Candace studied MA Gender Studies with reference to the Middle East, at SOAS, University of London. She now works as an associate at Boston Consulting Group - a global management consulting firm
Why did you decide to work for a consultancy?
As I studied the career trajectory of people with high-level jobs in policy and NGOs, I was surprised to see how many of them got their start in consultancies. While academia equips you to understand the causes of a problem, consulting teaches you how to strategise and implement a solution. I decided to pursue jobs in consultancies in order to develop this skill set.
I also knew I'd enjoy the day-to-day work. As a people-person, I was motivated by the chance to contribute as an integral part of a team. And I love the intellectual stimulation that comes from the constant exposure to new industries.
What do consultants do?
Consultants solve problems with data for clients. Firms often specialise in a certain kind of consultancy, such as strategy, operations or information technology, which differ based on the expertise offered and the clients served.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a strategy firm. Strategy firms advise businesses how to outperform their competition and break into new markets. They are often hired to work with high-level executives and senior government officials.
The job involves long hours, lots of travel, and pressure to deliver a quality solution to your client. On the other hand, it pays well and the firm invests in your professional development, accelerating your career.
Are there opportunities to work overseas?
Many strategy firms encourage work abroad via short-term assignments, year-long placements, or even relocation to one of their international offices.
I chose BCG Middle East as a means to expand on the foundation I gained at SOAS. I was also attracted to the volume of public sector projects. With Dubai hosting the World Exposition in 2018 and Saudi Vision 2030, it's an exciting time to work in the region.
What's the recruitment process like?
My recruitment entailed an online exam (testing math and business competence) and two interview rounds. Each round involved solving various business cases and discussing my professional and educational qualifications with different interviewers.
The business cases in consulting interviews are shortened versions of problems that the firm has solved for previous clients. They are used to help consultants evaluate the candidate's quantitative skills and logical reasoning.
Do I need prior business experience?
No, consultancies welcome a broad range of expertise. My professional background is in the development sector, and I studied social sciences at SOAS. If you're bright, teachable and hardworking, the rest can be learned on the job.
What qualifications do I need?
Consulting firms look for strong marks and high standardised math scores. Each firm will have its specific application criteria posted online. BCG requires AAB at A-level (or equivalent) and a first or 2:1 at university (expected or received).
It's also important to demonstrate professional achievement and people skills through internships, campus leadership and/or volunteer activities. You need to show that you can motivate a team, overcome obstacles and effect change in your field.
What are your plans for the future?
After studying with such an international cohort at SOAS, I'm thrilled with the diversity of my co-workers at BCG Middle East. Over 50 nationalities are represented in the Dubai office alone.
I'm also excited to learn more about the region and to contribute to its public and private sector growth. While I'll miss my time at SOAS, it's safe to say that I'm excited about my new role as an Associate with BCG.