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037: Consulting Jobs for PhDs

Management consulting is an exciting field, but actually getting a consulting job at one of the top firms can be extremely difficult.  Some people argue that you’ll have an easier time getting into Harvard than landing a spot at McKinsey…

We talked to a postdoc-turned-consultant about how she left the bench and got a job in such a competitive field.

consultants share a screen
“And after the expensive air travel, business suits, and color printing, we could only afford one tiny laptop to share. It’s your turn to type this week, Mary.”

Listen to your undergrads

This week on the show, we wrap up our interview with Laura Terry, PhD.  Last week, she told us about what it’s like to work in management consulting day to day, and this week, we find out how she got there.

From the start, Laura’s scientific career looked promising.  She completed her PhD at Vanderbilt and found a postdoc position at Princeton.  She seemed destined for the tenure track.

But part-way through her postdoc, she started teaching and began to notice all of the organizational dynamics of a modern university.  Who decides on how to spend the budget?  What are the best ways to select and hire new faculty?  How can we structure degree programs to maximize student success?

These weren’t questions about biology or human health, but they were questions with complex answers and profound importance.  And as a trained scientist, Laura knew how to explore complex questions.

That’s when she received some advice from a helpful undergrad: management consulting firms, like McKinsey and Company, were hiring scientists like her to answer questions just like these.

This week on the podcast, we get the rest of Laura’s story, including the reactions of her colleagues when she stepped out of the ivory tower. To prepare, Laura talks about using a combination of practice interviews and books like Case In Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation.

There’s a tear in my beer

Josh brings down the mood with the tragic tale of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a freighter that sank in Lake Superior in 1975.  The entire crew was lost, but not forgotten, because the Great Lakes Brewing Company now produces Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.  Too soon?  

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