Anyone who has an engineering degree knows someone who grew tired of the traditional engineering career path and decided to take the plunge and pursue an MBA. If you are one of them, there are several things to consider when making the decision to head to business school. Approximately 30% of my MBA class had an engineering background and this tends to be the case for most business schools. Firstly, choose an MBA program with a summer co-op opportunity, especially if you are making a drastic career change. A co-op term can help you develop the network and work experience necessary to transition into your new career path. Secondly, look at the employment statistics for the business school - do you see your target firms listed? If you want to stay in the technology space, perhaps choose a business school that is geographically located near a tech hub (e.g. Stanford). If you are aiming for consulting, base your decision on reputation, alumni strength and academics. Regardless of which MBA program you choose, make sure you do your research and talk to alumni who had a similar background to set realistic expectations.
For those engineering grads who are already enrolled in their MBA:
While it is true that consulting firms do often have a fascination with engineers and consider it a plus that you are strong with analytics and problem solving, they are looking for a clear value proposition from candidates that goes beyond the generic. Thus, having a great engineering degree and solid scores in your MBA might land you that dream interview, but it is how you perform in that interview that will determine the outcome. So, let’s talk beyond the generic and the common myths and pitfalls that lead to an unsuccessful recruiting effort. I often help engineering grads prepare for interviews and find that they tend to make similar mistakes. So, here are some tips to help you get the edge in that interview:
Have a clear value proposition – Have a clear vision for why consulting is the right career path and why your engineering background is an advantage for the firm. Research the firm and see how your skills align with the industries that the firm focuses on.
Focus on results and recommendations - Often engineering graduates will talk about their technical skills in a consulting interview to demonstrate their analytical prowess but will leave out the most important part – What was your recommendation that lead to a successful outcome? And, how did it impact the client/organization’s bottom line? In consulting, while having strong analytical skills is great, the clients are paying for succinct and impactful recommendations.
Show flexibility in the case interview – Some interviewers may try to see if you fit into their mould of a ‘typical engineering grad’. They may deliver a case where it isn’t all about the number and math to see if you get thrown off. I have seen this countless times - I am often looking to test creativity and flexibility in candidates when they seem too afraid to step outside their comfort zone. Candidates often are either too afraid to leave behind the frameworks and formulas they have memorized or find it too difficult to let go of their crutch (which can be numbers for most engineers). As a consultant, you will often walk into a meeting with an agenda and the client may have a completely different vision that requires you to be flexible and demonstrate adaptability.
Show that you are a leader and have executive presence – At the MBA level, the recruiters will want to see if you are a good match for the firm in the long run and can help sell consulting engagements. If you cannot demonstrate your sales and communications ability, that can be a deal breaker. Post MBA, consultants are expected to interact with client Directors, VPs and above –the interviewer must sense that you are ready for that.
This blog post was written by Salman Alvi, a Management Consultant, who is currently helping the rapidly expanding PwC Consulting practice grow across North America. He is also an alumnus of Accenture and SAP and holds an MBA from Ivey Business School.
Want to learn more about this topic or have a chat about the consulting industry? connect with Salman on Evisors.