Interview: Amanda Song’s Transition from PhD to Consulting

Q) Can you introduce yourself for the readers please?


My name is Amanda Song. I am a 6th Year PhD student in the Cognitive Science department. During my PhD, after a series of explorations via internships, I realized that my passion is outside of academia.


I did a summer Internship at a multilateral development bank. This bank’s mission is to help emerging market to improve their social and economic prosperity. That internship really opened my mind and vision. I realized the type of work that I enjoy doing with the bank was very similar in nature to consulting. Thus, I started to apply for various consulting positions and got an offer.


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


After my summer internship in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank on a strategy development role.


Q) How did you begin your preparation?


I started job hunting in Summer 2019. I applied to a lot of different jobs including international organizations like the world economic forum, tech companies, as well as consulting firms. I started to gather case interview information before my Accenture interview in Fall 2019. I prepared more for my KPMG interview. It was a data analytic position, a combination between consulting and data science.


With respect to the Immersion programs:


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




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




Q) What was your experience at Connect to Clearview? (What was the professional experience and office culture?)




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




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?




With respect to the full-time applications:


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


For KPMG, I had an internal referral (send out resume + cover letter), the recruiter contacted me to show an official posting for a job on the website and instructed me to apply online. There were two rounds of interview (R1: 2 phones + R2: on site). On site – one research presentation, one case study.


Q) How did you practice for case interviews?


I found materials on case interview online. I learnt from Victor Cheng and watched some YouTube videos. I had no live practice before my actual interview (not recommended, you probably want to have more practice beforehand).


Q) How did you practice fit interview questions?


I just searched for the interview questions online and prepared my answer. My first round of live practice was actually with Accenture.


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


Best part: I enjoyed the interview process with KPMG, recruiter was very professional. You feel that they value the candidates. The interviewers were very friendly and professional too.


Worst part: N/A


Over all general questions:


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


Accenture, KPMG, LEK Consulting, BCG, McKinsey


KPMG: very professional, very fast, very friendly

Accenture: very fast

LEK Consulting: takes a little while

BCG & McKinsey: somewhere in between


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


My internship at the development bank is similar to a consulting firm. It had the startup feeling and mentality. Everyone was helpful, energetic, professional and supportive.


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




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


If you think academia is not for you, start to look for plan B as soon as possible. Start information interview, networking, and preparing for consulting interviews as soon as possible if you are interested in consulting.


Remember, there are always other choices for jobs apart from academia, you just have to keep your options wide open and explore the advantages and disadvantages of each job.


Do use your networks for referrals.


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?


Initially, I applied to many places and did not hear back from them, I started to question myself whether I am fit for the job. Do not give up and keep trying. It’s like swimming in the dark and do not know far you are to the bank. You are very close to the bank of the river (end goal), just hang in there.


Right: use all of my networks and do not be afraid of talking to people, asking their feedback/ suggestions/ referral.


Wrong: I would not say it’s wrong but juggling around finishing up a PhD and job hunting can be stressful, you need to prioritize certain tasks for a sprint, then find a balance.


Combination of luck and endeavor definitely worked. You cannot control your luck however you can increase the possibility of getting opportunities by networking.


Q) Anything else that you would like to add?


In terms of career development, keep asking what you really value in a job and how to make the best out of your own unique strengths, finding something that you enjoy doing and can do well is the most important thing.