Meet the Boston Consulting Group’s MBA Class of 2020: James Lambert

James Lambert

BCG Office: Seattle

Hometown: Seattle, WA

MBA Program, Concentration: Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Undergraduate school, major: Pomona College, Economics

Focus of current case/engagement: An operations transformation for a large maintenance/repair/overhaul client

Why did you choose BCG? When it came time to choose which firm to go to for my summer internship, I thought about what had made each one unique. At BCG, what stood out is how much people had invested in my learning and development—coaching me through the recruiting process and giving direct feedback on case interviewing. My top priority was to go somewhere I would grow and learn, so I picked BCG for my summer internship. The internship was everything I was looking for—I learned a ton and loved my manager and team, so coming back full-time was a no-brainer.

What did you love about the business school you attended? I was most thankful for Kellogg’s culture of “paying it forward.” Each year, second year students invest a huge amount of time in helping first years learn about their career options and prepare for recruiting. Getting that support was crucial to achieving my goals in business school, and giving that same help as a second year was really gratifying.

BCG’s purpose is “unlocking the potential of those who advance the world.” What has BCG unlocked in you? Working at BCG has unlocked the realization that I have total control over my future. The longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve seen how much flexibility I have in terms of the content I work on, who I work with, and where and how I work. This means I’ve been able to hit my own professional goals like getting broad functional exposure in my first year. At the same time, I’ve been able to use things like alt-travel on weekends to support my personal life. Long-term, I know that whatever my careers plans evolve to be, whether that’s becoming an MDP or transitioning to a particular industry, the resources and network I have at BCG will help me get there.

What was your greatest personal or professional accomplishment and how did you make a difference?  My top experience so far has been building the model that shaped a leading commercial real estate firm’s response to COVID-19 and presenting it to the Chief Strategy Officer. Our client wanted to know how to adjust which markets they operated in and which services to offer. This was at the height of the pandemic, and the entire industry faced tremendous uncertainty about how different geographies and asset classes would be affected over the coming years. I got to work with the most knowledgeable folks in the world—both at BCG and at the client on the topic — and found an answer to a super relevant, tough question that the client used to drive their strategy. Even better, I’ve gotten to see how things have played out since and validated our findings.

What word best describes BCG’s culture and give us an example of how you’ve experienced this in your day-to-day work? Supportive. BCG has given me what I need to support my continued learning and development. I knew that my background didn’t scream “quantitative skill,” but I wanted to prove to myself that I could succeed in that dimension. I arranged for case work that would involve a lot of modelling and quantitative analysis, and my Project Leaders spent extra time with me to ensure I was learning best practices. Most importantly, people throughout BCG trusted me. When an especially challenging modelling case came up and I said I wanted it despite not having much experience, everyone, from staffing to my case team leadership, had my back.

Please describe an “only at BCG” moment you’ve experienced so far. During my summer internship, I worked with one of the world’s largest tech firms in designing their workplace of the future. I got to work hand-in-hand with a joint team of clients, BCG design experts, and generalist consultants. I remember being intimidated at first because I had not worked with much advanced technology in the past, and our case was focused on cutting edge possibilities. Fortunately, my manager, Varun Khurana, gave me a ton of coaching and made sure I had the resources to help me get up to speed so that by my second week I was leading discussions among client executives in a workshop. Varun is my one of my closest mentors to this day.

What advice would you give someone interviewing at BCG? I have two favorite pieces of advice for those recruiting for BCG. First, when it comes to casing, prioritize quality over quantity. After every 3-4 practice cases you do, pull back and synthesize the feedback you’re getting and develop a plan to specifically address your weaknesses. Second, be deliberate about who you do practice interviews with. It’s good to do your first couple with someone you know well, just to get the feel of it. Afterward, you should also seek to case with people who you are less familiar with, and maybe even make you feel a bit nervous. This will keep you on your toes as you hone your skills.

Which manager or peer has had the biggest impact on you at BCG, and how has this person made you a better consultant? Nate Dunkin, a Project Leader in the Seattle office, has had the biggest impact on me for a couple of reasons. First, while he was my manager, Nate always gave me super direct and useful feedback on what I needed to work on and made it clear what tactical steps I could take to do so. Second, Nate has been open, genuine, and personal in a way that I’ve never experienced with a manager outside of BCG.  By sharing what he valued most—family—and explaining how he was building his career to reflect that, I realized the flexibility I have in this career and how I could shape my own future.

A fun fact about me is…I failed the first five physical fitness tests I took to apply to be a Marine Corps officer! I played football growing up and so I was a horrible runner, so my 3-mile time was way off the mark. Fortunately, another student in my linear algebra class was in Army ROTC and helped me get in running shape. We got to know each other on those runs, started dating, and now twelve years later we’re married!


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