The Harbus was lucky enough to sit down with Harvard Business School Alum Gil Moran (MBA ‘08), Principal at L.E.K. Consulting, and asked him about the management consulting industry, L.E.K.’s unique culture, and what he looks for in a successful applicant during the recruitment process.
Megan Fairbank: Tell us one thing about your experience at HBS.
Gil Moran: This is arguably one of the hardest things to answer, ever. Nearly a decade after graduating, there are so many things I miss about HBS. To narrow it down to one thing, I would say it was the most humbling experience of my life. I was (and still am) in absolute awe of the institution, in awe of the school’s network and the distinguished list of alumni, in awe of the educators who are some of the smartest people I’ve ever encountered, in awe of the never-ending opportunities that exist for both professional and personal expansion throughout the two years (FOMO anyone?). I remember walking the halls of Spangler and thinking to myself “I can’t believe I go to school here.”
MF: What advice do you have for current students about pursuing a career in management consulting?
GM: Consulting is not for everyone, just as Investment Banking is not for everyone, or Corporate Management, etc. If you have your heart set on one particular industry, my best advice to you is to go work in that industry, it’s the surest way of getting the exposure you want. If you’re like me and are enamored with the challenge of problem solving, rather than any particular industry/company, Consulting could be a great fit. I will say this – you don’t need to be locked into a “career” right out of school. If after two or three or however many years of consulting, you identify an opportunity you’re most interested in, you can always pivot. Consulting is a fantastic option for graduates who want to explore different companies and different industries, and for some it will be a career, but for many it won’t. For the first years among you, if you’re able to intern for a summer program, I’m sure that will be valuable in assessing your own views (note this is not required for full time, I did not do my summer internship at a consulting company).
MF: What makes your company unique in the industry?
GM: The core of what makes us unique is where we focus, which is heavily weighted to strategy projects (rather than operations / implementation). We work with our clients to answer the questions that drive their businesses. While this attribute in and of itself is not unique, this focus leads to the key differentiators; first, because our work is mostly strategy, our projects tend to be shorter, 4-10 weeks on average. Of course we have clients we have been working with for years, but on average, a consultant at L.E.K. will do ~6-8 projects a year, which means you get to see 6-8 different companies, 6-8 different problems, 6-8 different solutions, and 6-8 different case teams a year. Second, strategy work requires less travel, so the majority of our consultants work in their home offices 95% of the time. That means our office culture is a little different than those firms that travel Monday-Thursday, as we are all usually in the office. Third, strategy requires figuring out “what should the company do” rather than executing it, which typically requires fewer bodies. That means our teams tend to be pretty lean, and post-MBA hires are expected to be team leaders day 1 on the job (typically running a team of 2-5 Associates). For consultants looking for more exposure, immediate management responsibilities, and sleeping in their own bed, L.E.K. could be a good fit.
MF: What defines an attractive applicant/candidate to your company?
GM: The work at L.E.K. is highly analytical and quantitatively rigorous, and consultants need to be comfortable with finding solutions to very tough questions and be able to communicate those solutions to clients. We look for people with a strong inquisitive sense, the ability to tackle a question from all angles and uncover insights that are difficult to get to. Much like the case work at HBS that requires you to “crack the case” by learning the problem and then proving out a solution (or set of solutions) that may work. There is no specific background that you need to have or particular courses that will make you stand out. We look for people who have shown progression at previous roles, the ability to be a problem solver, and the ability (not necessarily experience) of being a team leader (which if you’re at HBS, you already have).
MF: Where should students go for further info about your company and available positions?
GM: Your best source of information will be fellow students who have previously worked at L.E.K. And as those people are no doubt as busy as you are, our website www.lek.com/careers provides all the information about opportunities at the company. The advisor blog, //ask.lek.com/ is a good resource for anyone looking to learn about the company, the work we do, and our culture. Finally, should you have any specific questions, please reach out firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can put you in the touch with the right people.