Greatra Mayana

Career & Employment Opportunities

PwC Culture & MBA Career Path


(soft piano music) – This is John Byrne,
with Poets and Quants Welcome to our webinar with PwC. This is a prelude to our pre-MBA networking festival in New York City, which will be held on May 7th, and 8th. PwC is generously a sponsor of
the event, which is terrific. And, woah, today (laughs),
we have Nisha Asher who is a senior manager in the management consulting practice at PwC. And we are gonna be talking about what it’s like to work at PwC. So, Nisha, welcome. – Thank you. Thank you, John, thank you for having us. – And I should point out that you have a University of Michigan
undergraduate degree in both biology and accounting, and then you went on to do Fuqua, after a little while of working in the pharma business for an MBA. You graduated from Duke in 2014. So tell me, what made
you get into consulting? – Yeah, John, that’s a fantastic question. I grew up in a very
entrepreneurial family, and in that world we were constantly asked to be very creative,
to go out and explore. And as a result of that, as
I went through my education and went through some of my formative business experience early on, I came to realize one, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to stay in the healthcare space within pharma, and knew that I really wanted to help patients in a big and meaningful way. But I didn’t know exactly
what I wanted to do and so consulting offered me
the opportunity of not only getting such vast experience but then also being able to work with
such a diverse set of both colleagues, with clients, and really being able to get a lot of
experience in a very fast manner. – Right, and of course there are a lot of areas within consulting. You’ve had a track record as
you pointed out in pharma, before you even knew what
to do, so it might have been natural transition for
you to go back to it. Did you consider other
possibilities in consulting or not? – I did, I did. And quite frankly, when
I was going through my business school experience,
I did not even think that I wanted to go into
consulting in my first year. And so as I was thinking
through that experience and as I was thinking through what I wanted to do from a
full-time perspective, I interned at a company
called Cardinal Health. It’s a pharmaceutical
distribution company, and the group that I had
supported at the time was the corporate development group as well as the corporate strategy group. So doing a lot of work on identifying different opportunities for Cardinal, being able to work through
the due diligence (mumbles). And through that process,
I got to interact with a number of consultants both
at a variety of different firms and including my mentor had come in from a previous ex-consultant as well. And I think that that really drove towards that experience as well. – How did you know which
firm was right for you? – Yeah, so it was very difficult. I think the biggest
thing that I would say is one is it should be a good cultural match. And so as I was talking
to a number of individuals at a variety of consulting firms, there’s two different schools of thought. One is do I want to be
at generalist and see different industries, different challenges and really be able to understand how to really address a problem, or do I want to be a specialist and really focus around a specific industry, certain types of problems,
certain types of clients. And for me that was driver number one. I really wanted to focus and specialize. And the second part of that
was really around, you know, being a good cultural match and having a good personality match and as I was talking to a number of individuals across the
PwC Strategy& teams, very quickly I came to realize that it was a personality that
really matched my own and these were individuals
that not only could I work with but actually could be
friends with outside of work. And especially in consulting,
I mean you’re with individuals 24/7, and so
it’s very, very important that you like the people
that you’re working with and you’re thinking about problems about life in very similar fashions. – So how would you actually
describe PwC’s culture? – Yeah, I would say very, very
focused on effective teaming. And what I mean by that
is a number of times we’re working on projects
or opportunities that are global in nature so I’m working with a variety of different personalities both in the US as well as other nations and countries across the world. I’m working with
individuals that come from very different backgrounds or have come into consulting from
a very different capacity and being able to then
translate all of that into effective work, really
takes a strong component of that teaming effort,
and so very collaborative, very open in terms of that
broad breath of experience but then also very focused around the specialization that
you’re looking to gain. – So kind of like team Fuqua, right? – 100%, team Fuqua, team Michigan. I came from a very small
college town growing up and a lot of the schools
both undergrad and grad, exact same type of
mentality and so it was just a natural thing to come back to PwC. – And what kind of support have you gotten for PwC since you’ve been there? – Yeah, so there’s a number of I think both formal and informal mechanisms that PwC has provided, and
like I mentioned earlier I did not come from a
consulting background so it was a brand new experience for me. It was also something where
being on the road all the time, being in a services-oriented organization when I had not really
worked in services-oriented organization, it was very different from the way I was operating,
and what I knew from a corporate job perspective and so there were a number of individuals both from a formal perspective that we have relationship
partners, we have coaches, we have buddies and I had a buddy that came from the Fuqua network, and other individuals that from a formal perspective, the firm gives to you in order to be able to
talk through progression and expectations and things like that. From an informal perspective though, a number of large communities
and really fun events that PwC does, and a lot of social events to really bring the office that you’re in and the market that you’re in together. And so through I think
both of those areas, that’s where I’ve gotten
most of my support. – That’s great. And if you were to describe
like a week in the life of a consultant at PwC at your level, what would that look like? Like on Monday do you start
packing your suitcases or you do that Sunday night
or you don’t do that at all? How much time you spend with clients, how much with your team, how much traveling versus
in your base office, how many different assignments
you may work on at one time. I’m assuming it’s only
one, but give us a feel for what a typical week
might be like for you. – Well I’ll give you a typical consulting answer, it depends. (laughs) It depends. It depends on the week, it depends on the project, it depends on the client. But I would say on average when you start off your career in consulting, and at PwC if you’re coming out of an MBA you’d be starting as a senior associate. And typically when you’re
coming in at that role, you’re working with one client. These projects can vary from
six weeks to three months, six months to even a year or longer again depending on the client
and what you’re working on. But then as you continue to
progress through your career especially for me now, I’m
working on multiple accounts, multiple projects at any given time. I’m on the road Monday through Thursday. I’m usually packing Monday morning. Taking 10 minutes whatever
I can throw into my bag and then unpacking
Thursday nights and kind of going through that cycle over and over. And then there’s a
number, and this is where consulting’s very interesting, is there’s a number of
internal initiatives and bought leadership that you’re
constantly involved in. And so if you take a look at what’s happening out in the marketplace, both from a political standpoint, economic standpoint,
sociocultural standpoint, all of these factors, we are constantly playing in the market to
understand what’s happening. How is that market going
to evolve over the next 10, 15 years, and how do we start to bring that impact back into our clients. And so it’s really fun to be able to even go out of your typical
project or typical client and really understand
what’s happening there and bring it all together
across all these informal activities that you’re doing as well. – So it sounds challenging,
and I know obviously you can’t refer to any clients by name, but I wonder if you can give us a sense of the kinds of variety of projects that you’ve worked on at PwC
on behalf of clients. – Yeah, and so I’ll talk a little bit specifically, to the healthcare space. The space that I currently sit in. But we have done, I’ve done a number of projects from helping sort through some of the pandemics or
epidemiology challenges similar to the current
coronavirus situation. I’ve done a number of
projects where we are helping private, pharmacose, biotech,
life science organizations for partnerships with other
public or federal agencies. I’ve worked on projects where we’ve done product launching, relaunching
and really assessing you know, the market position
of a product or a compound and how do we translate that into better for patients, and again
better positioning. A lot of the activity
that I’m doing currently is really focused around the MNA space. So anything from identifying opportunities for our respective
clients, to helping them think through the
pre-deal integration work, post-deal integration, right. How do you actually operationalize
on some of those ideas and those partnerships, collaborations. Working on those aspects. And them some of my favorite work is really from helping our clients think about their growth strategy over the next, you know, five to 10 years. So are there new service lines? Are there new regions or sites
they should be looking at? How do the effectively grow while managing a lot of cost efficiencies
and things like that. And so, you know, huge variety in the type of work that we do and I would say it’s highly dependent on both the industry you’re
working in, but also the groups that you’re working in and on the one thing
that I would say with PwC that’s very different than some of the other consulting firms is that PwC is very niche and very specialized. You know, when you come into a group, you’re typically coming in not only to an industry, but a lot of times into a competency or a function
within that type of world and so again, that type
of work you might be doing will highly, highly vary based on the type of work that you do and the background that you’re coming in with. – That’s a very range of projects that you’ve been involved
in, and they all sound pretty intellectually challenging as well. I imagine that your own
personal growth within the firm and with these assignments
has been astronomical. – Absolutely. I mean, I think the biggest thing that I have learned how to do is not only manage teams and managing financials and budgets and economics. Things that you wouldn’t necessarily get in an industry job right away. Maybe in a more senior role. But more so than that, I’ve
gotten so much exposure to individuals, colleagues both
on the client side and internal across the globe so working with different personalities,
different cultures. Understanding how different
how market dynamics work. And how do pharma companies
or the pharmaceutical world differ from the US, to Japan to Europe to other countries in Asia,
you know, across the world. But then also being able
to really sit at the table with senior executives and
see the types of problems and challenges that they’re facing and how are they driving
their decision-making. What are the levers of
influence that they need to pull and really being able to, you know, it’s very humbling when a senior executive who’s been in the industry
for 20, 30 years more than you is coming to you and asking you for advice on how you see a certain challenge or your opinion on how to
address a certain challenge. And being able to be at that table to have that conversation is
just a very cool thing. – Yeah I know, I would
imagine that’s very flattering and very daunting at the same time. – (laughs) Yes, absolutely. – Now I know PwC considers
diversity and inclusion a very important issue in its culture. Can you tell me now their
initiatives in diversity and inclusion have actually impacted you? – Yeah, so I’ll speak about
it in maybe two factors. There’s a number of initiatives
that impact me personally and that PwC really tries to bring out. And I’ll kind of keep
it to simple examples. But then, even more so than that, there’s a big push I think in openness be able to bring that
back for our clients. And when we’re thinking about, you know, talent development and what
the future of the work force is going to look like, there’s a number of factors that will change that whether it’s automation and digital means. Whether it’s globalization in nature and more versatile ways of working. But then diversity inclusion
is really an important factor and so as we’re thinking about, and as PwC tries to break
down a lot of the challenges that have historically been in
place in large corporations, we’re starting to bring those solutions back to our clients as well. And so for me, you know,
being a female leader, there’s been a huge emphasis
on, I think two things. One is making sure that from
a progression standpoint I’m afforded the same opportunities as my other colleagues are being provided. Coming from a ethnic
background I think that there is a recognition that I might be bringing a different perspective or a different, you know,
point of view to the table. And quite often leadership is coming back and calling me to ask how do we manage a certain situation? Do you see something
differently that we’re missing? And I think at the end of the day, to me diversity inclusion really means looking past the visual
or the physical aspects of an individual, irrespective of gender, race, sex, any of that, and really being able to
look at the qualifications. Is that person qualified and
the right person for the role? And I think that that truly
lives within PwC and the way that those opportunities are presented to you and progression is presented. – Right. Now, are you apart of any
inclusion networks at PwC? And I’m wondering how
they might support you. – Yeah, so I’m part of a number of them. One of the big ones that I’m part of is a group that we called
Women in Technology. And so it’s for, of course, women that have some sort of stem background, scientific or technology background. And through that network, that’s I think another informal mechanism of
how I get a lot of my support and so if I’m facing
some sort of situation that’s where I can talk
to other individuals that might be facing the same challenge and understanding how
they’ve dealt with it. A number of individuals that
have tried to start a family and have kids during the process
of going up for promotion to director, or partner
and in some of these senior roles where you’re
really out of the house every single day, and how
do you start to manage for those types of situations. Individuals where going
back to school or going back for higher education is
really important thing so how do you start to deal
through those situations. And so really being able to talk to people about your own personal life even outside of your client work and what’s happening from a
professional standpoint and making sure that that’s not hindering your progress in the long term and so that Women in Technology
group has been fantastic. And then we have a very
strong diversity inclusion network that we have
both formal and informal mentors within each respective group and market and things like that. And so there’s a number of initiatives and trainings and
education and conferences that we’re continuously hosting both for the market as
well as for individuals at the firm that provide
more clarity on, again how to handle a certain situation. How do you bring this to your client. Things like that. – So you ‘re not only learning and developing yourself on the job, but PwC is undestined in you as well. – Absolutely, absolutely.
– And these have been support mechanisms. So you know, Nisha I’m a late, a last-minute packer on my trips as well and I’m trying to imagine
you on the Monday morning frantically stuffing
clothes and other items into your suitcase before you go off for your, you know, consulting gig. – It’s one of the skills you learn. How to be very efficient about packing. How do you get to the airport with 15 minutes to your flight. (laughs) – You have clear (mumbles), yes. So how do you stay healthy
traveling as a consultant being on the road and working so hard? – Yeah, so as I’m sure you know,
that was very traditionally a challenge I think in
the consulting world for a number of years, and PwC has highly invested in this initiative that’s called be well, work well. And so through that initiative
there are expectations both from a leadership perspective but then also from a
project team perspective that you’re really putting
forth the time and energy to prioritize your physical well-being. You’re emotional well-being,
your spiritual well-being and, you know, other types
of well-being as well. And so for me personally,
I make an effort to go for a run or go to a
yoga class or spin class or things like that, and
being able to do that with my team as well is a really
fun team-building exercise but then we’re also holding
each other accountable to make sure that we’re exercising. Where being on the road all that time, you’re constantly eating out. And so we try to make an effort to go to the grocery store
or try to eat healthy at least one or two days a week. – That’s really hard
when you’re on the road. – Very difficult to do so. And so being able to
have other people there who are sharing in that need
and in that want with you is just a fantastic way of doing that. And then outside of that,
PwC offers a number of free solutions as well around
being able to enforce that. So we have something
that’s called Gympass. And so PwC will offer, you
know, a monthly stipend that the firm covers so
that you can apply that to the different gyms that
you might be going to. We have a program that’s
called Ginger the app. So if you want a virtual therapist, you can go and talk to someone about any problems that you might be facing. And there’s a number
of all these, you know, apps and or services that PwC offers that you can elect into
if you choose to do so. – That’s great. And I’m just gonna
mention to our audience, we are gonna answer a few
questions at the end of this and I have my last question
first before we do that. So, Nisha, what do you like
most about working for PwC? – For me it’s all about the culture and it’s all about the exposure. I love the individuals
that I’m working with and I also love the face
that I get to experience all of these different projects and different clients
and different, you know, different markets, different
regions with those people and so the biggest component that I would tell everyone who’s
joined us here today is as you’re going through
this process, really, really emphasize the focus on cultural match with whichever organization,
consulting or otherwise because at the end of
the day, that’s what’s really gonna drive your
happiness long-term. – Right, totally. And whether or not you’re
consulting in the area that you’re passionate
about, that you care about, that matters to you I
think, and in your case it certainly does because your
track has been very linear. Which just shows how
passionate you are about the field of healthcare and life sciences. So here’s a question, and I think this is an obvious question that people have about working in consulting. And it’s whether or not GMED scores are important to get a consulting job. It’s generally believed that they are. What’s your sense of that? – So if you’re applying to consulting, if you’re using an MBA as a platform to be able to pivot into
consulting, I would say no. A majority of the
consulting interview process is really focused around case studies. Being able to case well and being able to talk through the way that you logically think through a problem. How you’re structuring
and things like that. But then also, again I’m gonna emphasize the cultural match there, but really being able to see are
you a personality match. You know, are you passionate
about the type of work we do. Here’s the type of projects we do. Is this something that
you’d be interested in. So from an MBA perspective I would say no. Really, really focus around making sure that you’re attending
the consulting events that the firm might be hosting. Making sure that you’re
really getting to know people and understanding truly
the type of projects that they might be working on, and what your role would be because again, even within PwC, it’s
a large organization. We have a number of different groups and so depending on the
group, you might be working on very, very different types of projects. – Right. Here’s another question. You know, how important is
an internship at the firm in getting a full-time job offer? – So I personally did not intern at PwC and I was still, not only got an offer, but I’ve been very successful
in my trajectory here. I would say that an internship is great to be able to explore whether or not consulting’s the right fit for you, and whether or not a certain
firm is the right fit for you. So I would say absolutely explore it, but if you do want to
experience other things and come back to consulting
as a full-time opportunity, it by no means, do you
have to do an internship in order to be able to
get a full-time role. – And in your case, Nisha,
what internship did you do? – So I actually did two
separate internships. I did one at Cardinal Health
which I was working in their corporate development and
corporate strategy groups. And then the second, I was
working at a pharma company called Bristol Myers Squibb,
and I was working within one their medical affairs organizations. So again, both were not at all consulting and very industry-focused, but I had met many people along that
internship experience that really pushed me towards consulting and I’ve clearly really
enjoyed my experience so far. – I also think, again, that’s part of the linear path that you’ve taken. Way back from your undergraduate years when you majored in biology. You’d think it makes total sense, and actually on some level
I would be thinking that it makes you an even
more desirable candidate to become a consultant having had those two different experiences. – Yeah, and I think that
for a firm like PwC, not only education is valuable, but the experience that you’re coming in with is very, very highly valuable because that’s where your, and I think this is for business schools as well, the way that you look at classrooms and how those discussions are held. You’re talking to your classmates, you’re sharing experiences,
and you’re sharing those stories and that’s how you learn. I think that’s the exact same thing that happens in consulting is that you’re sharing your stories,
you’re learning from others. And so having that industry experience is always, always a plus. So here’s a question from Ricardo Philips. He asks is Strategy&
fully integrated into PwC and has the integration gone well? – Yeah, well great question Ricardo. I would say yes and no. So when you’re looking at it simply from a recruiting standpoint, recruiting into Strategy& versus PwC will
be two different pathways. And depending on the MBA
school that you’re in and depending on, you know, at
the time that you’re applying it might be a little bit
of a different plaza. That being said, from a
day-to-day perspective, I am commonly working
with individuals both with Strategy& folks as well as
PwC folks day in, day out. And so the way that our projects are run and the way that we see each other, there’s not really a delineation in the way that we’re operating. It’s more of the way
that things are marketed that that delineation is still there. – Right. Here’s a question from Patrick Greene. Are there any tips or keys you might have in getting a position in
healthcare consulting? Now, you did those two
internships which suggested how, improved how interested
you are in the field. You have the biology degree as well. Are there other things that
you need to kind of line up if you really have your heart
set on healthcare consulting? – Yeah I would say whether it’s healthcare or a different industry,
some of the things that I did during my
business school experience that really set me up well was one, I had gone to Duke
that had a specialized healthcare, health
sector management program that really allowed me to take classes and really learn what’s
happening in the industry. Talk to professors that
were pertinent in the market and really were coming from a industry perspective and could share that insight. Two was I joined a lot
of the healthcare clubs through the programs to be able to really network with my colleagues as well as, again, learn from them quite a bit. And then Duke also had
a program called the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum and so during one of the
semesters during school, they offered us an
opportunity to work with a respective healthcare organization and really be able to solve a problem. So I did that my second year in order to be able to get an experience of what consulting might feel like
and if that was helpful. And that was certainly
something that helped me during my interview process as well. – Yeah, those are great examples of I have to shape your MBA experience and tailor it to your advantage to leverage that then
into a really good job. Even though the MBA degree is, a general management
degree, there are all these opportunities that you
can take to specialize. To dive deeper which you certainly did. – And I would say the biggest thing that’s been helpful even to date, and I graduated a number of years ago now, is the network that you form. And so I would say, really, you
know, classes are important, your learning experience is important, but the biggest thing that I
would emphasize focusing on is really learning and
forming relationships with your classmates because as you continue to think through your trajectory and growing within whichever industry that you’re focused in on, that network is what
you’re gonna rely back on in order to be able to get other jobs. To understand what’s happening
at perspective clients. What’s happening within the industry. To this day I’m very close with a number of my Fuqua classmates, and very easily can reach out to them at any given point of time to understand their perspectives on things or, you know, create connections for me. And the importance of that
is probably the highest value that I gained from my MBA program. – Right. I should point out too that, you know, I think that healthcare is the
next frontier for the MBAs. Historically very small percentages of MBAs have gone into healthcare, but this is such a
massive, important field in the economy today and
it’s ripe for disruption. And frankly, whether, Nisha,
whether you want to or not, you are laying the groundwork
for a great opportunity to be an entrepreneur
to do a startup sometime that’s very disruptive in
one element of healthcare because you’re getting
all this great experience as a consultant at these
different companies, seeing these different
challenges that they’re facing. We have one last question and
then we’re gonna let you go. It’s from David Wilcox who is
a return Peace Corps volunteer who’s interested in getting an MBA and he’s wondering, this
is a more general question that I think you’d be great to answer, what should he be looking
for in applying to a school? – Yeah, so when I was
evaluating business schools I actually went into what
I term analysis paralysis. So I created, you know,
a major excel sheet. I had all these decision points. All of this stuff. For me, what it came down to though, you know reflecting back on
it, was three main things. One was, was it a school that afforded me the jobs that I potentially wanted to do after graduation. And so I’d say one of the biggest areas that you should look at is what companies are coming
to that respective school? Is that a type of company
or job that I’d want to do? And that’s, you know, one big factor. The second part was I had
really wanted to go to a school that would afford me a large
international experience and Duke was one of the schools
that had one of the highest percentages of international
students to domestic students. And so that was another big factor for me. And the third part was
as I was thinking through MBA programs, there’s a
number of getting to know the business school type
of events that occur. Whether it’s, you know,
the different forums and conferences that you can go to, or even the school will likely have a number of events at their own schools and I would attend a
number of these things, again, to figure out is
this the right culture, is this the right personality
image, things like that. And as soon as I stepped
on the grounds of Duke and as soon a met a lot
of the people there, it felt like home to
me, it felt right to me. And that washed away my
entire decision matrix and none of that really mattered. So just focus on, you know, what are the opportunities I want long-term, is this a school that is going to give me the type of classmates
and experience that I personally want, and then three is, is this the right personality mix for me and am I going to be happy
during my years here, but then also am I going to be able to formulate those long-term relationships. – Well you went to a great
school, a great MBA program. Duke does an amazing job. And the culture there is very special. – Fantastic, and great
basketball team. (laughs) – Yeah, that’s a plus,
plus the weather’s a plus. There are places you can go where, you know, the weather’s not nearly as nice as it is down there in Durham. – Absolutely. – So that was fantastic. So Nisha, thank you so
much for doing this. We really appreciate it. And for anyone else out
there, I just should say that PwC is a sponsor of our
pre-MBA networking festival which is in New York City,
May seventh and eight. It’s great opportunity for people who have already been admitted to a top MBA program but are not yet students. Because the idea of this is for people to get an early start. If you don’t know what to do, in one day you could visit an invested banking firm, a CPG firm, a consulting
firm, a tech firm. Even a government agency to get a sense for what you might want to do early on. The earlier you get on
track, the more productive and the more satisfied you’re
gonna be with your MBA. The other thing is if you
know what you wanna do, you know, you could go and visit five different consulting firms and get a sense for
each of their cultures, what they do with MBAs when they’re immediately hired, what
it takes to get hired. People are incredibly generous in giving email addresses and phone
numbers to give you advice. It’s a great opportunity also
to meet the incoming class at a whole variety of schools
both in the US and in Europe. So we hope to see you on
May seventh and eighth. Meantime, Nisha,
congratulations on what I see is already an exceptional career. You have great future ahead of you and we’re really proud of you for showing Duke so well. (laughs) – Thank you so much. I really appreciate being here today too. I’m looking foreword to meeting all of you guys at the conference. – That’d be terrific. All right, we’ll see you then. This is John with the Poets and Quants. Thanks for watching.

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