13 London consultancies participate in PhD to Consulting Conference

26 September 2017 Consultancy.uk 12 min. read

Last Friday, the University College London (UCL) hosted the 2017 edition of the ‘PhD to Consulting Conference’ in London. The event was supported by thirteen consulting firms with a presence in the UK capital, participating in the event amid their own searches for the most ambitious PhD students/graduates to boost their ranks.

Increasing market saturation of post-graduate degrees has lead to qualification inflation, whereby those holding degrees and Masters degrees are less able to leverage their skillset as prospective employees. With an increasingly saturated employment market for skilled labour, graduate salaries have subsequently stagnated in 2017, for the second consecutive year. The average wage for a graduate in the UK is now lower than that of their counterparts in the US, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and France.

The consulting sector remains more popular than many other prospective graduate employers meanwhile – partially due to consulting hires earning £31,500 on average, slightly above the average starting salary. Due to this popularity, as firms look to distinguish between increasingly competitive candidacies, the industry is looking to PhD programmes as a means of recognising and fostering new consulting talent.

Every year since 2012 the ‘PhD to Consulting Conference’ has been organised – having grown from a handful of companies and fewer than 70 attendees, to a dozen companies and over 170 delegates. Hosted at London’s UCL Institute of Child Health, this year the conference was supported by a flock of 13 consulting firms, each with a London office of its own. The annual event aims to provide a platform for discussion and networking to researchers and professionals from the consulting industry.

According to the aims and values of the event, a doctorate nurtures qualities such as exceptional problem-solving skills, intellectual curiosity and a drive to achieve outstanding results. Commercial organisations and consulting firms are increasingly realising the potential of PhDs, valuing their fresh and thoughtful approach in delivering business insights. However, many high calibre researchers are unaware of this opportunity, and find it difficult to locate appropriate resources and guidance to realise a transition from academia to consulting.

13 London consultancies participate in PhD to Consulting Conference

The programme this year featured a number of consultants who explained the ins and outs of their profession to delegates, as well as elaborating on their own experiences and firms. The event was sponsored by executive search platform Cranmore, and consultancies OC&C, Navigant, who each also provided speakers.

Speakers this year

OC&C, who recently committed to rebuild its French arm after it was acquired by Parthenon-EY, sent two representatives. Nigel Stirk is a Partner with the strategy consultancy and specialises in B2B Services covering businesses from facilities management and construction, to legal services and debt recovery, and has worked with clients in the UK, Europe and the US to help them develop winning positions. Also in attendance was Joanne Lenard, an Associate Consultant, who has worked with OC&C for roughly two years, having completed more than 20 projects including potential expansion opportunities for motorbikes, pricing and membership strategies for an art gallery and making money from spare generators.

Navigant, who recently joined an inclusion initiative to boost the diversity of their recruitment intake, were represented by Ravi Degun and Nina Marinsek. Degun, who holds a PhD in HIV Vaccine Development, is now a Managing Director and Lead of the European Offices for the Navigant Life Science Practice, having previous work experience in academia, enabling him to relate his transition to a decade long career in healthcare, life sciences and R&D consulting. Likewise, Marinsek, who obtained her PhD in Oncology and Molecular Biology at the MRC Cancer Cell Unit at the prestigious Cambridge University, is an Associate Director in the Navigant Life Science Practice and specialises in medical affairs, market access.

Big Four firm Deloitte also sent speakers to attend the conference, including Nacho Quinones, an enthusiastic Strategy & Operations Consultant with 8 years of experience in organisational design and process optimisation. He previously worked for the Directorate of Forensic Science in the Metropolitan Police, who sponsored his PhD in Forensic Genetics at King’s College London. Like a number of speakers on the agenda, Carmen Jack, meanwhile, made her way into consultancy via science. Now a Manager with 4 years of experience in consulting, during which she has worked across many different industries, including Retail banking, Retail and Manufacturing, Jack obtained PhD in Life Science from Cambridge University (Babraham Institute), and worked at GSK in biological and assay development as part of early stage research, before her consulting conversion. Deloitte also partnered the educational technology-event, the Singularity University Global Summit, earlier in 2017.

Rival Big Four members EY, meanwhile, sent three delegates to address the event. Filip Markiewicz holds a PhD in Experimental Biology, investigating the impact of vibration and ageing on neuromuscular function from the University of Southampton. Having discovered the world of consulting half way through his PhD, he joined EY in March 2017 and has already put his expertise to use in the areas of cost reduction, project management, assurance, process and organisational design projects in the Local Public Sector, Healthcare and Utilities industries. Joining him, Parvez Hakim, an Assistant Director in the Healthcare & Life Sciences sector at EY's Corporate Finance Strategy practice / Parthenon-EY Life Sciences practice, with over 10 years’ experience in life sciences, healthcare and consulting, having completed a Ph.D. in Cardiovascular Electrophysiology in the University of Cambridge. Roshni Best, meanwhile, completed an interdisciplinary PhD in Plant Sciences and Chemistry (developing a microdroplet platform for single-cell studies of microalgae) at the University of Cambridge, before vacating the lab bench to look for new opportunities – joining the firm’s expanding strategy wing of Parthenon-EY in September 2016 as an Associate.

OC&C, Navigant, Deloitte, EY, BTS, McKinsey & Company, L.E.K, Deallus, 3H Partners, A.T. Kearney, Accenture, BCG, QuintilesIMS

Global strategic alignment and execution firm BTS sent a pair of London-based speakers; Pedro Matos, a Director, working as a part of the BTS Europe team in London, and William Heard a strategy and leadership consultant at BTS in London. Matos focuses primarily on carrying out comprehensive analysis of clients’ businesses and industries and developing customised business computer simulations, having completed a doctorate degree from the University of Cambridge on applied econometrics. Heard, meanwhile, focuses on the strategic and leadership challenges faced by clients and developing innovative solutions to explore those issues. He particularly enjoys working anywhere he can leverage his passion for science.

US management consultancy giants McKinsey & Company sent Amy Challen and Matej Macak to speak on behalf of the firm, who were recently awarded a contract from Sainsbury’s to find £500 million in savings for the top four UK supermarket. Challen is an Engagement Manager in McKinsey’s London office, having obtained an MA in Economics from the Free University Amsterdam, and a PhD in Applied Econometrics from the London School of Economics. She now specialises in advanced analytics projects, making use of her academic background and generalist consulting experience. London office compatriot Matej Macak holds a PhD in Neuroscience from UCL, where the event was hosted. Now returning to home-turf, Macak joined McKinsey as Junior Associate in September 2015 and is currently working primarily on digital and machine learning projects as part of McKinsey Digital and QuantumBlack.

PhD fastrack

L.E.K. Consulting, who sent a solo speaker, noted in the event’s programme that they offer a dedicated pathway for Life Sciences PhD holders to join the firm as a Life Sciences Specialist. This dedicated pathway on-boards selected applicants after recognising the scientific, medical or technical expertise that they may bring to projects from day one, before allowing the new employee to dedicate themselves to an industry with which they are already familiar and for which they have a passion. The pathway also provides a platform from which they can build on technical skills while learning new commercial skills, and provides an accelerated career path towards strategic leadership in the healthcare and life sciences industry. Having represented L.E.K at the event, John Cassidy could be seen as a prime example of this, having obtained a Pfizer / MRC-sponsored PhD in Neuroscience at University College London before joining the consultancy’s L.E.K.’s Life Sciences practice in September 2014, before becoming a Senior Life Sciences Specialist.

Likewise, Deallus, a Life Sciences industry specialist, has priorities set for consultants holding post-graduate degrees such as Life Sciences PhDs and MBAs – who account for the majority of their present global consulting team. Marek Izmajlowicz, a Principal at Deallus Consulting, London, spoke at the conference, focusing on commercial effectiveness, organisation design and capability building. He holds a PhD in Engineering from Cambridge University, while Thomas Tan, a Consultant at Deallus’ London office, was a postdoctoral researcher in cancer immunology at Cambridge University, prior to his role at the firm. Tan has a DPhil (PhD) from Oxford University.

3H Partners has been built on academia meanwhile, with the consultancy initially founded by four professors of leading European Universities and Business Schools. Attending from the innovative entrepreneurial solutions provider, founding Partner Giovanni Scarso Borioli also addressed the PhD to Consulting event.

International management consulting firm A.T. Kearney saw Anastasia Kouvela, a Manager at the firm’s London office, address the conference too. Kouvela, who holds a PhD in Operations Research, has led various global operations since joining the firm in 2013.

Alex Geddes, who pursued a PhD in biomolecular science, joined QuintilesIMS, a management consulting services provider to the biopharma industry over 13 years ago. After taking up an associate consultant position with QuintilesIMS, he has since worked on projects supporting clients from across the globe, at all stages of the pharmaceutical development pipeline.

Accenture, who recently recruited 1,700 new hires in the UK, were represented by Joanna McLenaghan, a Consultant in Accenture’s digital analytics practice. She is experienced in working with big data and machine learning, having completed a PhD in experimental quantum optics at the University of St Andrews. McLenaghan was accompanied by fellow Accenture consultant Nina Ginbey. A digital business integration consultant aligned to the analytics delivery practise based out of the London office, Ginbey has experience in asset performance, reliability and technical risk studies for upstream and downstream oil and gas facilities. Her Doctorate is in Molecular Systems Engineering, and was obtained from Imperial College London.

Finally, management consulting heavyweights BCG sent Richard Lau, a former university physics lecturer at Lincoln College, Oxford, to address the conference. Lau, whose PhD in theoretical physics was obtained from Oxford, joined the London office of BCG in October 2015.