2022 Alumni Interviews
James Meyo, PhD.
Associate Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
James graduated from UNC in 2021 with a Ph.D. Interviewed by Eden Y. Zewdie in August 2022.
Q: What are your main responsibilities as a consultant and what does a typical day look like for you?
I think about my job as being the facilitator or driver of what is happening in specific portions of a project (typically a theme or question by the client). We first identify the client’s problem and define a work plan to answer the question the best way we can. We then figure out how to break down the question and get information and data to help us think through the problem. We usually segment a project into packets and different people work on each packet. These packets then come together. BCG is a highly collaborative environment, so one or two people could work on each segment while collaborating with teammates, and will have access to resources such as experts on different topics to better solve the problem. During a typical day, I am working in teams. Even on segments of your own topic expertise, you still work with others to make sure you’re utilizing information from collaborators. In terms of work-life balance, this field is fast-paced and requires you to have the flexibility to be agile since plans can change as additional information becomes available to the team as the project progresses.
Q: What excites you about your work and what would be something you would want to change?
What excites me most is the idea of being exposed to knowledge. There’s a wealth of information and you can use this to build yourself since you are always learning. Something that would be nice to change would be having unlimited access to clients, which isn’t always the case as they’re also working on other deliverables. Planning well and being proactive are key to making sure you get the engagement you need from the client.
Q: What did your career path look like and what was the role GBCC played in this for you?
My initial plan was to work in industry and so it was important for me to understand how different business decisions are made in science companies. With that being said, I joined the UNC certificate program to obtain my Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals where I met like-minded people. This exposure helped narrow down my career goals. Consulting stood out as one way to expose myself to many facets of businesses in an industry I am passionate about. I was a previous GBCC member and president and so I learned a lot from colleagues in GBCC, specifically how they work and plan. I worked with people in professional roles that helped other graduate students achieve their goals. I also participated in monthly professional networking events with entrepreneurs, which helped me learn more about the business side of science. I used a lot of resources offered through GBCC such as the Cases&Cases workshop to better prepare me for my interviews. I also participated in many summer programs, such as Bridge to BCG, which gave me a short glimpse into what consulting is and what working at BCG is like.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field and what skills do you think are essential?
Investing time to learn about your target companies is key. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people to motivate yourself to work on cases is also very helpful. Everyone works differently so be true to yourself. Know what works for you and work on improving on areas you’re lacking. Getting a PhD will teach you the essential skills of working through problems. The real question is how adaptable you are in using these skills to be able to perform on a consulting case.
Q: What advice would you give for someone seeking a position in this field?
Make sure you practice a decent amount by the time you’re applying so that you’re ready if you’re called for an interview within a week. Gaining exposure and meeting people from different areas is essential as these people could be potential mentors, collaborators or clients. In addition, having a strong cohort with similar career interests is also important as consulting is very team oriented. Helping each other through case practices and sharing opinions is important as well.
Associate Consultant at ZS
Jedediah graduated from UNC in 2020 with a PhD. Interviewed by Jane Lee in April 2022.
Q: What are your main responsibilities as a Consultant at ZS?
As an Associate Consultant (AC) at ZS, responsibilities vary based on the structure of your team. At ZS, you have the following positions: Associate, AC, Consultant, Manager, Associate Partner, and Partner. A typical team may have a manager, an AC, and an associate. The team structures can be different, which will change your responsibilities. For the most part, my teams do not have consultant so I engage directly with the client (communications including weekly calls and all email communication). Additionally, I build out analyses, co-create the slide decks, lead the presentations, reach out to vendors, develop storyboards (designing the project including coming up with ideas and trying to solve the problems), and manage associates (delegating, helping with tasks, and reviewing their work). The manager/partner team leads the overall client relationship. If your project only consists of your manager and you (AC), you get to build every aspect since you are the consultant, the AC, and the associate. Your responsibilities are really based on the team structure but overall, it generally involves a lot of project management.
Q: What is the staffing model at ZS? How many projects are you typically on and how long does a typical project last?
ZS has a fractional staffing model where you split your hours between the various projects that you are on. For example, I would work 20 hours on one project, 10 hours on another, and 10 hours on another. You are typically on multiple teams (with overlapping team members) that are working on distinct projects. For example, I am currently staffed on three projects and one internal initiative (point of view, white papers, etc.). The length of a typical project varies widely. To give an example, I have had projects that are 6 weeks long and some that went 8 months long. Additionally, I have friends who have been on shorter projects and others on year+ projects.
Q: What should graduate students do to prepare for a consulting career?
Now that I am on the other side of the fence, I can say that we look for long-standing interest in consulting when we interview people. It is going to reflect positively if you can show that coming to consulting was a conscious choice over time, not a last minute, “I am graduating and need a job” approach. The important thing is to show effort and how you show effort can vary. You can get an internship at a venture capital firm, do case competitions, take business classes participate in pitch competitions, etc. Any experience showing that you are interested in business helps whether it be case competitions, leadership in a consulting club, case practicing, internships, or taking courses. Networking is also very important.
Q: What is the best way to network?
First, connect with people at consulting events (case practice, case competitions, and more). Talk to people, be engaging, have memorable conversations, and follow up on LinkedIn. But don’t just send an invite. One of my personal pet peeves is people who send an invite with no message attached. I might not remember who you are if we were at an event with 30 people. Something that has worked really well for me is to send a personalized note highlighting the event. This also gives you a useful personal tracker. Second, having your connections introduce you to their connections is beneficial. This goes leaps and bounds above cold calling. Lastly, network with your peers. Your peers who are ahead in their consulting careers will be easier to keep in your network if you have this shared experience.
Q: What is one advice you would give to current GBCC members?
When it comes to what you want to pursue next in your career, there are many options out there. And graduate students can get narrowly focused on the specific job and the company. Try to step back and take a holistic picture. Consider the following factors: where you want to live, what type of working model would you like, who do you want to work with, what is the company culture like? By considering things like this you will much more likely to be happy when you land one of these opportunities.
Life Sciences Specialist at L.E.K.
Wulin graduated from UNC in 2021 and was the VP of external affairs at GBCC. Interviewed by Jiawen
Du in January 2022.
Q: What are your main responsibilities as a life science specialist at L.E.K.? And what is a typical
day like for you?
The work of a life science specialist at L.E.K. consists of secondary research and data analytics, sliding up
the findings, and putting together the storyline. Additionally, you are responsible for modeling. For
example, if a company is interested in future revenue, you will need to build the model for forecasting. A
typical day begins with a team check-in in the morning where the team lead/manager will lay out the end of-
day goals. Then you will work on your own, gathering information or doing secondary research. You
will have check-ins with consultants or the manager in the afternoon, where they will provide comments
on your work. At the end of the day, the team puts together their findings and the manager will review and
provide feedback. In conclusion, in the daytime, you work on your own, and at night, you address comments
Q: What do you think are the most and least exciting parts of your work?
The most exciting part is the opportunity to work with a variety of clients at L.E.K. We have a wide range
of clients including top 10 biopharmaceutical companies. You also get the opportunity to work with midsize
and small start-up biotechs. Moreover, L.E.K. is also very focused on due diligence work which is
needed when companies acquire a different company. This part is very exciting because you are really
making impact on their cooperate strategy as well as patients in the long run. The least exciting thing would
be the hours. Long hours are typical for consulting. At L.E.K., the working hours vary a lot but range around
55-65 hours a week. You have to work late nights for the first three days in a week and then it gets better
on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s hard to get used to, but this is the industry norm.
Q: What skills, abilities, or personal attributes do you think are essential for success in consulting?
Skills and mindsets can really be reflected in the interview. In a general consulting interview, they require
you to be equipped with analytics and communication skills. They also want to see if you can solve
problems in a structured way. I think these are important skill sets that you will need in your job.
Additionally, they want you to be a good team member and a potential team leader in the long run. They
also want you to have your own personal impact. When you present your work to your client, you need to
be confident and persuasive when you talk about your work. Another important attribute is
entrepreneurship. During your day-to-day, you might go down a rabbit hole or hit a dead-end. Instead of
getting help from your manager immediately, you should take the initiative and try to resolve the issue on
your own first. You should come up with a proposal or solution prior to getting help from someone. I think
these are basic but important skill sets you will need to succeed in consulting.
Q: How did GBCC help you launch your career?
I think GBCC is really great. There are a few key things to highlight here. First, the culture. People are
looking for careers in business, so everyone is kind and has good relations with everyone. Second, (CG)^2
gives you a great opportunity to have some experience as a consultant. They give you a good understanding
of what consulting is, how to structure your work, how to synthesize your findings, and how to communicate
with your clients. These are very important skill sets. Third, Cases&Cases is a great group to join. During
the case interview season, you should practice casing 2-3 times a week. Cases&Cases provides you with a
great support system that can provide you feedback and support. Fourth is the Consulting Bootcamp. The
Consulting Bootcamp was my first experience with consulting. They give you a high-level, general
introduction to consulting. Last but not least, was my role as the VP of external affairs. I had the opportunity
to connect with many people and build up my own network.
Consultant at Clearview Healthcare Partners
Jesse graduated from UNC in 2020 with a PharmD. Interviewed by Amelia Bulivant in January 2022.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
Days are quite variable in terms of what needs to be done. We have a single staffing model, so I am only on one project at a time. Our cycle in terms of client check-ins is typically weekly. Our project duration varies from 3 weeks to 6 plus months. This will influence what a day looks like. My day consists of a lot of independent work and focused time to do my work. Primary research is a large component, so a lot of calls with physicians, payers, and other experts. We typically check in with leadership once a week. My day starts anywhere from 8-10 am and goes a little bit later into the evening. My day always begins with looking at what we are trying to accomplish.
Q: How much traveling do you do as a consultant at Clearview?
Zero travel. However, I did start during COVID in 2020. Historically, the expectation is to be on site for a final or mid-term presentation.
Q: How does your job affect your general lifestyle? How is work-life balance as a consultant?
It varies greatly. For the most part, weekends are protected, which is nice. I typically do not make many plans for the evenings during the week because it fluctuates. When I sign off, work can vary anywhere from 7:00 pm all the way to occasionally 10 pm. For example, if you are trying to get a document done for a client meeting, it will be a later night. It fluctuates based on the project. Longer projects have less work weekly, and shorter projects have a heavier workload upfront in a shorter amount of time.
Q: How did you prepare for the consulting interview process?
In 2018, I participated in UNC’s case workshop. This workshop marked the official kickoff for preparation for me, which was a year and a half ahead of interviewing. The first thing I did was sharpen up my resume, then introduced myself to casing by watching people complete them and then practicing on my own and with others. I did about maybe 15-20 total practice cases throughout the preparation process.
Q: What do you feel are the most effective strategies for successfully seeking a position in consulting?
The demand right now for life sciences consultants is incredibly high. Not to say that the standards have gone down. There is just a lot of need for consultants in this space. The first metric we use to assess candidates is a resume review. So, I would advise getting people in the consulting field to review your resume. Make sure you have things on your resume to suggest a long-standing interest in consulting. Getting your resume in front of someone is a function of networking and luck. Do informational interviews with people in consulting firms and have your ‘why consulting’ pitch ready when you talk to them. When interviewing, my advice is to keep in mind that this is a client-centered industry, and you are representing the firm, so it is important that you come across as competent and are well-spoken. Your ability to do the work is not questioned, but you need to prove your communication abilities. This is an essential component being assessed in the behavioral and case interviews.
Q: What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential for success in consulting?
Oral communication is a crucial skill. Teamwork and being able to work well with others are also important. Cultural fit is also being assessed in interviews. Being able to communicate an understanding in the life sciences industry is also important. The last one is your ‘why consulting’ rationale. You need to demonstrate that you have done the homework and know what you are getting into.
Innovation Analyst at RTI Innovation Advisors
Cody graduated from UNC with his M.S. in Biology in 2022. Interviewed by Eden Y Zewdie in November 2022.
Q: What does your day-to-day look like and how does the workload compare to graduate school?
As an innovation analyst, my day usually consists of about 3-4 meetings per day but mostly independent research. This could be primary or secondary research across many projects. About once a week, we have internal meetings and client meetings every 2 weeks. Typically, there are about 3-4 people per project.
I started as an intern at RTI in graduate school and continued on afterwards. Being part of the Innovation Advisors’ group, I would say there are fewer crazy hours compared to my personal graduate school experience. I personally appreciate the flexibility of working hours, because as long as you make your client/team meeting calls, hours are generally flexible.
Q: What excites you most about your work and what would you change if you could?
The thing that excites me most would be the variety of the work we do. We work with different clients and different research spanning different fields, which means highly variable client type and research. Our group tends to focus more on subject matter areas than services and so I would also say that I also enjoy subject matter research as it enables me to use my scientific skills.
One change that I have had to become accustomed to since graduate school is working on the computer all the time. With covid, remote working has been augmented which leaves less chances for face-to-face meetings and in-person interactions with our clients and teams.
Q: How did you choose this career path and what role did GBCC play?
My personal experience was that I cold applied to RTI for an internship and worked remotely while I was in graduate school. I then decided to move full-time. However, I would say that there are some things that helped me at UNC. One of which was being part of the Career Well team internship course, which was a two-and-a-half-month course through with career well. And essentially, we worked as a team on projects with different companies. In addition, I was part of Cases&Cases and a CGCG team member. I believe these experiences helped my resume stand out.
Q: What advice would you give for someone seeking a position in this field?
One advise would be to be involved in the field you are seeking, for example being part of GBCC can help show interest in the field. The other advises are to practice informational interviews, attend beyond the bench seminars and be diligent to form with speakers. LinkedIn connection could also be helpful but make sure you have a hook to stand out when seeking new networks.
In addition, I think it is a good attribute to be adaptable. I specifically work with 4-5 clients; therefore, the ability to manage multiple projects at a time, and the ability to pick up very different topics very quickly is crucial.
Lastly, the range of student resources available at UNC including professional development workshops is a good and free resource to take advantage of as a student.