Learning On The Fly at Boston Consulting Group

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In 2018, Kelsey Murray graduated from Stanford with BA in Psychology and MA in Communication. As a five year Lacrosse player at Stanford, Kelsey now works in Boston Consulting Group’s San Francisco office where no two days are the same. For someone who was looking for the right team environment, Kelsey interned for Nike two summers in a row before turning her attention to the consulting world. We spoke with Kelsey about shifting her career focus to consulting and what it’s like to learn on the fly at Boston Consulting Group since she joined.

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What was your experience as a student-athlete like?

Overall, my experience was great. I truly believe that Stanford is the best combination of athletics and academics that you could ever find. Obviously, I had my ups and downs and it was by no-means perfect. But at the end of the day I left campus with two degrees from the best university in the world, with a family of 60+ sisters who have been my teammates and coaches to whom I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to attend Stanford.

Why consulting? Was that something you always wanted to do?

Consulting was always in the back of my mind, but I wouldn’t say I knew I wanted to do it. I was intrigued by the fast paced lifestyle, frequent travel, and variety of projects.

You had two summer internships at Nike. Can you walk us through the process of shifting your focus to consulting and how you prepared for that?

I had just finished my second internship up at Nike in September 2017. I loved both of my summer experiences up in Oregon. The people I met and had the opportunity to work with and learn from were some of the brightest and most unique people I’ve ever met. As much as I loved my experience at Nike, consulting was always something that intrigued me. It seemed like a great way to gain a lot of business experience and to have exposure to a variety of industries and projects. So when I got back to school, I went to all the info session I could find and sent in applications. I practiced my case interviews, had a first round interview on campus and then had a second round interview in the SF office. After that, I was offered an associate position at BCG and took it!

What does a typical day look like for you at work?

One of the things that I really like about my job so far is that your typical day changes depending on the project you’re on. Right now, I’m on a project for a client in Columbus, OH. This means I have three types of days each week: Fly days, client site days, and office days. Fly days are Monday and Thursday when I fly to and from Columbus. When I arrive on Monday afternoon, I go to the client site and meet up with my other team members. On Thursday, I spend most of the day on my client site and take a 5pm flight back to San Francisco. Client site days are days when I spend the full day at my client’s office. On these Tuesdays and Wednesday, I leave the hotel with my team in the morning, spend the day at our client site and then return to the hotel, grab some dinner and keep working. Finally, when I am back in San Francisco on Fridays I spend the day in the BCG office. There is usually a breakfast or lunch event so that you can mingle with other coworkers you haven’t seen throughout the week. Fridays are great for building relationships with other people in the office. Everyday is a little different with this job, but that is part of what makes it exciting. 

Why is BCG and your role as an associate the perfect thing for you or someone with an athletic background?

My role as an associate at BCG is perfect for anyone with an athletics background… at least, I know that my background as a student athlete prepared me for the job. To start, everything at BCG is done in teams. When you are staffed on a case, you are put on a team – when you’re new, these are likely people you’ve never met before, but you’re expected to work together towards a common goal. That should probably sound familiar to anyone with a college athletics background. When you come in freshmen year, you don’t get to choose the people that are on your team… your coaches do that for you. Being a part of a team teaches you to understand different people and how to work best with different personality types. You learn to leverage everyone’s strengths to create the best version of your team. This understanding of how teams work and how to work with different people is a huge advantage on a BCG case team. 

Another valuable trait that I believe athletics instilled in me is the willingness to offer help and to ask for help when you need it. Athletes understand better than anyone that you are only as good as your team. Being an associate is a huge learning experience, so being able to turn to team members when you’re struggling and supporting them when needed is the only way to be successful. In lacrosse, it didn’t matter how many points each individual scored as long as Stanford wins in the end. That was my favorite part about playing a team sport - you can have a bad day and that just means that your teammates need to step up around you to support you, the same way that you support them on their bad days. At the end of the day at work, the name that our client sees is BCG and our responsibility is to make sure that we create the best possible results for our client. 

What is something about BCG or your role that you didn’t know when you joined that you wish you did? Is there something that you wish you were more prepared for?

I actually think that BCG did a great job during their recruiting process of informing me about the firm and the role, while still being realistic. They did not sugar coat the demands of the role - especially the time commitment - so I felt prepared to work 60-80 hours each week. I think one thing I could've been more prepared for is all the quantitative analysis and tools that are available. I knew that there would be a lot of opportunity in this role to develop my quantitative skills, but I wish that I had exposure to some of the software, such as Excel, Tableau and Alteryx beforehand. I loved my academic experience, but my course work leaned heavily towards papers and exams instead of regular psets or projects that would've leveraged Excel, Tableau and Alteryx. Although I don't think BCG expects anyone to have prior experience, given their extensive learning and development curriculum surrounding the tools, it would have been nice to have greater familiarity and greater confidence in them before starting work. 

You talked earlier about how the projects determine your days. What project have you learned the most from?

In line with my previous answer, I’m really developing my quantitative skills. My academic career did not include a lot of quant classes and so I am working to redevelop my abilities as well as learn to use all the tools that are available for quant analysis, including Excel, Alteryx and Tableau. A few months ago, I had my first opportunity to build an Excel model as we began sizing different opportunities for our client. I was responsible for creating the excel, inputting the client data and our numeric assumptions, and linking the pages with the correct formulas. I got very wrapped up in making sure the entire excel worked properly and was dynamic enough that changing one input would create the desired change in the output. I knew that this model would take me longer to build than someone else on my team with more experience, so I tried to balance my learning opportunity with enough speed to create the results in a timely fashion. In trying to work quickly, I forgot to make an edit that we had talked about in a team meeting with the partner. Thankfully, someone on my team caught my mistake before it escalated too high. Now, I create full checklists of every change that needs to be made and review it twice before sending in any work that I do. It takes longer, but I am also more confident in my output. Not only was this a learning experience for me in Excel, but it also gave me the chance early on to learn from a mistake. I have no doubt I’ll make more mistakes on this project and on future projects, but I do know how to learn from them and make sure that I don’t make the same mistake twice.

Looking back, what’s been the toughest part of transitioning from Stanford Lacrosse to BCG?

For me one of the hardest things is not having workout time built into to my schedule. As a student athlete, I was definitely busy, but one of the things I took for granted was how exercise was built into my day. Now, I have to prioritize working out and find time for it around my work schedule, as well as trying to decide what my workout will be everyday. Exercising and being fit is important to me, but it is also so much easier to be motivated to workout when you have the team around you. Without my teammates to push me or my coaches building my workouts for me, I’m trying to figure out what my new normal looks like. I’m learning what works best for me, but it has definitely been challenging so far. 

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a student-athlete, what would it be?

Everything will be ok! There are so many ups and downs through college lacrosse but in the grand scheme of things everything works out the way that it is supposed to. I promise. So ride the highs and don’t get too down during the lows… everything will be ok.