Pragya Batra is a Consultant at Bain & Co. and an alumna of INSEAD. She is also an alumna of IIT Delhi. InsideIIM.com caught up with her to gain some insight into the world of consulting and to get her views on MBA and careers of women.
1)How was your experience at INSEAD? Did it change the way you approach Consulting now since you were with Bain even prior to your MBA?
My experience at INSEAD was very enriching. The best part for me personally was PEOPLE– the variety of people I met from all walks of life was amazing. Apart from the most heard of professions like consulting, banking, manufacturing/ operations, there were colleagues who had run successful start-ups, had served the army for several years or were second generation entrepreneurs. Every person had a unique skill-set to offer in a group and enrich the overall experience for every person.
An MBA has definitely helped me become better at what I do. It has provided me a great network of colleagues from all walks of life, and also helped me better leverage the resources available to me. For instance on my first project as a returning consultant in infrastructure, I was able to seek advice from fellow colleagues at INSEAD who had served in the industry for several years and get their perspectives to enrich the answer for our client.
2)What attributes do you think are necessary to make a career in consulting?
To my mind there are three important things for a career in consulting – (a) Strong analytical skills, (b) Ability to be a great team player and work in diverse groups, (c) Ability to lead
The reason I mention leadership skills is because consulting offers a very steep learning curve which also means that there are several opportunities to step up from your current role and your comfort zone and lead!
3)How does a normal day for you look like? Most of the talk around consulting in popular media is around travel and a great lifestyle. People often ignore the hard work that consultants put in.
On a normal day, I would get into work atleast 30 minutes before the rest of my team arrives (my team as a 2nd year consultant would typically consist of 1-2 associate/junior consultants). In this time, I would lay out the next steps/ important areas of work that needs to be closed over the day/ week.
Post the team arrives, we would for 30 minutes to agree on the plan for the day/week and get back to our respective tasks.
After briefing the team, I would spend some time with the manager briefing him/her about important client meetings that day and areas we need direction on
Half the day (or sometimes less, depending on the nature of work) would be spent meeting various clients for a variety of reasons - to brainstorm, get access to data, take them through our findings and get their inputs etc.
In the afternoon, the team would usually have lunch together and catch up.
Early evening I would catch up with my sub-team to discuss progress and any areas they need help on, post which we would work on filling the gaps and take our findings to the manager and get his/her thoughts on enriching it further.
4) Do women need to approach careers differently than men?
In my 5+ years of work experience, I cannot recall a time when I had to make choices in my career which were different than my male colleagues. We all got the same opportunities at work and while pursuing our MBAs. So, so far I havent had to approach my career in any different way than men.
However, if I look around myself, there are several instances of women taking a step back in their careers for a few years, typically after having a child - and by step back I mean taking up roles which would typically not entail extensive travel and are more flexible. And whenever I have spoken to such women, the responses I get is - "It is a personal choice so I can be around my kid in his/her growing years". So speaking from the experience of just the women around me today, I do see them approaching careers differently for a few years after starting a family. I guess it is a function of what job you are in and the priorities you have at different junctures of life. So to sum up, do we NEED to approach careers differently - No (Look at the several successful women leaders around us today), But do we CHOOSE to - Yes!
5)How does your IIT Delhi experience help you in your current role?
An engineering degree provided me the essential foundation of analytical skills, the comfort of working with numbers and excel models - all of which form an integral part of my day to day job. Specifically a degree in biochemical engineering has come in handy while working on projects in the pharma industry.
Additionally, the multiple opportunities to lead teams of very different individuals at various intra & intercollege events at a platform as large as IIT - also formed the foundation of my team skills - a trait which is core to succeed in a team work environment that consulting offers.
6)Any suggestions for aspiring consultants? How can they prepare now to land that coveted job?
- Practice few cases well rather than trying to cover a wide range of cases – leverage the wide resources available for case practice (case books, online videos, company websites for case materials)
- Form study groups to run mock case interviews - learn from your peers, some may have great sense of structuring a problem, others may have good communication skills
- Do not try to force fit frameworks
- Do not try and spend too much time trying to learn the nuances of a particular industry
- Most of all, enjoy the problem solving and don’t get stressed during interviews – easier said than done for most of us, but this will only come with practicing mock cases with your friends and getting over the anxieties in a risk free surrounding
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