Competing in international gymnastics might seem a million miles away from strategy consulting, but for Anett Bako, a master’s in management helped to build a bridge.
As a child, her talents were spotted by a gymnastics club in her native Hungary, leading to a 15 year career with the national team. During this time, Anett won accolades including a silver medal at the European Championships, fourth place at the World Games, and sixth place in the World Championships.
“I made a lot of sacrifices along the way,” she reflects. “It was a huge part of my childhood, but I never really saw myself in it for the future, becoming a judge or coach.”
Hoping to explore alternative career options, Anett turned to business school.
She completed her undergraduate degree in business administration at Budapest Corvinus University, and immediately set out on the Master’s in Strategy and International Management (SIM) program at Switzerland’s University of St Gallen.
After graduating, it wasn’t long before Anett launched a completely new career that required a different kind of flexibility: consulting.
For Anett, a master’s program was the ideal way to build a professional network, to open up opportunities in the business world.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but it needed to be something challenging, diverse, and practical,” she explains.
Completing her bachelor’s degree felt like a natural stopping point for her gymnastics career, she says, freeing her to pursue a lifelong ambition: studying abroad.
With its international community and exciting job opportunities, Switzerland soon stood out as an attractive spot. Nestled in the heart of Europe, the country ranks 13th in the top 25 most popular study destinations for business school.
Anett soon discovered the SIM program at St Gallen, and was drawn to the diverse student body. In her cohort, she was pleased to see that 23 different nationalities were represented.
“I wanted an international program, to help me understand people’s different backgrounds,” she explains. “It was quite a change from the fairly homogeneous atmosphere in Hungary.”
The SIM program’s global reputation also helped confirm Anett’s decision— it’s currently number one in the Financial Times’ master’s in management rankings.
Blending theory and practice
Enrolling in a program with plenty of opportunities for practical learning was equally important to Anett. “The educational approach was really about learning how to think more critically, and apply the theory in practice,” she explains.
Throughout the program, she jumped at the chance to tackle practical projects, like working with visiting companies such as Allianz, BCG, McKinsey, and Bain, on real business challenges.
The class also took part in regular tutorials with Deloitte Switzerland— a particular highlight for Anett. “We went to their offices, and did workshops on thinking styles,” she recalls.
This hands-on approach pushed Anett out of her comfort zone, encouraging her to grow in confidence quickly.
Back in the classroom, group work centered on real world case studies, presented as consulting projects. Working in close-knit teams sparked friendly competition, Anett notes. “This was similar to competing in gymnastics, so there was kind of a flow through,” she reflects.
Through an active alumni group, Anett remains in touch with her SIM peers to this day, sharing updates and job opportunities.
Uncovering a new career
Through her experiences at St Gallen, Anett discovered a flair for consulting. The sector had been on her radar from some time, but the SIM program confirmed her interest.
Modules with a focus on professional services allowed her to develop an understanding of how the consulting industry operates, and what life as a consultant involves.
“I really like the fact that consulting means working with short to medium term projects. It’s intensive and delivers practical outcomes,” she says.
As well as providing an exciting challenge, consulting also appealed to Anett because of the diverse industries, business functions, and people she would get to work with.
After graduating from St Gallen, Anett soon landed a role with US consultancy, North Highland, working from their London office.
“I have always been fascinated by London,” she says, “and there are some amazing opportunities here.”
Anett joined North Highland as an analyst, but worked her way into a senior consultant role in just a few years. Her projects have been varied, with clients ranging from an oil and gas company, to a magic circle law firm, to a utility provider.
“I’m really enjoying the amount of opportunities you get with so many companies being here,” she says. “Working with firms on their really big questions of tomorrow is definitely very motivating and rewarding.”
Anett plans to continue in consulting for a few more years, before deciding whether a move to an in-house strategy or corporate development role.
“I’ll figure it out as it comes,” she says. Whatever her decision, Anett is confident that her skills and network will serve her well.