Interview: Anwesh Kamireddy’s path to consulting after PhD

Q) Can you introduce yourself for the readers please?

My name is Anwesh Kamireddy. I completed my PhD in Biology from UCSD in February 2020. I completed my undergraduate studies in India, where I received my Bachelors in Engineering in Biotechnology. I received my Master’s in Biotechnology from UC Irvine. After my Master’s, I worked in the industry for about 5 years. I worked in a small startup in Irvine for a year and then at Novartis in San Diego for four years. What I realized over time was that, for a successful career in the industry, you need a PhD. I joined UCSD’s Biology program, since it is ranked one of the best in the country.

 

Q) When and how did you decide on becoming a consultant?

I decided following this career path towards the end of my 2nd year. I was mainly working on my PhD project with little-to-no- collaboration in the lab. Continuous research work in lab was getting monotonous and I missed the fast-paced nature of industry. I started looking into activities/opportunities where I could put my time and effort to gain exposure to start-ups. A friend of mine introduced me to the consulting club and the pro-bono projects the club did for some local Biotech companies. I attended a couple of their meetings, later worked on two projects as an analyst to get my feet wet. This helped me realize that consulting is something that I wanted to pursue for a career. The work, impact, teamwork, exposure and exit opportunities excited me.

 

Q) How did you begin your preparation?

When I joined graduate school, I did not know consulting was a career option for PhD candidates. However, once I realized this is the career path I wanted to pursue, I started researching on  milestones I had to hit to have a shot at consulting. First requirement being a strong resume, so I started working on it early on. I learned that only a part of your resume (say 1/3rd) should ideally be about your academic achievements. The rest should highlight consulting work, leadership, team work, initiatives, etc. Basically, something that you have done beyond your basic degree requirements.

I began by leading a couple of pro-bono projects for the club. I participated in the LEK case competition and the IXL challenge, both of which our team won. I later became the president of APDCC for 2016-2017 term, with the main goal of exposing the club to several consulting firms that have never heard about the club.

In my 4th and 5th years, I signed up on LinkedIn Premium and networked heavily with consultants from several firms to gain in-depth information about their firm’s culture, hiring process, type of projects they work on, resume-screening criteria, etc. Several of the consultants from smaller firms were happy to send my resume directly to the hiring manager, which helped in my interview exposure.

I started case-interview practice around my 5th year. I practiced with case partners in the club and from people I met at the immersion programs. Once I did about 20-25 cases, I later requested a few friends/LinkedIn acquaintances, who were working as consultants, to give me cases to fine tune my casing skills. Their feedback was invaluable.

 

With respect to the Immersion programs:

 

Q) What were the ‘connect’ programs that you applied to?

Many of them…

– McKinsey – Insight

– Bain – Advantage into Consulting

– BCG – Bridge to BCG

– Charles River Associates (CRA) – PhD Symposium

– ClearView – Connect to ClearView

 

Q) How many and which all did you qualify for?

I got into Bain AIC (half day program) and Charles River Associates – PhD Symposium (2 day program), and attended both.

 

Q) What was your experience at Bain and Charles River Associates’ immersion programs? (What was the professional experience and office culture?)

Bain’s was a half day program – I got to know about their home-office staffing model and the types of projects they do.

CRA’s PhD Symposium was in Boston for 2 days. I really loved the experience. Their program was not case-based. It was 2 days of them showcasing the firm, and teach you skills necessary for graduate school and beyond, which I thought was very useful.  They had an info-sessions on how to network successfully, provided MS Excel tips, advantages of Power BI, a chat with the CEO, etc.

 

Q) How do you think the “connect” programs help you in your preparation

CRA’s PhD Symposium really helped me on how to network successfully.

 

Q) What would you recommend people to focus on if they want to get into the immersion programs? How much should the focus be on life-sciences, if any, and how should people prepare for that?

Don’t stress too much about getting into immersion programs. A lot of people who didn’t get into the programs got a full time offer. On the other hand, several people who got into the program did not get a full time offer from that place. However, it does help you find more case partners, which helps you get more feedback.

 

With respect to the full-time applications:

 

Q) What was your recruitment process like for the full-time role?

I started working on my resume and cover letter in my 4th year. I had them reviewed by several friends and consultants. In the 5th year, I started case preparation. I read Case in Point, Case Interview Secrets and watched Victor Cheng’s videos on YouTube. I also listened to the several podcasts, including Market Place, Planet Money, Snacks Daily, and also the Victor Cheng’s Look Over My Shoulder cases. I listened Look Over My Shoulder cases set over 3 times and their best cases over 6 times. Simultaneously, I was casing with friends in the club, and networking on LinkedIn to find out more about interview processes for lesser known companies. Being an International student, I quickly realized that several firms simply do not accept International students, or would prefer a domestic candidate if all things were equal. Hence, I decided to apply widely to have a shot at a getting into consulting. In the end, I applied to about 30 firms, which was time consuming, but a great experience. Especially, since I had several first and final round interviews that helped casing under pressure.

 

Q) How did you practice for case interviews?

I did a lot of live cases with friends and got their feedback. When you feel confident, approach and ask consultants in your network to see if they can give you a case. That helps fine tune your skills.

 

Q) How did you practice fit interview questions?

For starters, a list of questions from the club’s bank. For each question, I would write down the answer. Then read it out loud, revise, read out again, until it is succinct and hits the point I want to convey. Then I had my  friends ask me fit questions. They gave me critical feedback, how they liked my response, and how I can improve. Try to use the STAR method for most questions. Always have at least two responses for common questions related to leadership, teamwork, conflict, convincing others, a risk you took, etc. Always prepare your “Why XYZ consulting firm” based on your conversations with consultants in those firms. I thought that my answer for those were specific, until feedback from my final round in a firm pointed out that it was generic and needs to be very specific. So prepare well for that.

 

Q) What were the best and worst parts of your entire preparation process?

Best: Reaching out to people (cold-messaging) and networking. I wasn’t a big fan of doing that initially, but talking to people and finding out about their career trajectories, what they did different to get into consulting, types of projects, culture in the company, etc. was exciting to find out.

Challenge: Balancing lab time and consulting-oriented activities such as networking, researching companies, case-practice etc.

 

Overall general questions:

 

Q) What was your experience with the different consulting firms? How many and which all firms did you apply to?

Over 30 consulting firms, all different sizes and locations. Both generalist and life science.

 

Q) What were your observations about office culture in big firms vs. smaller, more boutique firms?

N/A

 

Q) What was your experience with generalist firms vs. specialist firms?

Interview is different, the work is different, and casing is different

 

Q) Based on all your experience, what would your recommendations be for future applicants? What are the do’s and the don’ts?

Do: Decide if this career is really something that you want. Attend as many club and company info sessions. Work on a few pro-bono projects, if possible. These collectively give a good idea about the what consulting is about. Then build your resume towards that. If you are in your 4th or 5th year, you need to pick strategically what can have the best impact on your resume and work on those aspects. Do take fit interview seriously, it can really help give your interviewer a good impression of you. Network a lot.

Don’t: undergo “case fatigue” by doing too many cases. More is not always better.

 

Q) What were your biggest challenges in the whole process? What were the things you did right and what (in your opinion) did you do wrong? If you were to this again in an alternate universe but could carry the knowledge – what would you do differently?

Biggest challenges: Trying to balance lab time and consulting-oriented activities. The IXL challenge was very challenging in terms of time commitment, but having a great team helped balance workload.

Right: Network with people. LinkedIn premium account (6 months), ideally network with people who have PhDs. InMail them, it gave me more luck than messaging them with a regular account.

Wrong: Could have prepared for fit interview better.

To do differently: Prepare better for fit. You are competing against the best candidates. You have to be at the top of your casing and fit to get to these companies.

 

Q) Anything else that you would like to add?

Try to get as much experience as you can to build your resume. Interviewers appreciate you having taken interests in doing stuff outside your regular work. Highlight teamwork, initiative, leadership.

 

Learning to be calm during interviews. That is key. Interviewers can easily see when you are stressed. Take a step back and recap where you are, regularly. All the best!!!

 

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