With the spring recruiting season approaching, we asked an experienced DeciBion to answer our entry-level recruits’ most frequently asked questions about strategy consulting, preparing for interviews, life as a strategy consultant, what makes DeciBio special, and what we are looking for in new recruits! We hope Seth’s answers will help you better understand strategy consulting work and what to expect from our application process. Seth Schachter is an Associate focused on supporting disruptive technologies that can be used in the clinic. He joined DeciBio as an Analyst in 2017 and earned his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Southern California. In his free time, Seth is an adventurer, constantly searching for new hikes, restaurants, and places to explore around the world.
Strategy Consulting Basics
What is strategy consulting?
Strategy consulting is a sub-set of management consulting. Strategy consultants perform extensive research throughout a project, or case, to develop creative solutions and recommendations to address their clients’ problems and questions. These questions can cover a variety of topics, ranging from, “What is the size of market XXX in the United States?” to “What technologies should our R&D department prioritize for development over the next 5 years?”
What is a client?
Clients are employees and/or teams within organizations that contact consulting firms for help. Clients can be from organizations of various sizes, from startups to Fortune 100 companies.
What does a standard strategy consulting case entail?
If a client requests our help, one or more members of our firm create a proposal for the client. The proposal details the key questions we will address, our methodology to approach the questions, the resources we will utilize, and the price of our services. After a proposal sells, our case team (typically 2-10 consultants at our firm, possibly more at other firms) works with the client to address the key questions. Projects can include a variety of processes including conducting primary stakeholder research, conducting secondary research, performing data analysis, and creating presentations for the client. Finally, our team presents and coordinates the handoff of a final presentation and other deliverables to the client. The deliverables include our research, recommendations, and additional materials.
What types of cases do you perform?
As a strategy consulting firm, we conduct multiple types of casework. Some examples include:
- Market Landscaping – Understand the strategic positioning of companies within a specific space or sector (e.g., who are the key competitors within the next-generation sequencing space)
- Voice of Customer Research – Understand the needs of customers for either improving an existing product or developing a new product (e.g., what type of software solutions would oncologists want in order to improve the efficiency of their patient care)
- Commercial Due Diligence – Conduct financial and market analysis to assess the fair market value of a company within a 15-day period (e.g., what would be a fair price to pay to acquire Company X, and what is their revenue expected to look like for the next 7 years)
- Portfolio Prioritization – Evaluate company assets and/or focuses to identify key areas of growth/improvement for the future (e.g., where should we concentrate our R&D dollars to drive future growth within the market)
What are some of the major differences between strategy consulting and other types of management consulting?
Strategy consulting projects tend to be a few weeks to a few months, and generally occur during a client’s decision-making process. Some examples include providing go/no-go recommendations on acquiring or investing in other companies, prioritizing key product features for internal R&D, and identifying tactics that can be used for product rollouts. Projects within other subsets of management consulting may take a few months to a few years, and span from the decision-making process through various phases of implementation. These projects may focus on improving company structure, optimizing efficiency, and/or executing on various initiatives.Additionally, compared to other subsets of management consulting such as operations consulting or organizational consulting, strategy consulting work does not require frequent visits to the client’s site. Rather, you might travel once or twice per project.
Preparing For a Job in Strategy Consulting
What classes (if any) most prepared you for consulting?
Courses that focused on large group projects prepared me for consulting. These courses taught me about time management, coordinating workflows, conflict resolution, and more. My favorite course required my team to design a novel medical device, create a business model for the product, and pitch our business to a panel of professors.
What else can you do during your undergraduate education to prepare for this field?
From my personal experiences as well as conversations with professionals who entered the consulting field, I learned that successful consulting candidates tend to have taken on challenging course loads while also balancing a combination of leadership and/or entrepreneurial roles within classes and organizations. Example leadership opportunities for undergraduates include managing group projects, serving on executive boards of extracurricular organizations, or—in my case—serving as President of a student organization. Many consultants also have experience starting their own business ventures. Real-world experiences such as internships in other fields and/or part-time jobs throughout your academic career can further prepare you for future client engagements.
What resources (if any) helped you prepare for consulting interviews?
Case In Point by Marc Cosentino is a key book that many consultants—myself included—relied on during recruiting cycles. Victor Cheng’s 12-part YouTube series on case interviews helped me to understand the thought process behind case-cracking, and how to develop novel frameworks that could be used to approach case interviews. Firms such as Boston Consulting Group also have interactive case libraries and other resources on their websites. Career resources at your school may also provide mock case interviews. Ultimately, how much practice and the resources used vary heavily from person-to-person. I think that practicing cases and behavioral questions via mock interviews is very helpful. During these mock interviews, you should focus on clearly articulating your methodology to your interviewer, improving your business intuition, becoming comfortable with in-person interviews, and refining your case cracking thought process to go beyond regurgitating existing frameworks. You can find example cases and questions online or from books, though you will need someone else to act as the interviewer. Definitely tap into your network or career services to find people who can help you with mock interviews, if possible. When you prepare for consulting interviews, know that refining your business sense and ability to think on your feet is more important than memorizing frameworks for case cracking. Mental flexibility is critical as a consultant, and interviewers may give you cases that can’t be solved by conventional frameworks to test this skill.
Life as a Strategy Consultant
What does a day in the life of a strategy consultant look like?
I don’t think there is a typical day for consultants, however, there are typical responsibilities that you will juggle over the course of a project. Your day can include secondary research, conducting interviews with experts, sending emails to clients and team members to coordinate workflows and output, meeting with teams for various initiatives, and more. In general, as a consultant, your day to day responsibilities will include any and everything related to creative problem-solving. Later on in this interview, we list the typical responsibilities of a DeciBio analyst.
What do you wish you knew before entering consulting?
Consulting is a job where failure isn’t an option and you will constantly feel challenged to grow. Everyone on your team is going to be bringing their A-game to the job, and you are responsible for figuring out your workflows and finding alternative solutions to roadblocks as they come up. That being said, your team will support you and encourage you to grow along the way! They have usually gone through similar, if not the same experiences that you have, and they will put in the time to help you to succeed and avoid the pitfalls that they have experienced in the past.Consulting can be a high-pressure job at times, and you need to know how to keep yourself centered and energized. Taking the time to go for a walk to clear your head during the day, catch up with friends, or go to the gym regularly are great ways to recharge. This job is a marathon with intermittent sprints, so take your wins as they come and make sure to celebrate when you succeed.
Life at DeciBio
I’ve always been passionate about healthcare, and I’m incredibly interested in seeing healthcare’s focus shift from treatment to prevention. I think that DeciBio’s work helps our clients to move in this direction, working in fields such as liquid biopsy for early cancer detection and digital health for patient monitoring.
What do DeciBio’s typical clients look like?
We work with clients of various sizes, from startups to Fortune 100 companies that are located around the world, though we primarily work with U.S.-based organizations. They are involved in various components of the precision medicine space. Example client types include:
- Life science research tool companies developing products such as genetic sequencers and diagnostic tests for patients
- Health technology companies developing clinical decision support tools for healthcare providers
- Pharmaceutical companies developing cutting-edge, targeted therapies for patients
- Private equity firms interested in acquiring companies within the precision medicine space
What do a strategy consultant’s responsibilities look like at DeciBio?
All of the job descriptions on our job board include expected responsibilities for your role and can be accessed through our careers page.As an Analyst (Bachelor’s), you will identify, prioritize and analyze key pieces of information that can help crack the case for your client. Your responsibilities may include:
- Performing primary research (phone or in-person interviews) with experts in the field such as oncologists, pathologists, researchers, and leaders within the biotech space
- Conducting secondary research utilizing sources including scientific publications, SEC filings, company publications, press releases, and more
- Developing and managing online surveys
- Analyzing data within Microsoft Excel to identify key trends, factors, and nuances that may impact the overall story that will be provided to your client
- Creating dashboards and visualizing data within Tableau to provide additional data-driven insights to your clients
- Creating slides that will be presented to your client in Microsoft PowerPoint
- Presenting findings to your client (DeciBio Analysts are expected to present portions of the deliverable on their first project)
As you transition to the Senior Analyst role (or enter the firm with an applicable Master’s degree or Ph.D.), you will perform the tasks of an Analyst more efficiently, have more involvement in driving the story that will be presented to your client, and take on additional responsibilities including managing client communications and managing newer Analysts within case teams.As you transition to an Associate role (or enter the firm with a Ph.D. and relevant work experience), you will excel at all Analyst responsibilities, however, your responsibilities will primarily focus on managing the output of Analysts on the case, managing client communications, and synthesizing the story/implications for your client.At higher levels (Senior Associate, Project Manager, Principal, Partner), your efficiency will continue to increase, you will manage multiple teams at once, and you will work on firm development (e.g., selling casework to clients, building out additional content verticals).
What does DeciBio’s work-life balance look like?
Generally, our workweeks are approximately 50-60 hours, though they can reach the 80+ hour a week range for tough cases. DeciBio’s Partners and Managers are incredibly trusting and understand that everyone has a life outside of work. They are more than willing to let you work remotely as needed, and we try our best to limit late night and weekend work on projects.
Characteristics of DeciBio Applicants
What are you looking for in new hires?
We want high-achieving individuals who are passionate about the intersection of business and science. Applicants do not necessarily have a specific set of extracurriculars, but we find that competitive applicants have taken on leadership positions within at least one organization and/or participated in an organization or activity for an extended period of time. I would like to highlight that being passionate about business does not necessarily mean having internship experience! You can obtain business experience from multiple places including classwork, on-campus jobs, starting your own business, and more. We definitely value creativity, and we understand that there are multiple ways to gain the type of experience that we are looking for. Our hiring criteria are based on DeciBio’s core values (listed below and in more detail on our careers page). If our values align with what you’re looking for in an employer, I hope you apply!
- Entrepreneurship - We are willing to break from convention by taking educated risks and constantly innovating
- Thought Leadership - Industry leaders recognize us as content experts and seek us out for our insights and opinions
- Collaboration & Support - We push each other to achieve beyond our own expectations while supporting each others' successes and learning from failure
- Grit & Hunger - Even in the face of obstacles, we carry a smile on our face and a fire in our belly
- Transparency - We emphasize a culture of trust and authentic relationships. And, our internal open-book management policy keeps every team member abreast of the firm’s latest developments
- Harmony - We live balanced lives and emphasize holistic well-being, enabling us to be creative, energetic, and happy
What Does the DeciBio Application Process Look Like?
The most up to date information regarding our application process can be accessed through our careers page.You will initially submit a resume, transcript, and short answers to us via the DeciBio careers page. In your initial interview rounds, you may have a couple of rounds of phone/video conversations with members of our team covering behavioral questions and example cases. Your final round interview (super day) will occur on-site at the DeciBio office. Super days may have more than 1 applicant, so please do not be alarmed if you see multiple people interviewing. Your interview will last a few hours and may consist of components including a case simulation, lunch with the team, and 1-on-1 interviews with members of the DeciBio senior team. Your entire interview process will generally take fewer than 8 weeks.Most of our hiring decisions occur during the Fall, though we have a rolling application process for opportunistic posts throughout the year. We recommend applying in July, August, or September to be included within our Fall recruiting cycle.We are incredibly selective during our application process. We look for individuals who can hit the ground running from day 1. As a result, a fraction of a percent of applicants receive full-time offers, so definitely bring your A-game when you apply!We hope this interview was helpful and gave you some insight into both strategy consulting and DeciBio. Best of luck with your applications!
Seth is an Associate at DeciBio with experience in identifying novel opportunities within ML & AI, molecular diagnostics, immuno-oncology, and research tools. He is passionate about supporting disruptive technologies that can be used in the clinic and is the curator of the Big Data & AI weekly newsletter. Connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Disclaimer: Companies listed above may be DeciBio clients and/or customers