The Alumni Blog team interviewed an alumnus working with Sequoia Capital and previously with McKinsey & Co. to give our final years a quick look into Management Consulting as a career choice.  This article hopes to prove insightful on Placement Interviews, Skill Sets and Expectations.

Following is the gyan that Kaushik Anand (Batch of 2010, Chemical Engineering) has to share on why he chose McKinsey and Co!

Kaushik AnandHow was your placement experience in Insti? What advice would you like to share with students about preparation for placements?

The first word which comes to my mind about placements in insti is “tiring”. I had 4 companies on day one and had back to back interviews from 630 am to 1 pm. The end result made it quite pleasurable though. I have written about my day one experience here (http://kaushikiitm.blogspot.in/2009/12/day-one.html).

After seeing the real world for a few years outside IIT, my biggest advice to students would be to not buckle to peer pressure and consider placements as the end of the world. There are lots of opportunities which exist outside. Have some notes of caution around decision making. Do not optimize for the short term in brand, salary etc. Many folks earn 2-3 times their starting salary in a few years after college. Pick a sector/ job you are passionate about. Do not join a company because it pays well or because it has a good brand name. Think about your long term aspirations and apply to companies which are in tune with your aspirations. Talk to seniors in a bunch of companies before making your decision.

Why did you choose the career path of consulting? Why did you choose McKinsey in specific?

I had a couple of startups on campus which won the NYCEDC contest and the GE Edison challenge. While I was looking to make these startups into companies, I realized that I completely lacked business skills. I thought consulting would be a good place to get business exposure by looking at senior managers and leaders take decisions from close quarters.

Choosing McKinsey was much simpler. The seniors I respected the most in IITM were in McKinsey. When I spoke to them and folks from other consulting firms, I realized that McKinsey offered flexibility which other firms didn’t. For example, it gave us the option of choosing the projects we work on. This was important to me as I wanted to work in specific sectors. It is also the largest  consulting firm in the world and had a longer history in India. So, choice between McKinsey and other firms was clear in my mind even before placements.

In your opinion, what specific skill sets do you gather from IIT Madras that helps with a McKinsey placement?

IITM gives the opportunity for students to involve themselves in a variety of things apart from academics. Apart from the startups I mentioned, I was part of the Core team at Saarang, I had a chance to be a part of the first batch of MITACS and had participated in a bunch of tech contests. All of these gave me exposure to solve a variety of problems which came in handy during the interview (and later in McKinsey). I think people who have had diverse exposure tend to do well in the case interviews.

The two biggest skills which helped me were the diverse problem solving I had done at IITM and the interpersonal skills I had picked up from various contests and Saarang.

Please share with us a few lines about profiles in McKinsey offered to insti junta and your work experience within your profile.

Everyone from IIT joins as a Business Analyst. Whether you join from an IIT or an IIM, the job profile is the same. McKinsey solves a broad business problem for the client. You are given a part of the problem which you own and solve with help from others within the form. For example, my first study was with a newspaper client where McKinsey was working to improve their profitability. My role was to identify areas where they could improve advertising sales (which contributes to 90% of the client’s revenues) and implement those initiatives for two months to see if it is working. I had to work closely with the ad sales head of the organization and the CEO for this. I ended up working with clients in telecom, media, infrastructure, oil and gas and financial services on a range of problems in strategy, marketing, operations and organization. I loved the fact that I would be in a new place with new people on a new problem every few months.

How has your perception of McKinsey changed from before your placement within the company?

During placements, I had the impression that McKinsey was a very serious place with lots of senior people. My perception on that changed within a month of joining. The average age of people in McKinsey was in the mid twenties. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Unexpectedly, some of the best parties I have attended have been in McKinsey.

While going in, I had also underestimated the independence and ownership you get within. You are asked to speak out your views all the time. If you have a point to make, people will encourage you to make it. It was very non-hierarchical that way.

I had also underestimated the amount of travel someone can do. At one point, I I was taking 8-10 flights a week which was tough. For a good period of time, I was living out of a suitcase. It took me a while to get used to it.

Surprisingly, I was also lucky to have a good work-life balance in McKinsey. I had gone in expecting a bad lifestyle.

How has your ‘interaction’ with Insti peers and seniors at McKinsey been?

It is always fun to meet IITM alums. I was the first Business Analyst in the Chennai office. I moved within six months of joining McKinsey. This office had mostly IITM “junta”. So, many of our informal conversations continued to happen in IITM lingo. It was fun hearing about IITM before the mobile era. Given that there were a bunch of ex-Saarang cores, we would also frequently talk about our experiences there and about how insti has changed from the 90s to today. We used to “put peace” whenever time permitted.

In one sentence, who in your opinion is the ideal McKinsey entrant?

There is no stereotype of a McKinsey entrant. However, I think people who have been all-rounders on campus and done really well (top 5-10% of the batch) in 2-3 things (acads, sports, literary events, tech events or anything else) tend to do well in the interviews. However, the people McKinsey has hired in the last 5 years are quite diverse. So, most of the campus beliefs about CGPA, specific departments, need to be a Secretary/Core etc are untrue. Don’t believe in these things and add to your anxiety.

Kaushik Anand was the Core Member, Marketing and Ticket Sales for Saarang 2010. You can read an earlier interview of him with T5E here: http://t5e.iitm.ac.in/2012/10/alumni-speak-kaushik-anand-mckinsey-co/

(The views expressed here are those of the interviewee alone and do not represent the views of, or should not be attributed to, McKinsey & Co.)