02 Jan Henry D, Project Manager Internal Consulting
What I Do
I am part of a small consulting and project management team that supports such internal company efforts as business development strategy, harmonization or corporate synergy, cost management initiatives, and country-specific issues management.
Most of the projects are three to six months in duration and involve various insurance divisions in both the head office (located in Switzerland) and the local offices throughout Europe (Germany, Italy, U.K., Spain, Belgium, etc.). During a project, I report directly to a client (the project leader), though the consulting team serves as a home base.
What I Enjoy Most
Every day is different in project management. There is an enormous amount of language exposure—German, French, Italian—and I am the native English speaker. My job provides the combination of industry-specific experience and general business experience that I could apply to any endeavor.
What I Enjoy Least
As with any consulting project, the volume of work is cyclical. There are times when it is extremely busy, and there are other times between projects with very little activity.
Having previously worked with smaller companies, I have been forced to adjust to big company protocols and culture. There is certainly less entrepreneurial freedom in the work than there is with a smaller company. Large company politics are also inevitable. In some cases, it seems like people are in competition with each other, even though we all work for the same company.
Why I Chose This Career
I was part of an exchange program at HEC in France through the University of British Columbia, and I was searching for career opportunities in Europe. At the time (fall 2006), the job market was also slightly better in Europe than in Canada. I was particularly interested in consulting and finance, and this internal consulting position with a financial services company offered both. In addition, the European location allowed the opportunity to improve my skills in several languages.
Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career
You should be flexible, organized, and adaptable to different people, languages, and cultures. Although English is the most important business language, I am not always working in my native language, so I was forced to improve my German and French. I also needed to get accustomed to the European nature of doing business. As a consultant, you can expect long working hours, tight deadlines, and demanding clients.
Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path
Try to get some consulting or project management experience before the MBA or during an MBA internship. I worked for two years in information technology consulting prior to starting the MBA, and I had an internship that involved internal consulting. Based on my job search during the MBA, I found that many employers were not emphasizing grades, but rather pre-MBA and internship experience.
This has been especially true over the past year, because new hiring has been slow and recruiters are giving preference to students with specific experience or students who did an internship with the company or in the same industry.
If you don’t have consulting experience before the MBA, experience in a specific industry can also be quite valuable. Many consulting firms have specialties, such as information technology, finance, or a particular industry, and thus require consultants with specific skills and experience rather than just a general business background.
What I Did Before
This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)
I spent most of my pre-MBA career in smaller organizations, including two years with an 80-employee information technology consulting firm in Toronto. Most of my projects were related to information technology for financial services with a client in Tokyo.
I also had the benefit of two years of co-op experience as part of my undergraduate degree. My co-op placements were based primarily in the chemical, mining, and environmental engineering industries.
Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)
MBA, University of British Columbia, strategic management and elective courses in finance, 2011
School exchange: HEC, Paris, France
Honors bachelor of science, University of Waterloo, chemistry and physics, 2005
School exchange, Sussex (Brighton, England)
In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…
Look for a quality MBA school in an area close to where you might like to work after your studies (of course, location is less important if you attend one of the top schools with a wide-reaching reputation). Universities generally have a good connection with the local business community, so you are likely to find more local career opportunities. In my case, I wanted to work in Europe, so I decided to do an exchange in France, where I had much better access to the European job market than I did in Canada.
Another important criterion should be the quality of the MBA career center. Some universities have a specialized MBA career center, while others have only the general career center for all students, which may not give special attention to MBA career opportunities.
In terms of coursework, I would take as many accounting and finance courses as possible, because this background will be valuable in any type of business career. In strategy and finance, I struck a balance between quantitative and qualitative courses.