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Providing exposure to important business tools and concepts, an MBA can be the launch pad for a career in consultancy.
Professor Richard Petty, associate dean (international) at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM), says while there are no particular specialisations in the MBA that are geared to consulting, graduates are frequently recruited by consulting firms.
"The consulting sector, being comprehensive and broad, requires people with many different types of knowledge, skills and talents," says Petty. "However, some students do an MBA with the aim of transitioning from their present non-consulting role into a role in the consulting sector."
For example, candidates looking to consult in specific fields, such as in finance or accounting, would ordinarily possess a professional qualification in that field, in addition to an MBA.
The professor says that most top-flight MBAs, such as the MBA offered by MGSM, have the potential to assist someone who is looking to enter the consulting sector, particularly those seeking to enter management consulting or strategy consulting.
"The better MBA programmes comprise core subjects in strategy and in general management that provide useful skills and training. Additionally, they offer electives in a variety of subject areas that help students with an interest in a career in consulting, to tailor their MBA towards developing a particular range of skills and particular types of knowledge that will assist them in developing their consulting capabilities," says Petty.
With a client list ranging from international brands to local firms from both the consumer and corporate sectors, Hong Kong-based Kiri Sinclair, director at public relations (PR) firm Sinclair Communications, says her MBA experience helps her to remain current with terms of business structures, techniques and methods,
"I wanted to immerse myself in an advanced degree and keep myself progressive. The reality is, however, that it was a very useful decision for my career too," says Sinclair. "I thought the MBA would help me understand the new business models and how technology is changing the way we do business. Not only did I get a new comprehension of this area of expertise, I also learned cases in the Asia context," adds Sinclair, who is about to complete the part-time MBA programme offered by the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
She says PR is at the heart of every good business. "Being a good marketing and PR consultant requires you to have a total understanding of every aspect of the company's industry and operations, as well as their business model."
She says the HKU MBA programme is a good way to gain grounding in Asian businesses and brands. "It was especially helpful in guiding me through the 'new' business landscape in China, and the development of technology businesses," she says.
Global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group's (BCG) recruiting manager, Jinglan Yu, says quality MBAs provide a good platform to join the consultancy sector. "We welcome people with MBAs, as well as employees from other academic backgrounds," says Yu.
She says that an MBA is particularly useful when consultants with specific skills don't have a business background. "The knowledge gained from an MBA can also be useful for developing the research and analytical skills necessary these days, because changes and convergence across industries can have far-reaching effects," says Yu, a Harvard Business School MBA graduate.
Yu says that the networking associated with MBAs can also help consultancy to build up insightful perspectives, which are helpful to clients. Communication skills associated with co-ordinating with MBA teamwork projects are also useful skills. "Consultancy is an industry where we talk a lot," says Yu.
With multinationals expanding their presence in China and mainland companies expanding abroad, Yu says consultants across many industries - including healthcare, manufacturing and luxury goods - need to have a good understanding of what drives the markets. "Consultants need to understand how their clients are shaping their strategies, and where unexpected events might occur. An MBA that encourages critical thinking and encourages real world thinking is always going to be useful," says Yu.
Anita Billings, principal at Marew Asia Consulting and a graduate of the AGSM MBA programme, says her MBA experience prompted her to set up her own learning and development consulting business. Previously a project manager in the IT industry, Billings says the sales and marketing electives her MBA provided were beneficial in balancing her skill set.
"I decided to move into consultancy after becoming involved with a human resources project - to build a soft skills training roadmap and to identify training companies as vendors to provide the training," says Billings.
Through her firm, Billings mainly provides learning and development advice and assistance to the IT industry. "With an MBA, you can begin to connect the business dots and see how things fit in the bigger context. While no one MBA student can claim that they have a comprehensive 'Consulting 101' in their repertoire of subjects to choose from, the experience and knowledge sharing provide insights into different dynamics," says Billings, who frequently relies on the AGSM alumni network.