Alumni interview series- meet Kevin and Lauren
Tell us a little about yourself (school, interests)
My name is Lauren Popp and I am at Rice University in the chemical engineering department. My research is on how nanomaterials interact with a cellular degradation pathway. I did my undergraduate at the Colorado School of Mines in Chemical Engineering. When I started in undergraduate I was interested in going to medical school because I really had a passion for helping people and perceived that as one of the ways to have the greatest impact. However, throughout undergrad, I found more of a passion for the research behind the medicine and had my eyes opened up to a career in research that I wasn’t aware of prior to going to college.
Through the process of doing research, I realized it’s not something I wanted to do long term. There are a lot of things I really love about doing research but also a lot of things that I don’t. One of them is the long timescale that it takes to do fundamental research, it just takes a number of years to complete a research project and even to see results that make a major impact on, for example, a patient or having a product come to market, just takes a really long time. That is what got me interested in consulting, the ability to have major impacts on the client on a project with a much shorter timescale. So instead of spending six years working on a thesis, you will be working on a project for six weeks. And you may be able to actually see the results of your work come to fruition, and that may mean millions or billions of dollars for a company. Plus, you get to work with some really great people that are exceptionally driven, highly intelligent, and to get better at what you’re doing you should surround yourself with people that are great at what they do. That is the sort of environment that consulting provides.
Outside of research, I was an athlete in college and loved athletics. After moving to Houston, I started doing CrossFit and actually coach a couple times a week at a local gym. It provides an environment that is competitive and provides stress relief. I love food, I try new restaurants and love to cook new foods. We never go back to the same restaurant twice, over 160 so far. I keep an excel spreadsheet that has all restaurants I went to, want to go to, the type of cuisine, and reviews to recommend to people.
My name is Xiaoqun Mu and I go by Kevin Mu. I am currently a fifth year PhD student at Rice University. My research is to use a thermodynamic model to calculate the interfacial properties of different fluids. So, for example, the surface tension between water and oil, which can be implemented in the oil recovery process. My current project is sponsored by Shell and I have been working closely with the Shell engineers and the Rice mathematicians for the past four years which has been very beneficial to learn from the cross-field collaboration. I have learned a lot from those people.
Outside of my research, I used to be a dancer until 2016. I started dancing in the last year of high school. Dance has helped me a lot. Especially when I first came here I didn’t know the language very well so dancing gives me to an opportunity to talk to people and make American friends that have exposed the local culture to me. Recently I have become addicted to climbing/bouldering and also do a lot of swimming and reading. That’s the major way to relieve my stress from research and daily life
Why do you want to pursue a career in consulting?
I had a few friends that graduated from Rice undergrad and joined the consulting industry, and that’s how I learned about consulting. After I knew more about consulting I became obsessed with the consulting lifestyle. You are surrounded by smart people, nice, professional. That is an environment where you can improve very quickly by working closely with those people. Not just your colleagues but also the clients. Another reason is that as a consultant, you will be able to work on several different cases every year, which makes you feel very accomplished.
Another thing that attracted me to consulting is the ability to work in a number of different industries. I have interdisciplinary background doing research in gene therapy, physics, material sciences. So, having this background doing research in a variety of different fields it’s exciting knowing that I have the opportunity to work for clients in oil and gas, healthcare, telecom, consumer goods, and that just through that opportunity to learn about a number of different industries that’s an opportunity to grow myself but also, I don’t have to decide yet what field I want to pursue. It’s a way for me to dip my toe in many different ponds to see what draws me in.
In consulting, you can work in many different industries. So, I am very interested in educational fields and businesses. In other industry, I will never have the opportunity to work with people or projects that are in or make an impact on education.
Oil and gas is my major, education is my interest.
I honestly don’t know what sector I’ll go into.
What are you most excited about in starting consulting?
I’m excited about all of it, just to have the opportunity to be challenged and develop all of these soft skills: being in a client facing role, having to present data, but also hard skills of understanding company financials or any number of things. I am excited about the opportunity as a whole. I really love BCG and the Houston office. All of my interactions with them have been outstanding and I am really excited to be part of that team.
Most excited to join the group and the fantastic people. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many people from the BCG Houston office and feel very comfortable working and talking with them. The second reason is I am really excited about travelling to places I have never been. I look forward to exploring and experiencing the local culture. The third reason is I can finally implement the skills I developed from school into real world problems to really see the impact on the world.
What tips would you give to people to get the most out of the consulting club?
Definitely attend all the workshops the club provides, no matter what they are about. Since joining the club I have attended all the workshops. The club provides you with a good platform for those resources and gives you the opportunity to find case practice partners. It gives you a chance to improve your case and fit interview skills.
The greatest resource is the ability to network with other people that are also looking to go into a consulting career. It not only gives you practice but also improves your comfort when the actual interview comes. Definitely make use of all the case materials and workshops provided. Every workshop has at least one, or two, or three useful tidbits that made the whole workshop worth it.
Attend all the consultant-led workshops
What would be your advice to people to prepare themselves for interviewing for consulting?
Definitely case and fit practice. Every time you practice a case, have that person ask you a fit question. Every time you will improve. Practice with people you are comfortable with who you trust to give you their honest opinion. When it comes to the interview process be yourself. Be true to yourself, don’t pretend to be what you think they want you to be. Enjoy the process
The fit section is a pain but do practice. Do networking, make cold emails and cold calls. Consulting is a people business so you need to be comfortable talking to people from different backgrounds and different ages. Think of the interview as a chance to show yourself. Show how good you are.
Give your interviewers as many positive data points as possible.
When you make a contact through cold calls, coffee chats, or networking events, make sure to follow up with them. And then, ask if they could refer you to someone who is working in an industry you are interested in. Don’t stop until you have spoken with multiple people within the company to get multiple peoples perspectives on the company.