance between himself and me. I liked the accessibility I had to him and his fast responses to questions. He is very sincere and there is a danger of telling him too much because you feel he can help you with other things, like personal matters. I was happy to do this since the NDA meant nothing would be shared.

He is easy to talk too but constantly thinking through all the data points and offering suggestions. All my sessions were useful and helped me move forward in my plans.

Michael is a high energy person and this is good for me since I am a low energy person! I felt very energized and excited after our calls. Even on bad days when my cold was terrible, I felt better after speaking to him. He has this ability to find the best in you and draw it out.

Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?

Yes, because when Michael decided I had a good personal profile and voice he taught me ways to ensure I could emphasize these strengths in my interviews. I would not expect him to do this for someone else who was weak in these areas.

I know Michael keeps a detailed file on candidates and we used this a few times to measure my times and responses to questions. It seems like a data-intensive way to teach, which I liked because I could hear the reasons for why we were doing things. Michael did not just say I was getting faster at brainstorming, he could show me a graph of my times over the six sessions and I could see my own performance. This eliminated the opinions in the training. It forced to hold a discussion using facts only.

What are your thoughts on using former McKinsey/BCG worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?

I cannot see it being a bad idea. The program is very good and I think this will make it even better. My suggestion would be to have more coaches and mentors. This would improve the model Michael used to benchmark my progress.

This may not be such a good idea but I think it will work very well.

I did not get past my middle session when mentors are provided but I don’t think I would have received one since my performance was not so great. So I think providing mentors to clients doing well may not help us much. Should it not go to clients struggling in the program? I don’t know how and why mentors are used but these are my thoughts.

I trust Michael to make a good decision on this.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I feel honored to have been selected for the FC program. The program seemed very selective and the interview process and screening took a long time.

I could see why Michael does this since he puts in so much effort into the process. I for one did not understand how important the screening process would be and maybe just made the cut-off. I think clients need to understand how important the screening is and given more time to prepare.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this but I think FC can only benefit from better communication in this one area. All other communication was very good.

We have published the most useful client feedback. Our commitment to confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the identity of our clients and other confidential information, and we may alter details to prevent such disclosure. Some client feedback may be lightly edited for grammar, spelling or prose, though we never alter or remove any information. Clients in our consultants coaching program are forbidden from sharing sensitive client data with us.

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