Case Study: Teaching to Consulting

Case Study: Samantha

former teacher, post MBA strategy consultant

Sam was a science teacher at prestigious middle school in the Northeast stuck between an urge to do something more competitive, have a family, and something she just couldn’t nail down. She was doing well financially as a teacher – much better than most teachers, and felt her work was meaningful. But, she disliked the politics of the system and felt her impact was marginalized by forces beyond her control. Teaching it turns out (like every profession) is a bit political.

Initial Stats:
Undergrad GPA: 3.8,
Major: Liberal Arts
GMAT: not taken
Salary: $85,000 base, incentive bonuses, extra tutoring put annl take home around $115k
Age: 25
Expected path: MBA with Marketing Concentration
Her Perceived Challenge: GMAT math

At the initial evaluation (see to book yours) she had trouble responding to my questions about her intermediate (post MBA) goals. She had reasonable “cocktail party” answers, but my anti-BS missiles crushed her facade. She did the pre-MBA workbook to get her head around the work she needed to do before even writing the MBA apps while preparing for the GMAT over a three month initial period. Finished GMAT just after round 1 deadlines but success with 710. She submitted a few apps on her own in round 2, but was already planning big personal and professional changes because of the discoveries she had had while doing the pre-MBA workbook.

She had successful interviews, and gained admission to the program she had most wanted initially, 9 months prior. Yeah! right?

In that 9 months, we had discussed and explored careers she hadn’t known about or hadn’t really understood. She also connected with mentors and facilitators who could help her get into those careers. So despite the great Yes, she bravely said no.

It wasn’t easy. She certainly had fomo and worse still her fiance and family had mega fomo! How can you turn down a solid yes at a top 20 program?!

You see, after she finished the grind of the applications, she realized she really needed more and different experience before she could max out her time in any program. So she came back to work with me 1-1 on her transition. (This is similar to the Integrated Life course) She put a lot of energy into the explore and discovery phases.

So before she had even heard back from schools, she had transitioned into a serious analytical role at a boutique consulting firm. To be fair, she started working for them for free. We set up the arrangement so that she would get real work – not just administrative stuff – but she would have to prove her value. If she proved her value within the first 3-4 months, they would keep her on as a analyst for the next year at a normal salary. We arranged this through the parents of a friend from high school. Don’t knock the hometown approach.

She was excited about the role because she could gain exposure across a few industries and hoped to see “business”. No one in her house had been a business owner or involved in what any of them considered business (that’s an argument for a different day…); they were public lawyers and scientists. After a few months in, she realized that strategy consulting would be a good fit for her personality, her life goals and the trade-offs were acceptable (travel, lack of control in client selection, etc.).

So she was determined to make the path from teacher to strategy consultant, which was less likely at the school she had originally most wanted. ((Hence why I am not sharing it’s name. I don’t need angry adcom and alum letters.)) She’d need a different program and better background to bolster her chances at a top 3 strategy firm (McK, BCG, Bain), and she had already taken the first leap with the transitional role. That program she had wanted 9 months ago would be a step backward at this point.

Approximately 14 months after she first considered bschool, she applied to (2) top 5 MBA programs. She was accepted at both. #CompellingEssays

Getting a gig at one of the big 3 strategy firms is no easy feat. Just getting an interview was going to be a challenge for her. She was at a top 5 program, but she had at least 100 peers who also wanted those interviews. She would need to bring singular focus to getting the interviews, executing them beautifully, and sealing the deal over the summer. So she played full out. She understood better than MOST of my students that there is really no space in an MBA program to be unclear about your professional aims. That first month in school she owned the consulting interview circuit. She also made sure her academics demonstrated top 10-level performance.

She understood her tradeoffs. It wasn’t chance.
It was solid preparation.

End of MBA stats:
MBA GPA: top 10%
Concentration: Finance
GMAT: 710
Salary: $225,000 base, incentive bonuses
Age: 29
Path: Top 5 MBA, Big 3 Strategy Firm
Next Challenge: how long does she stay in consulting?


**Samantha’s name has been changed because I’m nuts about privacy for my clients.