Interview: Roman Fernandez, Senior Consultant at Roland Berger

06 March 2017 Consultancy.uk

Roman Fernandez, an MBA graduate of Spain-based IE Business School (2016 class), was bound to become an entrepreneur. Yet following graduation Fernandez picked the consulting industry, and last month he joined Roland Berger as a Senior Consultant in the firm’s Detroit office. Fernandez reflects on his decision to join consulting, the recruitment and job application process he has been through, why he joined Roland Berger and provides five key takeaways for aspiring management consultants.

Can you please tell us briefly what your previous job was about?

Before attending IE Business School, I worked as a product development engineer in the automotive industry for two major companies, Robert Bosch and Ford Motor Company. My role in engineering expanded over the years as I became a change agent for improving processes at both companies. I wrote and published several articles on improving the efficiency of the product development cycle as I gained more experience in operations management.

Has your personal career strategy always been focused on management consulting?

A: No. I left my job at Ford and attended the International MBA program at IE Business School to become an entrepreneur. However, while pursuing my entrepreneurship dream, I discovered the many overlapping attributes between entrepreneurship and management consulting. I realised that consulting firms are now embracing the entrepreneurial mindset to solve some of biggest challenges in the business world. An increasing number of big firms are being disrupted by small startups and lean business models. I loved problem solving just as much as creating new ideas for business. I was able to experience the excitement and challenge of consulting when I participated in and subsequently won the IE Oliver Wyman Consulting Case Competition in June 2016. I became an active member of the IE Consulting Club and engaged with other students who were pursuing opportunities in consulting. We practiced cases and shared our knowledge and ideas. 

Roman Fernandez - Roland Berger

How did you find out about this job opportunity?

I researched many consulting firms and tried to identify those that fit my entrepreneurial mindset and relaxed personality. I networked with friends who worked in the consulting industry, made many new connections and gained valuable knowledge from them. I applied to several companies either through referrals or through their online career website. I discovered Roland Berger online when I stumbled upon insightful articles they published on the future transformation of the automotive industry. They were very entrepreneurial in their approach to solving problems and also had a relaxed work culture. I applied through their online career portal for a position at their Detroit office.

How was the recruiting process?

I interviewed with 3 consulting firms – A.T. Kearney, Oliver Wyman, and Roland Berger. I received my interview invitation from Oliver Wyman by networking with their firm in Madrid after the case competition last year. Though I did well in their interviews in July 2016, they decided to forward my application to their office in the US as the positions in Spain required fluent Spanish proficiency. I received interview invitations from both A.T. Kearney and Roland Berger through online job applications. I did not move forward after the second interview at A.T. Kearney in September 2016. I realised my approach in solving their interview case was a little too entrepreneurial and lacked the structure A.T. Kearney was looking for. 

I decided to spend more time in refining my structure and practicing more cases with fellow students. By the time I appeared for my first round interview with Roland Berger in October 2016, I had already practiced over 70 cases with experts and other students. I had two interview rounds with Roland Berger over phone and Skype before they invited me to the final round of interviews at their office in Chicago in December 2016. The final round was 3 hours long. It started with a 45 minute behavioural fit interview followed by a 45 minute business knowledge interview. For my final case presentation, I was given a written case and 45 minutes of quiet time to prepare the case. I was not allowed to use PowerPoint slides and was asked to use traditional flipcharts and the white board to present my strategy and recommendations. Another 45 minutes were set aside for my case presentation and discussion which was attended by a senior partner and a senior consultant. On my way out, I received good feedback from the Senior Partner on my case presentation. Finally, I received the offer from Roland Berger on the next business day.

Can you share any tips or advice with students interested in applying to consulting firms?

On January 22nd, I was invited to share my success story with MBA students of the Consulting Club at IE. Instead, I chose to speak about my failures and the many lessons I learned from them. It made for a longer and insightful conversation, the kind that is rooted in my biggest lesson over the last year – you have to show them you care before you show them how smart you are. As a student from a school renowned for entrepreneurship, pursuing a career in consulting can be challenging. For those students/alumni who were not able to attend the session, here are 5 of the main takeaways from the conversation we had. 

Behind every succes is a string of many failures

1. Networking is key – Most of us realise this late and then it’s too late. The best time to start networking is now, even before you craft your resume and cover letter (yes, ‘craft’ not just ‘prepare’). It takes time to build your network and the biggest reward you get from it is not referrals but the coaching and mentorship that helps you move forward. Remember: show up, step up and follow up, always!

2. Be authentic – There’s a beauty in not being the perfect fit. Your story is more compelling when it is authentic. Turn it into your personal brand and learn to pitch it to anyone at any time. Practice articulating why you want what you want.

3. Change the narrative – Your entrepreneurial background and lack of consulting experience is not a disadvantage. It is an asset, especially at a time when big companies are being disrupted by startups in their industries. The next few years will see more consultants becoming entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs becoming consultants. You can be one of them, either one.

4. Be prepared to fail – Most people don’t succeed because they give up when they fail. It is understandable. You look around and you see people’s successes on resumes, blogs, social media, television and in every conversation. But know this -behind every success is a string of many failures and a relentless attitude to keep moving forward. Don’t ever give up. Learn from your failures. 

5. Involve others – Leverage your strengths to help people. Talk or write about what you know and let the world know your place in it. When the time comes to ask for help, don’t ‘ask’ instead ‘involve’ others in your mission. The strongest connections are always your peers and those that come after you. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in your dreams and aspirations. Actually I am fortunate I have an opportunity to help you. A couple years from today, when I’m struggling to get my next break in life, the one that reaches out a helping hand could be you!

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