It’s no mystery why many ambitious MBAs are keen to start careers in consulting.
Particularly at big firms like PwC and Deloitte, which work with clients all over the world, consultants get to experience all kinds of business environments, gaining insight into diverse industries in a single, engaging role.
Not only that, but for MBAs with their sights set on strategic management, consultancy is the ideal destination. According to recent data collected by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), consulting firms are more likely to place MBAs into strategic roles than any other role type—generalist, specialist, or operational.
However, the same things that make consultancy roles attractive also make them competitive. What if you’ve been working in a different industry for years—how do you make the change?
That’s less of a concern for students on The Lisbon MBA, a combined effort of Nova School of Business and Economics, Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics, and MIT Sloan.
As part of the course on The Lisbon MBA, students spend the summer working on their future careers, with an option to work on a Summer Project in a firm either in Portugal or abroad. The Summer Project allows students with little or no prior experience to spend two months working in the industry of their choice and, for many, that industry is consulting.
This was the case for Maria Pais do Amaral, who was working in telecommunications before she started her MBA. “I always had some curiosity [about] how I would fit into consulting,” she says. “[I wanted to see] if I would like it and if it would be a good fit, and I saw the perfect opportunity in the summer internship program on the MBA.”
Maria’s project took place in the strategic consultancy team at Accenture Strategy in Lisbon, a global consulting firm that serves more than two thirds of Fortune 500 companies.
For Maria, the project was an ideal opportunity to find out what consulting was all about, and what her role could be in it. “It was a very good experience,” she says. “I worked in two different projects, with two different teams, so it showed me in a short time how a career in consulting would be.
“I liked it a lot, and afterwards I decided to take the step and continue working in consulting.”
One of the key things Maria took away from the project was the diversity of cases available to work on within consulting. Instead of being pigeonholed into a single industry or set of tasks, as she had been in her previous role, Maria was exposed to many different areas of business at once.
“We’re able to approach a lot of different industries,” she says, “so it’s very diversified—and [that makes it] fun! We’re not always doing the same things.”
The other aspect of the project that most excited Maria was the team of students she was working with from The Lisbon MBA. “Because it was quite a young team, it was always dynamic,” she explains. “I wouldn’t say it was ‘competitive’ [as such], but it was ambitious—we always wanted to deliver a bit more.”
After finishing the project in September 2016, Accenture offered Maria a job, and she accepted. She’s been working for Accenture ever since, and Maria credits The Lisbon MBA for helping her get her start in the industry.
Coming from an engineering background into consulting may not have been an obstacle if she had been entering the field directly from an undergraduate degree, but having had experience only in another industry, Maria believes that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for her to get started on her own.
“I think the MBA was a key part of my plan to go into consulting, and it worked out perfectly,” she says. “It opened the door to consulting [for me].”
Now, she certainly seems content in her career path: “I think that consulting right now is the right place for me to be,” says Maria. “I’m learning and I’m learning fast, I’m developing well.”
Particularly in Portugal, where Maria says there is frequently less of a variety of jobs on offer, consulting is an exciting space to be in, always offering new experiences. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me,” Maria says. “Once you’re willing to dedicate time and work [to it], it’s compensated by what you get out of it afterwards.”
So—now that she has The Lisbon MBA behind her, and a senior strategy position at Accenture in the bag—does Maria see herself being in consulting for the rest of her career?
“Well, I’m always flexible,” she says. “[But] I would say now that I will continue in consulting for some time. Afterwards—who knows?”