Alumni Series - How Aspiring Consultants Can Make the Most of the School Year with Quincy Ng
Talha Waheed, Member Development Associate, had the opportunity to speak with Quincy Ng, a Senior Consultant at IBM, who graduated from Schulich in 2018 with a specialization in Marketing and Strategic Management. This discussion will explore how students interested in the consulting industry can best prepare for the upcoming school year and get a head start on recruitment preparation.
TALHA: Can you tell us about your current role at IBM and past experiences in the consulting industry?
QUINCY: I am currently a Senior Consultant in the Microsoft practice at IBM, and I focus specifically on ERP implementations. What makes this role interesting is that we sell Microsoft products from IBM, so my team likes to joke about how “we are selling Pepsi out of a Coke van”. I also plan a lot of different team events and work on sales and marketing materials for my Partner to use when engaging clients for future business opportunities. In my second year at Schulich, I interned at a boutique consulting firm as a Marketing Coordinator, so I was part of the consulting industry, but I focused on developing strategies for marketing the consulting services as opposed to consulting work itself.
TALHA: Awesome, could you give us some insight on what an IBM Microsoft consulting project case looks like?
QUINCY: Basically, what my team does is work closely with clients to solution and implement Microsoft technologies for their business. The solution could involve multiple components including Microsoft technologies as well as other IBM offerings, such as Watson analytics or robotic process automation. At a high level for ERP implementations, what we do is start by going through a process of blueprinting where we showcase the feature functions of the system and try to really understand what the client requirements are. Then we will go onto the design/build phase where we will construct any proof of concepts or customizations required and demo it back to the client, so that they can validate the new functions they will be getting in the system. We will then go through various cycles of testing to ensure everything is operating as it should and finally deploy the system for go-live.
TALHA: That is amazing to hear, what sparked your interest in consulting during your time at Schulich?
QUINCY: So I actually never knew what consulting was until I joined the Schulich Consulting Club (SCC) in my second year. Consulting is one of those jobs, where if you do not know what you want to do, then it’s the perfect job for you because it deals with so many different aspects of business, not just focusing on one area like finance or accounting. Also, the day-to-day is always different and you are constantly challenged in many different ways and that was something that interested me because I get bored fairly easily.
TALHA: Great, what are some events you participated in throughout your time at Schulich that supported you in landing your current position?
QUINCY: I was really big on the ultimate frisbee community here at Schulich because it was so great to see a group of strangers together to achieve a common goal and become a family through it all. I was Co-Captain of the Schulich Frisbaes intramurals team and that experience was so rewarding and gave a lot to talk about during the interview process. I also participated in a number of case competitions at Schulich such as the YMA Google Case Competition as well as the Unilever UniGames Competition, and that really helped challenge my thinking as well as my ability to communicate a solution for a case in a very structured way, which supported me during my recruitment process. I also did many executive positions at Schulich clubs such as the Schulich Consulting Club (SCC), Schulich ProtégéProgram (SPP), and the York University Investment Fund (YUSIF), which provided me with a lot of different experiences to talk about.
TALHA: Fantastic, with there being so many different clubs and events during the year, it can become very daunting, how do you recommend incoming students make the best use of their time?
QUINCY: I think it's good for students to really explore what’s out there before being set on a specific club because depending on what you are looking for there are very different club cultures, and so just through exploring different events, new students can better understand where they best fit in to add value. It’s important to consider the purpose of the club rather than just the networking opportunities that are available through the club.
TALHA: With a couple weeks left before the semester begins, what do you think students should do prior to the school year that equips them for utmost success?
QUINCY: Students should just really enjoy the time that they have to explore and try new things by connecting with people because you never know where these connections will take you in the future. It could support you during your recruitment journey or help to create strong friendships. All the experiences we go through, whether good or bad, become stories that help us become interesting people to be around. Through taking meaningful action to explore new things, we become more valuable candidates for jobs and better people in general.
TALHA: For first year students beginning this fall, do you have any tips for what steps they can take early on to truly make the most of their four years and prepare themselves for a career in consulting down the road?
QUINCY: One of the most important things for students is to really do the things that they are interested in and not what everybody else is because it becomes very easy in an environment like Schulich to follow the flow of others. It’s important to explore the things that you like because consulting, requires a lot of different perspectives and skills to provide a holistic solution to the problems you’re working on, so firms look for candidates with different backgrounds that can help with all areas of the solutioning process. For me, I took a lot of different electives during my time at Schulich such as Sculpting, Painting, and Korean Culture. All these different experiences that not many Schulich students participate helped me become a more interesting candidate to speak with as I was more than your average business student. It also helped me get the job because my interest in art translated into my ability to help build sales and marketing materials to reach potential clients.
TALHA: That’s great, it really is important to branch out and explore different experiences. If you could go back in time and give your first year self a piece of advice in the Summer before university began, what would you say?
QUINCY: I would say “don’t discount your experiences or underestimate yourself because of what others are doing”. I think at Schulich it can be very easy to look at other students and think that they are more “capable” than us, so we deny ourselves the opportunity to apply for specific jobs or join a particular club. Rather than limiting ourselves, we should take the opportunity to try new things because even if we fail, we can take it as a learning experience. The worst position to be in is always wondering what could have happened if we did try, but never knowing because we were too afraid. The truth is, most of the time companies don’t hire based on current abilities, but rather the potential of an individual and so you as an individual can really make all the difference.
TALHA: Well said, I know that first years are going to have a very unique experience this year, with everything being virtual, do you have any specific advice or thoughts on how to best navigate through these obstacles?
QUINCY: Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. I know that as a first year it can be very intimidating to reach out to upper-years or even your peers, but these connections are really what will make your experience great. If you do not reach out to these people, you will not know the extent of the opportunities that are available for you. Also, joining clubs like the Schulich ProtégéProgram (SPP) can be very beneficial as well, where they provide first years with an upper-year student for the school year. If you are intimidated by reaching out to someone yourself, they will provide you with that resource.
TALHA: I noticed that you went on exchange to Singapore, how did this experience benefit you into your career?
QUINCY: My exchange was a really fun time. Everyone says their exchange was the best time of their life, and they are not lying. The experience has really benefited my career as it taught me how to get outside of my comfort zone and try new things. On my exchange to Singapore, I actually took a solo trip to Vietnam and because of the trip I became more comfortable being alone and by myself. At work, when I am sent to different places to meet clients, even though I am alone, I don’t feel uncomfortable because of my travel experiences. I actually chose to go on exchange to Singapore because they had a lot of entrepreneurial courses offered, and so I took a course about called New Venture Creation. We were tasked with developing our own business plan about how we would sell the products we came up with, and that was really interesting because I got to see so many unique business ideas. I also had a great professor during my exchange, who was a consultant at the Kearney Consultancy. He was teaching a marketing course and brought a lot of key consulting skills and insights, which really helped me out in landing my future job.
TALHA: What courses did you take throughout your time at Schulich that proved to be the most useful?
QUINCY: One of the courses I highly recommend to students who are even remotely interested in a career in consulting, is the Management Consulting course by Graeme Deans because that course really simulates what a consulting environment would look like. He would bring in his friends from various industries during our cases presentations, and he would challenge us to apply the frameworks in our case solutions. I know many courses teach us about the different frameworks, such as the 4Ps of marketing, but the professor really brings them to life by showing us how we can apply them in the real world. In this course, Graeme Deans blows your mind, and makes you feel like you are not really as intelligent as you thought, but in a good way because you are essentially a sponge and learn so much.
TALHA: That’s great to hear. As people are exploring different career paths, it’s also crucial to choose a firm that’s a perfect fit. What makes IBM different that other companies?
QUINCY: What makes IBM different is that the way we are structured because in consulting firms you will generally be working with different people for each project, which only lasts for a certain period of time. At IBM, however, I work in the Microsoft practice, so I typically work with the same Microsoft team members on every project, rather than having to switch after completing a project, although there are opportunities to work with people from other practices as well. This becomes very helpful because you can develop longer-lasting relationships with your co-workers, which help you work better together on every project you come to face. Another thing IBM does differently is the global travel. Since the company is such a large organization, we have projects all over the world and we can travel to various destinations that not many other companies work in. For example, the project I am currently working on right now is in Jamaica, so I will be able to travel there and the rest of the Caribbean once the COVID situation settles down. Finally, IBM has a great work-life balance. Most consulting firms are known to have very long hours that can become difficult to manage, but one of the first things I heard when I came to IBM was to take my vacation days and replenish myself after working for long periods of time. This really established to me that I am able to take time off, and I do have a very flexible work life at this company.
TALHA: What are important things to look for in a consulting firm?
QUINCY: One of the things I think students should look for are the opportunities that are available for new grads or students alone. For my practice, what I like about it is that my Partner actually runs the whole practice like a small business, where it does not matter if you are recent graduate or a manager. Everyone has the opportunity to make substantial sales, sell business to clients, and lead new projects. There is essentially no hierarchy in my team, so if you have ideas and are willing to take action, there is complete accessibility and openness. Another thing to look for is the team dynamic because you want to find an organization where your input is valued and you as an individual are valued, where it is not just your position that is important. At the end of the day, I think it is most important to find a place that is right for you. For example, if you want to live a heavy work-focused lifestyle, then find a firm that accommodates that, but if you want to travel or have more work-life balance, then explore organizations where those opportunities are available.
TALHA: And that concludes our interview! Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences with us. I know this will benefit many students, so thank you again.