Over a year into his consulting career with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), MBA graduate Harsh Mody looks back fondly on his time at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s (HKUST) Business School. He credits the school for equipping him with the skills he needed to make it in the industry.
He arrived at business school knowing he wanted to be a consultant. It was while running a corporate training and consulting startup in India that he developed his passion. Alongside this, he was working as a freelance consultant for startups and family businesses in India, the US, and the Middle East.
This led him to the MBA. Harsh was after a more diverse skillset and wanted to fill in gaps in his business knowledge. HKUST ticked all the boxes, and one professor in particular—former McKinsey consultant, Chris Doran—ultimately helped him crack the consulting interview.
Why MBA: HKUST
Harsh had over eight years of work experience when he was applying to business schools. He was still too young for an executive MBA and felt a master’s would be too specific. An MBA stood out because he wanted a broad-based education.
He already knew finance, accounting, and economics. The gaps in his knowledge were in marketing, creative thinking, and human capital management. HKUST was a no-brainer, Harsh explains, because of the burgeoning opportunities in Asia.
“I strongly believe that the next decade or so of global growth is going to be driven by Asia. I wanted to be able to leverage the global growth and rapid pace of change that Asia is seeing right now.”
Learning from a former McKinsey consultant
There’s one professor who stands out from Harsh’s time on the MBA: Chris Doran. Chris is a former McKinsey consultant who teaches the core strategy course as well as electives in M&A and consulting to HKUST’s MBA students.
Harsh says that he was instrumental in preparing him for his career with BCG. From Chris’s classes he developed an understanding of how consultants think, the mindset that they have.
Harsh also ran through some case studies with him in preparation for the consulting interview. He says that Chris was able to show him the interview process in an entirely different light. “I largely believe that’s what helped me crack it,” he recalls.
HKUST also offers career coaching tailored to each candidate’s career goals. Harsh’s coach—an ex consultant—taught him how to write a resume and a cover letter, alongside training him on interview and case study technique.
Consulting skills: Being prepared for a career with BCG
Harsh cites a course on irrational thinking that educated him on inherent human biases. Modules on supply chain management and human capital management also helped plug the gaps in his knowledge.
“The wide variety of courses I took gave me an understanding of a lot of different topics, not just the theories but the changes and trends happening nowadays,” Harsh says.
“That’s what’s more important from the consulting perspective. Not being a super specialist in one area but instead trying to get a good view of lots of different things.”
Harsh also explains that his MBA cohort at HKUST was incredibly diverse and helped broaden his perspective.
“It throws you off in the beginning,” he recalls. “But I think it’s important to get that experience as the world and life are uncertain. It helps you understand beyond what you thought was obvious or beyond what you always took as given.
“The MBA really helps you understand people. You’re thrown together into teams for group projects and assignments, and spending so much time in proximity with people forces you to think about their style, their way of talking, of thinking.”
In his role with BCG, Harsh has had projects in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand. He draws on his experience on the MBA with peers from those countries, and from it is able to decipher the best way to communicate with clients.
How networking can help your consulting career
During the MBA Harsh networked a lot. He was the president of the MBA consulting club and as part of that responsibility was tasked with reaching out to an array of consulting firms and HKUST alumni to set up talks and workshops for the students.
He says that the dedicated MBA Career & Professional Development Team also encourages students to actively go out and schedule coffee chats with alumni in their target industry.
“The HKUST MBA prepared me when it comes to transferring skillsets to my job because in consulting every few months you have a new set of clients. You have to deal with different problems and challenges, and ways of thinking and communicating.”
By actively meeting different alumni week in week out, he was challenged to adapt to multiple ways of communicating. It helped push him out of his comfort zone and school him on the ins and outs of the consulting industry, so he was well prepared when he interviewed with BCG.
“I felt comfortable meeting new people every few weeks and having conversations with them, finding out what to do and not do, what their company is like, what their job is like, and that’s something I do almost every day in my job in consulting.”
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