How An MBA Got Me A Management Consulting Job At PwC

Rajat Handa got fed up with an IT development career and, with no previous experience, landed a consulting job at PwC. How did he do it? With an MBA from Lancaster University Management School.

It may be a bit of a stereotype, but we can forgive Rajat Handa for his description of a three-year IT development career.

When he left Sabre Holdings, the tech firm he had built his software development and consulting career at, it was out of a simple need for change, rather than a change in-to. 

"I liked it. Well, I didn't hate it. But I just didn't want it," Rajat reflects. "I started my career in 2006 and after a while I missed the people interaction. That interaction was missing for me. And I felt a big stagnant in that career path."

If an MBA was ever renowned for being a generalist rather than specialist degree, Rajat's case goes a long way to confirming that, for those that aren't sure which career path to take, b-school is a shrewd move.

The Lancaster University Management School MBA, which students say is famed for strong connections to consulting, in reality opens doors to many different functions. So when Rajat knew it was time to put his coding days to an end, an MBA at Lancaster, based in the UK, was the perfect location to explore his career options. 

"I didn't know what I wanted to do. It could have been something completely new," he continues. Rajat accepts that Lancaster has excellent consulting links - a bonus he would take advantage of further down the line - but it was not why he chose their MBA program. His career path was muddled at the time. 

"We spend about eight months doing practical work at Lancaster and that was attractive. I wanted to learn on the job," he says. "The MBA Ranking was a consideration and I also wanted a one-year course. 

"But the thing with this consulting reputation is that it depends on personal experience. Many of my peers have gone into marketing or finance. You can get much more out of it than one function."

Those were his thoughts pre-MBA, anyway. Because, flash forward to 2014 and Rajat is an established management consultant at Big Four firm PwC. He didn't know what industry he had a passion for, but six months into the MBA at Lancaster, and his heart was set on an associate position with the firm. 

And he's not the only one - professional services and consulting was the second biggest post-MBA career in Lancaster's 2013 cohort, behind the banking, finance and insurance grouping. "The MBA ultimately made the decision for me," he says. "The three projects I got to do were proper consulting assignments."

There are three types of consulting-based MBA projects or internships available to Lancaster MBA students each year: the New Venture Challenge, MBA Consultancy Challenge and MBA Internship/Corporate Challenge. There is also an element of business development in each one - although the school caters for all other functions, too. 

Yet, when Rajat graduated four years ago, he went straight into an economist's position at Centrica Energy, the leading FTSE100 company. The title scared other MBAs off - but he was hungry to get back into work, whatever the function.

"I missed working and I wanted to get some money back," he explains. "It wasn't consulting but I'm an opportunist so I just went for it. But I soon realized there was quite a lot of internal 'consulting', lots of interaction within the company. It wasn't exactly what I wanted to do, but no experience is bad experience."

That pragmatic attitude surely helped when he applied for PwC, one of the most sought-after firms in the MBA Jobs arena. He admits competition was fierce. And with absolutely no formal consulting experience, how an earth did he bag the job?

"That says a lot about the Lancaster MBA," he says. "You'll have heard how bad the competition is. But Lancaster has done wonders for me. I had no consulting experience at all; all I had on my CV were my three MBA projects. 

"But Lancaster gave me the confidence to try management consulting. I could've been an IT consultant but an MBA helped me realise that I wanted to change my career completely. If you don't have the confidence, you won't get the job."

That rings true for a lot of MBAs whom have tried and failed to break into the Big Four - although over 90 per cent of those from Lancaster are employed within three months of graduation. And many more make it into junior positions, only to fail to move up the corporate ladder with any great pace.

Rajat joined PwC and within two years was promoted to a more senior position. Make up your own conclusions as to whether that is quick in the management consulting world - but his ambition doesn't stop there. 

Like most b-school graduates, he aspires to higher ranks, and an MBA is his ticket to a more senior consulting position.

"It's important to remember that not a lot of people have MBAs [here]," Rajat says. "If two people are in the same role in the same firm, and are both performing well, how do you differentiate between them? That's where education steps in.

"Who do you think is going to be able to handle the job in the long-run? It's a pre-conceived notion in your head that an MBA allows you to add more value to your career. It means you've had more exposure." There is no doubt that employers appreciate the value of an MBA as well. It his case, Rajat was previously able to get ahead of the competition. 

He says it's more about realizing the potential in yourself, rather than developing it from scratch. For those of you that want to land jobs in management consulting, an MBA is clearly a great enabler. For Rajat, it made him realise what he was passionate about. 

It may be a stereotype to say you lack interaction in an IT development career. But it has been a long time since Rajat entered his last line of code.

For him, it is onwards and upwards at PwC. 

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