PhDCSG Consulting Club – How it all began and future plans

in ClubSciWri/Entrepreneurship by

Editor’s note- Ever thought of Consulting as a career option? Look no further, PhDCSG has its very own Consulting Club, where members can connect and solve case studies as well as learn about business. In this article, Czuee Morey writes about how the Club was formed, what it has achieved so far and what its outlook is, for the future. It is a wonderful example for the potential PhDCSG holds in aiding career choices through the creation of hubs, by providing resources and connecting those with common interests. – Roopsha Sengupta

If you are a PhD who is tired of working alone on your experiments and would rather work in teams, travel extensively and be paid well for your hard work, consulting might be just the right career for you! Consulting is one of the most sought after options to transition out of academia by graduates from various disciplines. One of the major reasons for this trend could be that unlike other industry jobs, getting hired as an entry-level consultant does not require much experience. Also the exit options after consulting can be fabulous considering the solid experience, growth and exposure to varied fields gained in consulting. However, getting a consulting job does require demonstrating that you are good at analytical and quantitative skills as well as have a basic understanding of business, all of which is usually assessed through ~30-min case interviews.

Consulting clubs have become a regular feature at many universities. They provide PhDs and postdocs with easy access to consulting resources and fellow graduates to practice cases. Many times these consulting clubs also provide consulting services to clients at reduced prices, which help the members gain valuable experience. However, many universities around the world still do not have such consulting clubs. Moreover, PhDs who have already graduated from University might not have access to clubs at their University any longer.

PhDCSG came up with the idea to launch an online consulting club so that its members could have an easily accessible solution to prepare for consulting or simply to learn more about business. The PhDCSG group itself has been a major success in connecting PhDs worldwide through its online platform, with over 8000 members. The consulting club arose as an extension of this platform where the members connect with each other via social media and solve cases using audio/video conferencing. Mayur Vadhvani and I started the club in March 2017 and Ananda Ghosh has provided us constant support throughout. We saw a lot of response from participants in the beginning. However, as the case studies progressed many members dropped out due to time constraints or simply because they realized they were not interested in consulting. We eventually had 20 committed members who are still with us. We had another intake in the middle of the year, and are currently operating with 40 members. Parthiban Rajasekharan and Shruti Srinivasan have recently joined us to help run the club.

So, what is exactly a case interview and how is it used to evaluate candidates? In a case interview ‘the applicant is presented with a challenging business scenario that he/she must investigate and propose a solution to. After the applicant is given information about the case, the applicant is expected to ask the interviewer logical questions that will help the applicant understand the situation, probe deeper into relevant areas, gather pertinent information and arrive at a solution or recommendation for the question or situation at hand’ according to Wikipedia. Although this might sound relatively easy, many intelligent candidates with top grades fail case interviews due to lack of frameworks and problem structuring. Eventually, it is not only important that you get the right answer, but also what steps you take to solve it and if you give enough confidence to the interviewer that you can follow such a structured approach every single time. So, practice is crucial!

We have structured the PhDCSG consulting club so as to simulate the actual case interview process. The participants work in pairs, where one person acts as an interviewer and another one as interviewee for the first case study and the task exchanges for the next case study and so on. For every case, we send the interviewer all the information for a case to guide the interviewee. The interviewee would ideally get the problem case from the interviewer on the day they decide to solve the case. While solving the case, the interviewee is expected to ask several questions, and the interviewer is supposed to guide them. The participants were provided the following pointers by the PhDCSG club, in order to work on the cases. After a case study is solved, the interviewer gives feedback (we have this automated thanks to Google forms!) on a number of factors such as calculation skills, hypothesis-driven approach, case structuring, communication, case conclusion as well as appearance and attitude of the interviewee. The interviewee also gives us feedback about the case – if it was easy peasy, moderate or ninja-level difficult!

The group also provides support besides case studies. We have created an FB group where all the members can interact and share articles, tips and have discussions about business terminologies and case studies. We had also organized a Facebook live interview on the main PhDCSG group by a consultant, Anandaroop Dasgupta, who shared his experience as a consultant and tips on preparing for interviews.

We have had a good response from the participants so far. Many of them were struggling to prepare for consulting all by themselves and were happy to find this resource. It has also benefited members who were not looking for a consulting job but wanted to learn more about business. Syam Anand, who is an IP consultant quoted, “The case studies I did with other members in the club, sharpened my business data analytical skills and more importantly, helped me to understand key pieces of the puzzle and find and seek them when they are missing to complete a case. Budding entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the case studies in the club. Since these activities benefit critical thinking abilities needed/used for problem solving, one will also get insights into how companies/organizations operate and how the balance sheets guide all of the decisions made. This will also benefit those who are not actively looking for consulting jobs as you will understand your own jobs better, irrespective of your technological area and nature of your organization as the case studies themselves are very diverse”. Since, I also participate in the case studies besides helping to organize it, I have experienced a lot of benefits myself. The regular weekly case studies ensure that I keep on track with my practice in spite of a busy schedule! It helps to overcome the complacency of reaching out to partners for practice and keeps me on my toes even if I don’t have an interview to prepare for. The platform also gives an opportunity to virtually meet fellow PhDs who are also struggling to find a job in business/consulting. Somdatta Karak, who was a postdoc in Germany and later moved to India, while keeping up with all the consulting assignments throughout her transition, explains it as follows – “The club helped me to invest time discussing the prospects of consulting with peers with similar interests or sharing the geographical location of interest. It helped me network with some wonderful people in addition to practicing case studies together.”

Such interactions with fellow PhD students proved to be very useful for Saikat Nandi, when he was looking for team members to participate in a business case competition in Boston. Through an email sent to the consulting club he found Parthiban Rajasekaran. Their team was selected as one of the top five, after solving a business case within a mere 10 days. Parthiban gave a recap of the event later to the group, “Essentially, you have 10 days to solve the case and present your analysis and recommendation in a Powerpoint slide deck. So, our team got selected for the top 5, which by itself is a great result as none of us had any previous experience. Most of the judges look for three things: (1) Did you do a thorough analysis of the case? (2) What is the kind of analysis (primary or secondary research) you did and what is the logic behind your framework of analysis? (3) What are your recommendations and how are they going to help your clients? It goes without saying that I am thankful for the PhDCSG consulting group. It was that email from Saikat to the PhDCSG club that made me sign up for this experience. Now we know what is expected in case competitions and we can help you if any of you are planning to go for one.”

The organizers of the consulting club (Mayur Vadhvani, Parthiban Rajasekharan, Shruti Srinivasan and I) are doing our best to make sure the club runs smoothly and that the members benefit from it. We are working on a voluntary basis, which sometimes leads to organizational delays. However, we always encourage the members to continue their case practice and reach out to other members in the group. In the future, we are planning to have more interactions with consultants to gain a better understanding of consulting in general and to help the members to have case practices with real consultants before an actual interview. Since the members have asked for greater interactions within the group, an online business case competition is also in the pipeline.

If you are a PhD and would like to learn more about consulting, check out this link for what a consulting interview looks like and also visit the Preplounge website. We also recommend going through the case interview introductory videos by Victor Cheng. This has 12 parts and is roughly 4.5 hours in total. If you find that interesting and would like to participate in the club, drop us an email at csg.consultingclub@gmail.com. We would also love to hear from consultants who can help us with guidance based on their consulting experience, case studies, and with the upcoming business case competition in the club.

About Czuee Morey:

Czuee is currently exploring applications of digital technologies in healthcare as a market intelligence analyst at Debiopharm in  Lausanne, Switzerland. She has a PhD in protein biophysics and a broad experience in various other fields such as genomics analysis. Equipped with business skills and an entrepreneurial mindset, she is looking for opportunities to bring innovative healthcare solutions to patients. Besides her work, she is involved in organizing the PhDCSG consulting club and Life science networking group in Switzerland, and is an amateur webcomic artist and DJ.

Editors: Roopsha Sengupta, PhD edited and Paurvi Shinde, PhD proofread the article.

Roopsha is a freelance manuscript editor and is trying to break into a suitable scientific editing and writing role. She did her PhD in the Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna and postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge UK, specializing in the field of Epigenetics. Besides science and words, she enjoys spending time with children and singing.

 

Paurvi is a Post Doc Fellow at Bloodworks Northwest in Seattle, where she’s studying the mechanism of how alloantibodies are formed against the non-ABO blood group antigens. Apart from doing bench research, she loves editing scientific articles, to help convey the message behind it in a clear and concise form.

 

Cover image: Unsplash

Infographic: PhDCSG Consulting Club


The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

This work by Club SciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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