Desautels MBA
The path to management consulting

Student post

The path to management consulting

Author : Diana Menzies (MBA'18) transcribed by K. Brochet

Diana Menzies (MBA’18) is from Montreal, Canada. She graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 2012.  After graduation, Diana joined Engineers Without Borders in Toronto, an experience that took her to Zambia. While in Zambia, she co-founded BDSA Zambia Ltd, an organization that does advisory on shared value with agricultural enterprises. In 2016, Diana joined the Desautels MBA program where she got involved with the McGill Non-for-Profit Consulting Program and the McGill Business Consulting Group. After a summer internship at Aldo on their Enterprise Performance team, Diana secured a Management Consulting position at McKinsey where she will be working post-graduation. During a recent interview with Diana, we learned some of the reasons she’s decided to pursue a career in consulting and her journey to getting into one of the top consulting companies.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Diana Menzies and I am originally from Montreal. I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at Queen’s University. I have always wanted to make a difference in the world and so after graduation, I joined Engineers Without Borders in Toronto. Through this organization, I had the opportunity to move to Zambia where I started my own business doing advisory on shared value with agricultural enterprises. There is a constant need for companies to innovate, and so my role was to advise these companies on how to use their current human capital and resources to do so.

When did you decide to do an MBA and why?

I actually started contemplating the idea of doing an MBA during my undergrad and after discussing potential career paths in engineering with my uncle. I knew that I did not want to be a technical engineer and instead determined that I wanted to pursue a career in management. After a few years of working in Zambia, I felt I got to a point where I started to plateau in terms of learning. As someone who constantly needs to grow, I determined that an MBA would give me the opportunity to find an alignment with my passions, to push my career to the next level, and to revisit the meaning of impact. I have observed that the most impactful role models in my life have found success by following their passions, and so that is exactly what I intended to do. When the time came to choose an MBA program, I knew that I wanted to do it at the best university in Canada and chose to apply to McGill. My choice was confirmed through the many conversations I had with the admissions team and with Sujata Madan, Director of MBA Strategic Initiatives at Desautels who was named Teacher of the Year multiple times.

What made you decide to pursue consulting?

During my undergrad degree, I was involved in a youth incubator program. At that time I knew that eventually I would leave engineering and would study business. I had also heard about business consulting from a few people that I knew and it stayed in my mind as something that I might want to try out. Inherently, I wanted to help clients and find solutions for their problems, and so consulting seemed like a good fit.

McKinsey is one of the most prestigious and sought-after consulting firms. Did you know right away that you wanted to work there?

I went into the MBA with an open mind and found there were so many opportunities to explore during the first year of the program. Choosing the right one can be a challenging process and it definitely tests your time management skills. It was helpful to get insights from alumni such as Mike Ross (MBA’10) who encouraged me to pursue consulting. At the end of the first semester, I got involved with the McGill Not-For-Profit Consulting Program (MNFPC), which is done in collaboration with McKinsey consultants. As I spent more time with them, I saw how they approached problems and found that we had very much in common. That’s when I realized that McKinsey would be the right fit for me. In addition, McKinsey is a global firm. Although I will be working for the Montreal office, I will have the opportunity to work on projects in different cities around the world.

Did you do your internship in consulting?

Not exactly. In the summer, I did a strategy internship at Aldo where I met my mentor Guillaume Simard. Guillaume is also a McGill MBA graduate and his advice was instrumental in helping me to structure my thoughts. He had also gone through the consulting recruitment process and encouraged me to apply. My internship as a Summer Associate for the Enterprise Performance team at Aldo allowed me to continue to grow my soft and hard skills, and I reached a pivotal moment where I realized that a lot of the non-industry-related skills that I had, such as planning and cross-cultural and cross-functional communication, were transferable. In addition, I had a very structured team at Aldo which was very consulting-oriented because the founder originally worked at BCG.

In your opinion, what is the key skill that future consultants need to have to be successful in this industry?

I believe that consultants need a variety of skills. First, I think that to succeed as a consultant, you need to be passionate about learning in itself. You need to enjoy the learning curve and have the curiosity to discover more, while wanting to perform during that process. The second element that I find essential is to have the ability to put the client’s needs first. There might be situations when you need to push the boundaries that the client sets, but it is important to do so while always keeping the client’s best interest at heart. Finally, whether it is in consulting or in any other field, I believe that you need to bring yourself to the table: find what it is that you are passionate about and figure out what you enjoy and how you like to work. That is the best way to determine if this field or company is the right fit for you.

Which parts of the McGill MBA were instrumental to achieving your post-MBA goal?

The McGill Non-For-Profit Consulting: it was great to have exposure to McKinsey consultants and find out more about their problem-solving approach. It helped me in assessing the fit with this company, which was very important to me.

The summer internship: It was a great opportunity to apply what I learned in first-year in a non-classroom setting. It helped me in gaining a lot of confidence as well.

Variety in classes: Having the ability to take courses in a variety of industries was particularly useful, as a future consultant. With the small class setting, you can also receive some valuable feedback from the professors, which is nice.

McGill Business Consulting Group: It was a good experience in sales and client relationship building. I worked with 2 to 3 clients over the year. It gave me a perspective on what I would envision myself to be like in a client relationship or how I would like a client relationship to be.

How did you prepare for the consulting interview process?

I joined the case preparation program led by Mike Ross and Fiona MacFarlane, and practiced cases with my peers. As time went by, I realized that case practice was making me quite nervous, and so in addition to that, I tried adopting another approach: I aimed to be structured in everything else that I did. Every time I answered a question in class, every time I helped someone in my life make a decision, every time I made a slide deck, I tried having a structured thinking process. Every project or class assignment and every instance in my life became an opportunity to ponder the problem, to think of a structured approach and to communicate a solution. Essentially, for 6 to 8 months I made cases part of my everyday life and tried to hone my structured communication as much as possible so that I would not get as nervous during the case interview. Finally, the MBA was also a great opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and I believe that it is essential to have the ability to think critically, and to have structured problem-solving and communication skills to succeed in the consulting interviews.

What would be your advice for aspiring consultants and future MBA’s in general?

For aspiring consultants: Case practice is of course important but try to also use the MBA as the opportunity to explore a variety of industries and companies. Get familiar with how the world works in each industry, stay in touch with current trends and keep learning. See how things connect with one another. That will help you take your case to the next level.

For all MBA’s: You might come into the MBA with a specific goal, but be open to the fact that this goal might change as you learn more about the various industries and about yourself. Be open to exploring and trying new things. You can take advantage of this time and find out what success means to you.
A second piece of advice would be to reflect on what you are learning by setting periodical goals. Set some goals not only in terms of your career but also in terms of personal growth. This is an incubator time for yourself personally and professionally, so make the most of this time to grow as much as you possibly can.

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