I Swapped Engineering For Consulting & A Job At McKinsey After My MBA At HEC Paris

Juan Sanchez says the HEC Paris MBA helped him make the career switch

Juan Sanchez (pictured below, right) grew up in the city of São José dos Campos, in the state of São Paulo in Brazil. It’s where his passion for airplanes and aeronautics comes from—the city hosts the headquarters of the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer.

Embraer is a major employer for the city, Juan explains, and so inevitably, after a degree in engineering, he landed a role at the company and the opportunity to further his studies in the area of aeronautics.

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He was there for four years, but then came a craving for a management position, and thus the pursuit of an MBA. He completely changed tack during his degree, he says, and is now thriving in a consulting role with McKinsey, in Brazil.

His move away from engineering was made possible after he decided on HEC Paris as the destination for his MBA. When he arrived at the business school, consulting wasn’t even on the cards.

“I changed my plan in the middle of the MBA and decided to pursue consulting due to the variety of the work, and the exposure I would have [to different industries],” he says. “I did not have that visibility into the sector before jumping into the MBA.”

Juan had planned to remain in engineering and aeronautics, either taking up a position with Embraer in France, or trying to land a role with Airbus. HEC Paris was well placed to offer him both of those opportunities, Juan explains, because it is the strongest name in business education in the country.

Once in the classroom, Juan says that his mind was quickly opened because of the diversity of his peers—92% of students in the HEC Paris MBA are international.

“I was really focused on aeronautics, but after talking to different people and meeting people from different industries, this was the spike for me to start looking for other possibilities,” he says.

During the MBA’s Consulting Peak Week, he had the chance to mix with alumni and industry professionals who delivered speeches, partook in case cracking exercises with students, and helped prepare them for the consulting-interview process.

“I took advantage of that,” says Juan, “to be more prepared, and to get more info. It confirmed my decision to apply for jobs in consulting.”

During the HEC Paris MBA, Juan recalls there being many people coming in from their respected industries and changing tack like him, halfway through the MBA program. Talking to them, he admits, helped him make up his mind.

He could also rest easy, knowing that he was in good hands. The HEC Paris MBA gave Juan the business-savvy mindset he needed to complement his engineering background.

“Once in consulting, you need a good vision of how the business of your client works, to be able to give solid and sustainable recommendations,” he asserts.

“The knowledge HEC Paris provided me, along with my technical skills, were key to me having a good performance in consulting.”

Juan officially swapped engineering for consulting two months after graduating in 2016, when he landed an associate role with McKinsey—he had been putting his knowledge to the test before that for 6 months in a temporary position working as a strategy analyst for Schneider Electric.

Now he’s in an engagement-manager role after receiving a promotion earlier this year. Working in operations, across projects in manufacturing, supply chain, procurement, and capital projects, his job is taking him across Latin America.


“The knowledge HEC Paris provided me, along with my technical skills, were key to me having a good performance in consulting.”


He also fits a trend among many international MBA students, which is to apply what he’s learned abroad to improve his home country. “I want to generate efficiency and attract more investment to Brazil,” he says.

Juan is currently working with one other HEC Paris MBA alum at McKinsey—a colleague who works in digital processes.  Another HEC Paris MBA alum is also set to join them soon, he explains.

And what would his advice be to those considering the move into a consulting role?

“Be super prepared for the process,” he says. “You need to talk to people who did it before, practice cases, and be at the top of your game for the interviews. Every consulting company has its own fit, so you need to know if your profile and skills are right for the company you are pursuing.”

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