MCB Alum Gives Career Advice About Consulting

Dr. Niranjan Bose '04, an MCB graduate who worked in Ron Taylor's lab, returned to Hanover in late November to answer Arts and Sciences students' questions about consulting. 


After graduation, Dr. Bose worked as an associate consultant for SDG, and he recently began working at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a Business Analyst in their Global Health Division. Graduate students had the opportunity to get advice about making the transition from academia to consulting and ask questions about what they can do to improve their chances of landing a position in the consulting world.

Dr. Bose repeatedly emphasized the necessity of leadership and teamwork experience for breaking into consulting. One experience that helped him, and led to his interest in business, was the Tuck Bridge Program. He suggested that students who might be interested in consulting participate in the four week summer program held at Tuck. Not only does it provide teamwork and business experience, but it also helps answer the inevitable first question in a consulting interview: "Why consulting?" The Bridge Program helped Dr. Bose point to a specific experience that inspired him to pursue a career in consulting. According to Dr. Bose, in an interview it is important to be able to "tell a story" about past experiences and how they demonstrate a certain skill or led to consulting as a career choice.

Students who cannot participate in the program, and even ones who can, should also think about taking other classes related to economics, accounting or consulting in addition to taking on extracurricular activities. Not only do these experiences provide inspiration for entering the business world, but they also add other dimensions to a resume. Mentoring undergraduates, joining or starting a consulting club, starting an initiative, or even collaborating with other graduate students within the lab display the teamwork and leadership skills employers will look for when making their decision.

After the Bridge Program, which Dr. Bose participated in during the summer after his third year, he actively pursued his job search for the next few years. He stressed the importance of resume preparation. His advice to graduate students thinking about looking for nonacademic jobs in the "distant" future: "If you're looking for a job in one or two years, I'd start working on your resume now." Creating a resume is very different than writing a CV or a PI resume; expect to spend at least six months trimming down the CV into a one or two page resume. His own resume went through "ten or eleven iterations," and he joked that he was "in [Kerry Lander's] office every other week" while he was working on it. Dr. Bose then warned students that, even after their resume is finished, "You will never have a final version."

During his lengthy job search, he said that on-campus resources were helpful as a starting point, and he also recommended services like Doostang and LinkedIn for networking and finding jobs through word-of-mouth. In the end, it took a lot of personal initiative and "calling and annoying people" to finally receive an offer. He warned students that the last year was difficult, but that it was doable and worth it.

Dr. Bose also answered questions about lining up post-doctorate positions while also looking for nonacademic jobs. He emphasized the importance of being honest with postdoc labs so as not jeopardize the relationship between your PI and the PI of the lab to which you're applying. He also said that it was helpful that postdoc offers were flexible and could be delayed while waiting to hear about consulting offers.

What can students expect as consultants? Well, first they will most likely start out as associates. He said that he drew on his scientific experience for the first six to twelve months, then he started to learn other skills like financial modeling (he told grad students that "it's amazing what you can do with Excel") and interviewing experts. He also said that learning "soft" or people skills is an ongoing process, and he talked about the difficulty of facilitating a meeting or giving a presentation. In the third or fourth year, he said that "you're not just a science person," but that you lead a team of associate consultants. He said that he usually worked 50-55 hour weeks, although there were some 90-95 hour weeks because "there are some projects that are crazy." Consultants should expect to spend a lot of time traveling to client sites, especially if they are working for top firms.

Although he has only worked in the Infectious Disease Development group at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a few months, he did give some insight into transitioning out of the first consulting position and into the nonprofit world. He said that his science experience was useful when applying to this position, because they were looking for an MBA with some life sciences experience. He was able to leverage his Ph.D. and consulting experience at a top firm to secure the position despite his lack of a business degree. According to Dr. Bose, the switch to the nonprofit world "was a gamble, but I like it."