Breaking into Consulting with Muhammad Soomro
Sunday evenings are relatively quiet for Muhammad Soomro. Most of the time, you can find him propped up on his couch with a handful of car magazines, or whistling in the kitchen as he whips up a batch of delicious baked goods. Monday morning, however, is a different story. Muhammad will slip into his business formal wear and begin the long commute downtown. You see, Muhammad isn’t just a car enthusiast and talented baker. He’s a Schulich alumni, former SCC Co-President and current Consulting Analyst at Accenture, one of the largest management consulting firms best known for their work in technology. Recently, we caught up with him to talk about his decision to pursue consulting and his advice to students looking to follow in his footsteps. Read on for the full-length interview:
Can you introduce yourself to our members?
Hi guys! My name is Muhammad Soomro. I’m a recent BBA 2017 Schulich graduate - I specialized in finance and information systems. I just started working at Accenture as a Consulting Analyst.
A lot of our members may not have a clear idea about what consulting really is. What does consulting mean to you?
Consulting to me is just being able to solve a problem. More specifically, it’s not just solving one problem over and over again. In any given project, you have limited time to learn about a specific industry, hit the ground running, and help solve a particular issue in that industry. After that’s done, you move onto another project, in another industry, solving another problem. If you’re someone who can work in many different environments in a short span of time, then I’d say consulting is a great career path for you.
What intrigues you about a career in consulting?
I would say that there are three main things that intrigue me about the industry. The first one is that you are able to try many different things. Consulting engagements can last anywhere between 2-6 months. If you’re someone that gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again, the silver lining is that you eventually get moved to a different project or industry.
Another advantage of a career in consulting is the broad skillset that you build. From building polished decks and presenting to clients, to learning the nitty gritty processes of various industries, every single day is a new learning experience. If you decide that you need a break from consulting one day, consulting experience is widely recognized around the world and you can use your adaptive skills to work in many different industries.
The third thing that intrigues me about consulting is that it is a very rewarding career. You get to work with intelligent colleagues and clients, receive opportunities to travel, and are awarded with excellent compensation.
What advice do you have for students looking to break into consulting?
I would say that there are four things you should focus on to break into the industry.
Number one is learn about the industry. Figure out if consulting is the right fit for you, because it’s not for everyone. The hours can get long, you’re often under a time crunch, and your work environment is always changing. If it is for you, figure out which companies cater specifically to what you’re looking for. For example, are you more interested in corporate strategy or digital technology? There are different firms that play in different markets.
Number two would be build your profile. Overall, most consulting firms want highly balanced candidates. Candidates should have excellent leadership experiences, while also maintaining reasonable grades. Work/internship experience is also important. Regardless of whether it’s a multinational corporation or a startup, ultimately what counts the most is the impact you were able to have on the organization.
Number three is network. Networking is very important in consulting because a lot of firms have a plethora of resumes coming in. Often, having someone vouching for you from that firm can help with securing an interview. You need someone you have good rapport with, someone who can say: “you know what, XYZ is a great candidate, they’re very interested and I want to give them an interview with my firm.” However, if you have an all-star profile, it’s definitely possible to get an interview with limited or no networking.
Number four, arguably the most important, is learn how to do case interviews. Unfortunately, a lot of candidates wait until they get an interview call to start preparing. I can tell you that, in a vast majority of cases, that candidate will not get the job - they probably won’t even make it to the next round. That's because consulting interviews are broken into two parts: a behavioural or “fit” portion and a case interview portion. While a lot of candidates are ready for the behavioural portion, most candidates tend to be underprepared for the case interview portion. Case interviews do take several weeks or months to prepare for. Overall, you just have to practice a lot. Case interviews teach you how to think on the spot and quickly understand problems from various industries. To a certain extent, this resembles what you’ll be doing as a consultant.
Finally, why do you think our members should attend Premiere?
Many of you probably haven’t met any consultants yet. At Premiere, you’ll find 4 or 5 consultants from different firms, specializing in different industries and functions, who are also Schulich alumni. If you’re lucky, you may get to meet me as well!
Monday night comes, and Muhammad is back home reminiscing about the day. Perhaps he spent some time learning about app development at Accenture’s Liquid Studios, or assisted an international hotel chain launch their new digital customer experience. Either way, he knows no two days as a consultant are ever the same. As he leans back in his recliner and flips through the latest edition of Motor Trend, he breaks into a small smile.
The road to consulting was never an easy one. On nights like this, however, it all seems worth it.
Are you interested in a career in consulting? Make sure to join us for Premiere on October 4th to learn about the industry from a panel of Schulich alumni and network with professionals from various firms. For more information, check out our official event page on Facebook: http://bit.ly/2xqv4ls.