Campus & Community

Getting Ahead in the Consulting World

Qing Li M.S. ’09 is a manager at A.T. Kearney, where she’s worked since joining as a senior analyst in solutions practice in 2015. Two years after her hiring, Li went on to win A.T. Kearney’s Best Commercial Value Award in 2017. She is an alumna of Stevens’ School of Systems & Enterprises and graduated with a master of science in financial engineering.

In March of 2019, Li presented a seminar, “How to Be Successful in Management Consulting as a Junior Female Engineer,” as part of the Women@SSE seminar series. Here, she elaborates on that theme and offers thoughts on how young Stevens alumni can advance in this dynamic field.

What recent trends in the management consulting market should young alumni be aware of as they begin their careers in this field?

Clients are increasingly asking to see the tangible benefits of strategic work. This means linking the strategy, large-scale transformation implementation, and change management work together. For junior consultants who are in the early stages of their career, it is critical to leverage data-driven analysis to improve clients’ customer experience, enhance internal operations, and bolster innovation with fact-based strategies. Building up the industry “know-how” expertise throughout their careers — e.g., understanding client industry verticals (methodology and technology) — efficiently is definitely another plus.

Industry work is the best and fastest way to build “know-how” expertise. Hands-on industry experience can provide many intuitive insights about business operations and end-to-end supply chain. Whether it’s planning, sourcing, production or distribution, consulting work focuses on how to address difficult challenges in managing cost and service level — and that’s experience you can’t get if you jump into consulting first. Leveraging the resources of the Stevens Career Center to land an internship or full-time position with an industry leader in consumer-packaged goods, health, energy or other field would be a great starting point in understanding industry pain points and preparing for a career in consulting.

What were your recommendations specifically for junior female engineers seeking success in the management consulting field?

Kearney offers various opportunities for junior female engineers to expand their network within the firm and with relevant industry leaders. Junior female engineers should participate in these types of networking events in and outside of the university setting, such as The Women’s Network, the International Women’s Day Forum (hosted by the United States Chamber of Commerce) and others, to learn from role models in the field.

Another recommendation is understanding how to lead courageous conversations — i.e., how to initiate discussions and promote understanding in their audience and knowing the “helicopter” message(s) that they want the audience to take away from the conversation. Along with the technical capabilities, these “soft skills” are equally important for young professionals who want to grow into more senior roles and become true strategic advisers.