P&Q: If an MBA was weighing an offer from Accenture and another firm, what would give you the edge?
Chanmugam: I would go back to something we discussed earlier. We believe digital is going to transform the way everyone lives and works. It’s going to transform the way every business is run. We would say, ‘If you really want to make your career in something that involves the digital intersection with business and change, we’ll give you an opportunity to get a head start on that. You’ll work on those kinds of projects. You’ll be able to go deeper into this. And you’ll be able to see the across multiple industries as opposed to just staying in one. Accenture Strategy is in that intersection of business and technology and we appeal to people who are passionate about that and want to have an impact on business and society and understand disruption. We’re not being disrupted. That’s where we live.
At Accenture Strategy, you’ll also have other opportunities in the rest of Accenture. If you want to go off and 100% of the time do more technical or account leadership roles, you don’t have to leave the company. And you also get recruited by high grade companies around the world who want people who are strategists first, digitally savvy, and practical about getting things done as opposed to theorizing about how things might work better. That’s the kind of people we are looking for and we have people who are energized by that.
P&Q: Could you give us an overview of your MBA recruiting and interview process? What are the steps that students should expect? How can they make a good impression and stay on your radar?
Chanmugam: Let’s assume it is a school where we recruit at and visit actively (Let’s say, for example, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management). The first step is we have presentations for the first years. We encourage everyone to join the presentation, meet our people, and follow up with them afterwards. We have a lot of people in the presentations who represent a lot of industries and functional practices. Get to know them — register your interest early. The second would be the specialized events we hold throughout the year on campus: attend the ones that are of interest to you.
Then, the next step would be to drop your resume with Accenture Strategy. We then evaluate all the resumes that have been dropped with us. And we have a rough sense of how people many we plan to interview…If you’re among the first years selected to interview, we offer to do case training with you. We also have something called an Innovation Challenge, where we have a not-for-profit case example, a real client with a real problem, and have teams from different schools around the country competing to come up with a solution to the case. Winning teams get flown to meet with the not-for-profit and to present their ideas to them and their board. So we encourage you to engage with us through things like that.
There are two rounds of interviews. In North America, these are often on back-to-back days or a Friday and a Monday (with a certain group called back for the second round day). The first round is conducted on campus and the second is typically in one of our nearby offices. Then, you’ll find out if you got an offer for an internship, usually within 1-2 business days. If you have an internship, you’ll be off to the races. A large percentage of our interns, about 70%-80% of interns, get a full-time offer. If you don’t get the internship, we encourage you to stay in touch with us. Then, in the fall, we come back and do it again for second years. There’s a smaller number of slots as we try to fill out our class from the people who were interns. So, basically, there will be an opportunity to do it again.
If you’re hired, you’re assigned a start date. As the day gets closer, you will be put into a short training and then assigned a career counselor. You’ll go through one week of training at Accenture Strategy before you’re placed into a project. From there, you’ll be sent to Strategy College at some point during your first year at Accenture.
P&Q: What types of onboarding, training and ongoing support do you provide to incoming MBAs?
Chanmugam: Years ago, about when I came out of business school, when you got the job, consulting firms gave you a project and kicked you off to the deep end of the pool to see who swims. Now, we realize that we need to do things differently.
So the first thing we did is that we formed a big part of our strategy business called our Accenture Strategy Consultant Development program. And that is a little home for the first 12-15 months at Accenture Strategy. [It consists of] all new MBAs. You are in a special program that allows you to see multiple industries and functions. It also recognizes that you have some amazing skills and talents. Since you haven’t done strategy consulting before, you need some basic training as well. That program has three levels of training. We have the local office, virtual (On a Skype or video conference based where you can see what all the MBAs are doing and how they’re working), and then there’s the sessions where you’re going to Strategy College for 1-2 weeks and have intense training with role play and interactivity.
That’s the formal training part. And we’ll have session where people who were MBAs last year come back to talk to you from the different industries — insurance or retail or the people who work with CFOs or on talent and HR issues. Basically, the different strategy practices will come and do a dog-and-pony show and they’re effectively pitching their practice to the MBAs who’ve joined: ‘Here’s the cool kind of work that we do. If you want to do this, get to know some of our projects.’ At the end of your first 12-15 months, you’re going to have a choice of where you go. It’s kind of like the NFL Draft, but instead of the teams picking the players, the players pick the team they want to join. So the MBAs are educated during those first 12-15 months about the different practices that they can join.
And we recognize that it’s a little bit harder to get staffed when you’re brand new because you don’t have a network, so we have very personalized staffing to match the person with what they’re interested in and the skills they bring to the table. We have a managing director whose job it is to run the Accenture Strategy Consultant Development program. In North America, we also put all the people in each of our six major offices around the country so there is some camaraderie among the people in New York, Toronto, Chicago or Atlanta, etc. We developed this because throwing people into the deep end worked for some, but for others it became too random whether you had a good experience or not.