It has been six years this month since Veronica Collins last worked for the world’s first fine-art auctioneers. It was at Christie’s in New York back in 2007 that the Art History graduate got her first taste of business.
With just a Bachelor of Arts from NYU, Veronica and her department notched up 14 world-record-breaking sales in under four years. Once she got a taste of management, once she felt the lure of sales, Veronica was hooked.
Now she is working at Bain & Company, a leading global management consulting firm, one of the best in the business. Much like how Christie’s is at the forefront of the arts’ world, Bain swims at the top of the consulting food chain. Veronica is immersed in one of the most sought-after careers in the MBA Jobs world; out with the auctioneer, in with the business expert.
Only two years out of Wharton, her journey is just beginning.
At Christie’s, Veronica was headhunted to cross over to Phillips de Pury & Company, the world’s largest contemporary art auction house. Back then, she was tasked with building Indian art business, heading marketing initiatives and brand development. In two years, Veronica quadrupled Phillips’ South Asian high net worth clientele.
But two years in at Bain, and it is hard to see the artist. Veronica has moved up the ranks to Case Team Leader in what is a fast-paced, management-focused career. But scratch a little deeper under the surface, and the creative flair is still flourishing. Far from casting her passion for art to one side, she embraces and uses it to her advantage.
Veronica swats away the myth that only analytical backgrounds make for top financiers and consultants. “Having an art related degree or creative background has been incredibly valuable,” she says, confidence beaming.
“Part of the unique way Bain operates is by bringing people from different perspectives and skillsets together, and having that skillset has been incredibly valuable to tailor my results for clients at Bain in exceptional ways that allow for better outcomes.”
Veronica credits her time spent studying an MBA at Wharton – the Ivy League, top MBA Rankings' business school in the US – for the career transition. Her MBA provided a strong analytical foundation, networking opportunities and entrepreneurial initiatives. While working with the Indian business branches for Phillips and Christie’s, Veronica saw the tip of the iceberg.
“It enticed me,” she says of her time in the art industry. “When I got a taste of working on these business problems, I realised that I knew a lot about art but only knew a bit about business development. An MBA will bring a broader skill-set to what’s valuable in the business world and art world.
“Being from such a non-traditional and creative background, I wanted to marry that with a strong background in maths and analytics to come out a better candidate.”
There’s no doubt that she did. Bain & Co is a popular firm to work with; competition is fierce. By its very nature, consulting tops the charts for MBA grads across the world, enticed by generous salaries and the opportunity for career progression.
Those that want to launch a consulting career will be pleased to hear that an MBA got Veronica the job. “It enabled me to get the job at Bain,” she said.
“I needed the opportunity to spend two years immersed in that environment. It would have been difficult to make the transition without an MBA. It afforded me the business language to express and communicate with Bain recruiters and clients, so in my experience the Wharton degree was hugely valuable and essential.”
Veronica thought of studying an arts-related Masters, but while creative backgrounds can enhance a business career, they need to be backed up by the nuts and bolts of administration.
A new year is approaching at Bain and, so far, so good. “Art is one of my many passions and I think that one of the amazing things about Bain is that I’ve been able to keep up with art specifically through projects,” she says.
“At Bain, different minds come together and help merge skillsets to create solutions for the client. You hear this a lot, but it’s the people that are the differentiating factor. It’s an incredible job bringing together interesting and intelligent people into one place.
"There are not only huge learning opportunities in the work itself, but huge learning opportunities in the collaborative nature at Bain in general.”
Veronica is inspired to take on some of the biggest challenges in business. At Bain, she uses her creative background to solve difficult problems… and host tours to NYC museums for fellow Bainies. “You have the chance to learn from the best and brightest in the industry,” she continues.
“Bain takes someone like me with a unique background and gives you a front-row seat to solve some of the biggest business problems in the world.
“I was staffed on a project in Asia for four months and having experienced working in Asia before and also specifically engaging with culture and creative output, I was able to bring a unique perspective to the case and tailor communication with the client in a way to make the results more relevant.”
Today, the Wharton MBA will set to work in New York with a renewed sense of confidence. It would be a mistake to assume that the switch was not a challenge. “I have a lot to learn at Bain, but you learn so much on the job,” she says.
“I have learnt what’s most important to me: and that’s a strong culture, intelligent colleagues and a place where you constantly face intellectually challenging problems.
“At first it can seem daunting, but it’s become incredibly rewarding.”
As long as the challenges keep rolling in, Veronica will continue to consult. Art was her unlikely route to one of the top firms and the Wharton MBA is a model of diversity in the modern business world.
Now that she is near the top, now that all the hard work has paid off, what would she say to the traditionalists? “An art-related degree has been incredibly valuable. I can tailor my results for clients at Bain in exceptional ways, for better outcomes.”
There is a perception out there. But MBAs like Veronica are casting convention aside.