Recruiting Testimonial – BCG Houston Pre-MBA Workshop (AJ Rowan – Darden ’17)

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Two questions lingered in my mind in the lead up to business school: What exactly is management consulting? And why should I care?

Okay, in general terms I understood what management – or strategy – consulting does – thanks  But there’s only so much that can be gleamed from research; sometimes it’s worth getting an up close and personal look at a firm in action.

To gain a better perspective I decided to apply to a pre-MBA workshop hosted in June by the Houston office of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Applications were due in May and invitations went out later in the month. The solicitation seemed straightforward enough: “[To] give you the opportunity to learn about our work, case interviews, BCG specific programs, and gain a better understanding of what day-to-day life as a consultant is really like”. Whether the trip from D.C. would be worth the expense – especially since BCG conducts on-campus recruiting – was still a matter of faith. (yet to be seen)

I was one of about 20 admitted students to receive an invitation for the one-day workshop. The schools represented included most of the top MBA programs in the U.S. – McCombs being the most represented with five candidates. There were approximately 75 applicants total, which for me seemed like quite a selective event considering applicants footed the bill without a guarantee to anything more than a day of learning about a company. Nonetheless, there was enough interest in the workshop for BCG Houston to choose people who they, on paper, could “realistically see working in their office someday”, meaning people’s resumes and reasons for attending aligned with their selection criteria.

I had previous industry experience in Energy and a desire to explore it further following an MBA, therefore Houston had some relevance from a geographic standpoint. As for management consulting, well, working on problems with a variety of clients across different industries was an attractive proposition. But why all the consulting hype? I set out to Houston to find out.

In just a matter of minutes after stepping into BCG’s office on the 30th floor of a downtown high-rise, it became clear to me why the company is ranked 2nd on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list. The newly renovated office had a sleek open-concept design with all the amenities one could expect in a modern workplace: café-style dining area, beautiful artwork, huddle rooms and exercise equipment. The BCG recruiting team were prepared, professional, and eager to provide any and all insights attendants were interested in learning about. Associates, consultants, and partners alike were all personable and down to earth, which to me was one of the biggest surprises of the day. I had a pre-conceived notion going in to the workshop that Big Three consultants would be either stiff brainy types or overambitious cocky types, but neither of them were represented in anyone I met throughout my day at BCG. If anything, I came away thinking that “fit” may play a larger role in their recruiting criteria than simply smashing the case interviews.

The rest of the day was a BCG marketing blur framed around BCG’s Build.Connect.Grow mission. I won’t get into the specifics here but suffice it to say we were shuffled around through various discussion forums that highlighted different dimensions of BCG, Houston, and consultant life in general. In all it was an illuminating experience thanks in large part to the team’s transparency. Aside from identifying specific customers, no subject was off the table for anyone to bring up. Employees were open to sharing their unbiased personal and professional experiences while at BCG. It certainly gave me a better impression of BCG and the collegial spirit it fosters.

To wrap up the day a happy hour was hosted at Bovine and Barley where we all were able to mix it up, meet other attendants, and maybe follow up on any topics covered in the day. Reflecting on the whole experience I’ll admit to drinking a bit of the BCG punch. But ignore the prestige of management consulting and the hype of a Big Three brand and ask yourself if this is the kind of place you would like to work. Are these the kind of people I would like to work with? Is there an interest in the work being performed? For me the answer was unequivocally yes. Whether I end up venturing down the consulting route or if the prospect of landing a job at a firm like BCG is likely or not is immaterial at this point. I came away with a much better appreciation of the people and the work. And that alone was worth the pre-MBA excursion.

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