Nare Israelyan’s journey into consulting was the opposite of traditional or cookie-cutter. It started at a non-target (for consulting) school, continued with multiple internships, including with the NFL, and eventually, led to BCG to solve problems for the world’s most influential companies.
Now? Nare is storming Hollywood as an actress, stuntwoman, and model. This interview is jam-packed with nuggets of wisdom from one of the brightest and most down-to-earth ex-consultants you’ll meet. Tune in to get all the goodies from Nare’s story, including:
- How she got into acting (0:56)
- Her non-traditional path to consulting (5:07)
- Her top traits for consulting success (8:16)
- What BCG looks for in candidates (13:04)
- Her favorite part of consulting (14:58)
- Why she left BCG (15:51)
- How she helps people prepare for case interviews (22:33)
Listen below or on your preferred podcast channel (transcription coming soon).
We’re so excited today to have with us one of our coaches here at Management Consulted, Nare Israelyan. Nare, thanks for being here!
Thank you for having me. I’m excited.
So you and I have worked together before, but I’m excited to hear more about your journey. Before we get there, I would love to learn a little bit more about who you are today and what you love. So I understand that you’re a working actor and stunt woman. Is that right? How did you get there, and how’s it going?
Yes! Getting into acting was a weird turn of events. I did not even expect it myself, but after I left BCG, I was starting a real estate financing startup, still spending a lot of time in Excel and I missed the human interaction piece of things. A friend, who was also in consulting at the time, recommended taking an improv class. I did and two weeks in, I forgot how much I loved performing. Then I took a theater class, fell in love, and two weeks in I was so head over heels that I closed up shop on my startup.
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I asked myself a question. If I spent three years, lost all my money, worked my butt off and failed at the startup, would I regret it? Because, obviously startups can fail. Would I regret it? Yes, since I was doing it more for the money and the opportunity, if I spent three years, lost all my money, worked my butt off and failed at acting, would I regret it? And it was just a gut decision – no, I would not. And that was sort of the greatest moment of clarity I had.
I jumped in head-first, was in three or four classes at a time, constantly working, constantly going. And yeah, this was three years ago in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. And I still asked myself that question in that time, and there is no way I would regret it, especially the way I’ve grown as a person, as a human, in all regards. It’s been the greatest journey and I really don’t regret it now.
How it’s going? I will share a highlight reel right now. I finished filming an HBO pilot in December. It’s an HBO comedy pilot that I’m really excited for. We will hopefully go to series and then you guys get to see me on HBO. It’s all part of the business to get the green light or not, it’s almost like a proof of concept in a way. So it’s still very business-oriented.
On the modeling end of things, I just shot a Banana Republic campaign at the beginning of the year, so that should be coming out early spring. I’m excited for that, so hopefully you guys can see me there too. On the stunt end of things, I have doubled on American Horror Story. I’m more focused on being action-y, integrating that into my acting. But that’s where things are right now.
I don’t know if anyone expected me to move this quickly in the industry, but the way I saw it was, you go to school for four years, and I had all these internships and I worked really hard and I built up to my offer at BCG. And so when I was going through this process, I saw it as, you’re back in school. Your first year, you’re gonna have an internship, you’re gonna do a small little short film, you’re gonna do this, you’re gonna do that. It’s constantly gonna build until you get to a bigger thing – an HBO could be my BCG, for example.
It’s still the same process, no matter what industry you’re in. You have to put in hard work. You have to be dedicated. You have to take risks, believe in yourself. Because I walked into freshman year, fall quarter, and I was like, I want to be a management consultant. And my teacher told me that nobody from UCLA really went into consulting so, the odds are always stacked against you. But I think if you work hard, believe in yourself, and constantly dedicate yourself, opportunities are really possible no matter what you’re doing.
Oh my gosh, I love that so much. Let’s keep on that train of thought. You come in as a freshman and are interested, for some reason, in management consulting. We have a lot of undergrad listeners, and they would love to have the same pathway that you did. So what was that path like for you?
I will start that off by saying, I don’t think there is a right path, and I was definitely somebody who thought there is one path. Mine took twists and turns and before consulting even, I was always a kid who did a bunch of different things. The reason I was interested is because I was a five sport athlete, and I was senior class president and I got straight A’s and I was the kid who always did a ton of stuff. And so I thought consulting was really interesting because I could be creative, solve business problems, and constantly change my environment. And so that’s why I was initially interested in it.
My path from saying I was interested in consulting to when I got my offer… I will preface this by saying I was never accepted into any of the consulting clubs, was never part of the undergrad business society. I didn’t get accepted to that. I was part of the fellowship, but that was general business, not consulting specific.
So for my path, I interned a lot. I interned at a startup doing marketing my sophomore year. I interned at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. I also spent two years with Victoria’s Secret throwing parties around LA, that was super fun. I spent a year working in brand strategy consulting, which is interesting, because I was almost like a partial full-time employee during my junior year. I got a lot of great experience there, kind of got a taste for working in a team in a consulting environment, even though it was in branding.
The summer before my senior year, I interned at the NFL in Consumer Products in New York – that was one of the best experiences of my life. And so all of my different internships, I think, gave me different experiences. And I’ll be honest with you, I was trying for consulting, but it didn’t really work out. UCLA wasn’t really a big school for consulting at the time. It’s a very reputable school, but it was just not really known for consulting. And so the opportunities weren’t just all over the place, anyways. It was still a very new thing at UCLA.
So, I recruited into the wrong segment of another firm – advisory instead of consulting – but turned that offer down. So I took a lot of twists and turns along the way, always knowing what my end goal was. But if I had a really great opportunity, I took it. And I’m very happy for the path that I did have, because I think it presented me as an interesting candidate when it came to full-time recruiting, compared to the sea of people who might have just been doing what everyone else was doing. I think that almost makes it harder to stand out if you take the traditional path. I just got lucky that the traditional path just did not work for me, I guess.
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Well, it did eventually, right. And I hear a lot of those themes continue to come up that you already previewed. Hard work, dedication, trying your best at whatever you do, always staying active and interested. So, you had your own individual path and journey. Now, in addition to the plethora of things that you do professionally, you are a coach with us here at Management Consulted and you work with folks at all different levels who are interested in all different firms, not just BCG candidates.
So, when you look across your journey, what you learned at BCG, coaching, across the board, what do you think are a couple of the top traits or qualities that need to be present for recruiting at any firm?
For top traits and qualities, some you can teach and some are inherent in you. I think for anyone who is interested in consulting, you have to be ambitious, and you have to be a hard worker, of course. I think that is the case even in the case interview process.
Some people do walk in and they’re like, I just watched a YouTube video yesterday and I aced the interview. But I would say that’s less common – traditionally, most people work really hard. And I personally know which candidates are putting in a lot of work, and, I think as coaches, we sometimes even favor them because we see the hard work that they’re putting in and it’s so rewarding when I get that email afterwards telling me, Hey, I got an offer.
It feels really good to help somebody who’s put in the work and then they make their dreams come true. And to be part of that process is is fantastic. I think apart from hard work, I think another really important quality is ability to perform under pressure. I think especially in the interview, no matter how much you practice, you need to put yourself in positions where you are under pressure, whether that’s in other interview environments that you’re going through, getting outside your comfort zone, because you are going to be in an intimidating environment.
Having a lot of internships throughout my career helped me because I was very comfortable interviewing at that point. And because I was, I was able to let my personality come out and I do think that was a differentiating factor, because, of course, you can ace the case interview. But I also want to root for you as a human being and I think that being able to show your personality. You don’t have to people please in any way and try to say the right thing, but allowing yourself to be comfortable enough in the room.
That also comes back to work, right? You have to be confident in your work, you have to be confident that you’re going to be good with the case interview, no matter what is thrown at you, no matter what question is thrown at you, behaviorally, case interview, whatever. You’re prepared for it, and you’ve already practiced it. So you have to be comfortable in the room with whatever is gonna go on.
Sometimes, you have to take a risk and show your personality. You can even make a joke during the interview, but I think having the courage to let your personality come out and really shine through is a differentiating quality that helps differentiate from good caser to somebody that we want to work with, because we know you as a human being now as well.
Absolutely. Think about the applicability of what Nare said. Everybody is not looking for the perfect interviewee, the perfect caser, but can you bring that self confidence and that executive presence into the boardroom in front of a senior level executive. Are you going to be able to also maintain that personality, that clarity of thought, the ability to problem solve in the moment or do some mental math or all these different little challenges that can be thrown at you?
Yeah, and I actually find that whenever candidates come to me and they say, Oh, I have a math problem. Whenever we case, I stop them halfway through, and I’m like, I don’t think you have a math problem. I think you have a nervousness problem, because if the problem is a little bit tricky, if you get lost, if you can’t navigate and you don’t know how to ask the right questions, or how to move through it, you get flustered and then candidates aren’t hearing me correctly.
And I think what happens is we get so nervous, that the voices in our head get so loud and the doubts in our head get so loud that you can’t hear your interviewer and you’re not really present. So I think that throws more candidates than anything else in the case interview process.
Oh my gosh, I can’t agree with you more. I could not agree with you more. Some great thoughts there generally speaking across the board, looking across firms. Now when you think about BCG specifically, what kind of person does BCG look for?
I would say BCG looks for people that are smart and friendly and fun, but are secretly nerd. And nerd, not with the connotation of what you see on TV shows, like a geek or a dork, but we can nerd out over a subject for hours. And it doesn’t even have to be the same subject. But you know, typically they will nerd out over a certain subject. As an actor, I nerd out over everything. I’m still a nerd. Everyone is generally very friendly, very nice, loves to have fun, and then they have that nerdy quality to them.
And I think there’s like a certain cloth and I truly do not know how they weed for this throughout all the candidates, because whether I met people on the West Coast when I was casing or the East Coast – I’ve done recruiting out there – I’ve been out to different regions where I met BCGers, we’ll have exchange consultants come. There is that certain thread, a common cloth with everyone at BCG. And I think that’s just your quality as a human being. I’m honestly not sure how they sort for it, but they do a really good job with it.
No, I’m so glad that you pointed out one of these cultural elements that doesn’t necessarily have a spot on the score sheet, but it really helps define the type of human being, as you said, the type of person that BCG is looking for getting in the door. So, you spent some time at the firm, what was your favorite part of the job?
The traveling for sure. That’s that’s my favorite part. I would say the traveling was definitely my favorite part about consulting. I’m somebody who likes to be on their toes and I really like the aspect of always changing your environment. It keeps me on my toes. I know some people don’t like the travel, but it just makes me feel like I’m constantly hustling and I like that.
I got you. I’m with you there. I burned out at some point, but the travel is fun.
Yeah. Then you can use your airline miles and your hotel points to book a nice vacation!
You know what? I’m still living on points. So there you go. (laughs) So, you spent some time at BCG, then ultimately decided to leave. What were some of those trigger points for you? What made you leave consulting? And then I’m interested in a little bit more in how you leveraged those consulting skills into the startup that you went into after that.
It’s always a personal decision, and it all depends, right? It doesn’t have to be everyone’s cup of tea, and every position does change sort of the roles and responsibilities that you do have. I found that for me, while I loved case interviews, while I loved the overall concept of consulting, I found myself to be more entrepreneurial, and to find myself more motivated when I have something to chase after. And so for me, I think it was just that idea. And after BCG, I didn’t really work for another company in that sense of being a full time employee. I like being more entrepreneurial myself and that’s just my nature, and it was something that I’m happy I learned earlier on.
I think, just in terms of the analyst position, I like working on a higher level. I like working more interpersonally between teams. For example, when I am a project leader for Strategy Sprint, I enjoy working with the different groups, thinking on a higher level, thinking of the storyline, able to sort of help them through. Of course, I know how to do the analysis.
I’m definitely very extroverted and an auditory learner so I’m able to pick up on a lot of things very quickly and I found myself shining more in in that regard of having a good business sense, business acumen, knowing exactly what’s going on, being able to lead a team forward, but preferring to be more on the personal side of being able to understand people, how they work, sometimes even just reading the people, reading the room, understanding sort of the motivations and intentions behind things, and I found myself excelling more in that type of position, in general.
And so I just wasn’t able to utilize that specific skill set for me. And that was just unique to my situation. And I made the choice that I didn’t really want to go up the rungs of the ladder, considering I didn’t want to go corporate. So I think I knew fairly early on, I still wanted to put in my time, I still found it to be a valuable experience moving forward and I definitely don’t regret my time there.
I would say how it helped me, as an actor, I don’t really see a lot of my consulting skill sets being used. In my startup, I definitely did, because I was an Excel whiz in terms of pivot charts, and I grabbed data from here and here and I was able to do a lot of research on my own, use my economics background, and be able to actually put it into practice with the Excel tools that I learned. And also, it was never like, oh, I can’t do this. It was, I can figure this out. Because that’s literally what you do on the job. You don’t know how to do something so you figure it out. I was already in that mindset.
Right now, how consulting helps me, I think it’s overall helped me even as an artist, because I am in show business – I work with people on the business end all the time – to know how to communicate with my agents and my managers professionally, to understand what professionalism is. It’s actually gotten me ahead. That’s something my modeling agent told me. Even my manager, she worked really hard for me and she said, you’ve never missed a deadline. You’ve always gotten the tapes in on time.
I’m a professional. No matter what’s going on in my personal life, I will figure out a way to get my work done. I’ll work hard. It’s always a “yes” mentality. What do we need? How do I move my career forward? How do I niche? All of the stuff that you would consider in business has helped me as an actor, the business aspects that a lot of artists are never privy to, and I think takes their career a little bit longer to take off, because you have to learn how to be a professional, no matter what you’re doing.
Apart from that, just the hustle of consulting, knowing that I can put in long hours if I need to. Recently, on two day notice, I flew up to San Francisco. At 7am, I have to be on the job site, the test shoot. I had to be there at 7am on the site. Had I not done consulting and had I not already known how to go through an airport, how to get to a hotel, how to sort of get all of that stuff situated, and then the next day, it’s a 5am call time and then we’re leaving straight from the airport.
So I have to get up in the morning, I have to pack, I have to leave my suitcase at the lobby, go back. All of the logistical stuff that I think would give people anxiety, I already have down. And so I don’t have to worry about that stuff. I can just focus on performing because those skill sets were already hardwired into me. So I actually see that as beneficial no matter what you’re going to do later on.
You kind of become just a little bit more efficient at life.
Absolutely. And when you learn how to pack a week or two of your life into a carry-on suitcase, there’s nothing you can’t do.
Oh, amen to that. Oh my gosh, I could not agree more.
Well, let’s dive into a little bit more about your coaching at Management Consulted. Of course, you now work with clients across all firms or prospective clients who are preparing for interviews. What’s the process that you run your consulting interview clients through?
Yeah, we get the gamut of people from somebody who is a Black Belt, has a couple months to prepare, and wants to be guided through a step by step process to people who have already done 50-60 interviews, and they just want final opinions to, I’ve never run a case interview, my interview is tomorrow, what can we do? So you get the whole gamut of it here, so it does work on a client by client basis. We are able to work with you no matter where you’re at.
It’s always first that question of, where are you? How much do you understand about the case interview? I was a business economics major and never learned about case interviews. I’ve done a ton of interviews in my life and I didn’t learn about case interviews until consulting came along. So I don’t think that it’s really this skill that is taught or maybe a class you can take or something in college, but that wasn’t available to me. So, how much do you know? It’s this abstract thing, you’ve never interviewed like this before, how do we work through that cadence?
And so, let’s pretend this candidate has already done the pre-work, they read a book or two, they’ve watched a couple videos, or they’ve done our general videos on Management Consulted, I’ll ask them, where is the area of feedback that you feel like you’re weakest at, because that’s exactly what I want to work. I want to work the area that you feel least confident in or you’ve been receiving feedback on, because that’s the stuff that you shouldn’t be working with a coach on. Not to be presented in the best light, but where we can help you the most.
So we’ll start the case, and unless this is the day before the interview, if it’s a normal coaching session, we’ll run through the prompt, the questions, you’ll structure, you’ll present your framework, I’ll time it, and then we’ll stop. At that point, I like to ask my candidates how they feel, because I found that a lot of people actually have a pretty good gauge of where they’re at. And that also helps with self-guided practice beyond the coach, right? If I ask you how you feel, and I can validate that the way you felt is exactly the things that you need to work on. It’s always good to build that internal gauge.
So I’ll ask you how you feel. What you feel like was going well, what do you feel like where maybe there was a misstep. and then we’ll run through the beginning, whatever went wrong, so then we’ll go through this first piece I think that piece is very pivotal up until the framework because really, that is the piece that I think a lot of people struggle with. So we’ll really spend time making sure that you’re really good with your framework, the questions that we ask upfront in the prompt, are they helping you set up for the best, most specific, customized framework possible? How do we ask the right questions, etc., fully know what’s going on.
So we’ll work through that and then it’s kind of a start and stop process. If you’re just running through it, I’m not going to stop you, but I do like to walk through the pieces, tell you what’s going well, maybe how we can do things differently, since the case interview is an interesting song and dance in a lot of ways, so there’s a certain cadence to how we do things. We say things out loud. When you see a graph, you’re not used to reading a graph out loud, but they’re like, What do you mean, can you read a graph? Can you literally read a graph? When I first heard it, I was like, really? But that’s what they want.
They want to understand that how your mind works and the only way they can understand how your mind works is if you’re speaking out loud. So how do we communicate our thoughts out loud? How do we get comfortable communicating our thoughts out loud, because that’s also something that people aren’t comfortable with because they’re too worried about giving that perfect, polished answer at every point of the process versus walking me through how you got to that answer and that’s really what they’re looking for, so sometimes it’s breaking that habit, making sure that they are communicating that.
It’s just a start and stop process, we’ll get to the end, you’ll give your recommendation. If there’s any piece where I need to chime in and give an example of how I would do it, I do that. But that’s how I would say the typical case interview prep session would look. And of course, I’ll send you the case and all of that stuff and you get to run through it again.
Love it, love it. Every coach has their little pieces that they like to focus on so it’s great to hear what some of those were for you, and some of those consistent themes about confidence, presence, communication, gravitas.
What are some of the key things, in terms of qualities that you’re hoping to build in your clients, the ones that are going to make them successful in this process, what are some things that come to mind?
For qualities, I think the most important is confidence. Confidence in your interview process itself, in the way you speak, the way you deliver, how you move through the case. And I think that sort of dives into everything else. I think about ease – this shouldn’t feel like it’s really difficult or stressful because if it’s just, Alright, let’s do the case. That’s kind of how I think my interviews went. They were like, Should we do the case? Yeah, let’s do the case. And so you just walk into it, and it’s not a big deal, right? It’s like, I do this on the daily, I’m good with it. So I like to build that.
For a lot of clients, I even treat this like an Olympic sport, I’ll be honest with you. I will say, okay, so what is your routine? Your interview is next Friday. Starting the week before, if you know when your interview is, the minute you know, the day your interview is… For example, 11am. What is your morning routine? I want you to run that morning routine every single day until your interview and clock how you feel. Because for some people, it’s just the day before that they’re gonna get a good night’s rest, and they’re gonna wake up early, and they’re gonna goto work and it’s just not the day before type of thing.
At least spend the week getting up at a certain time, seeing how your body feels, let it adjust to it. If you work out, do you have more energy? Are you going to crash before your interview? Maybe you have less of a workout. Is your shower routine down? Do you know exactly what you’re going to wear? Can you sit down 20 minutes before your interview, calm down, be ready, look over your stuff, look over your resume, maybe a couple of frameworks if you need to. But don’t stress too much so when you walk into an interview, you’re already not at a high anxiety level.
Interviews are fight or flight for us. When you hit that, your frontal cortex turns off, you go back into cave man brain and seven times five is now the hardest problem in the world because you’ve kind of lost it. So how do we keep you calm and ready for the interview? That’s not only the prep, but also the stuff that we do before. I’ve made people write affirmations. Because if people talk badly about themselves, or I’ve heard a lot of, this is not my background, I’ve never done this before. A lot of people who don’t come from business backgrounds, they do tend to feel less comfortable. But if you walk in with that attitude, it’s going to come in through your energy so how do we shift that mindset to – I do bring something unique to the table.
That’s something that I personally felt that because I didn’t have the banking or consulting background before I walked into my interview. So it definitely comes from a place of, I understand how that feels but I know I bring something unique to the table. So can I focus on what I bring to the table? And I don’t know if I answered this question, but I feel like that’s the quality that I want most out of people. It’s that confidence, knowing the value they bring to the table, how to work through anxiety, because no matter what happens in your interview, no matter if you choose to go into consulting or turn down the offer after you get it and do something else, I think that learning how to do affirmations, believe in yourself, build this mindset of, I’m going to prepare for this. And I’m going to leave little margin of error.
If I have habits, rituals, and routines built in place, the margin of error gets smaller. Even if I have an off day, I know exactly what I’m going to do in order to have the best off day possible. Because you never know how you’re going to wake up. That stuff you can’t control. And I think those are skill sets that no matter if you choose to do this, if you don’t do this, whatever happens, you can walk away and know that that is something of value that you’re always going to take away.
Oh my gosh, absolutely. And I think even more than knowledge of business acumen, I think everything that you’ve just spoken through is the biggest hurdle to most people in this process. And so having somebody like you, coaching and cheering for them, being in their corner, guiding them along every step of the way. I’m sure that there are a ton of you listening right now who are excited and interested to work with Nare. So Nare, tell us. How can people work with you?
Yeah! Go to www.managementconsulted.com, click on interview prep, and then work with a coach and I will be listed there. My calendar is up to date. And I like to keep flexibility, so I like to keep my calendar up to date. If there’s a time that works for you just hop into that time slot and we can talk soon.
Fantastic. And wouldn’t you want to get to know Nare a little bit better before she becomes super famous? (laughs) I’m so excited for you and everything you having coming around the corner.
It’s thrilling. Nare, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time to let everybody else get to know you a little bit better and hear your perspective on this process.
Thank you! And I appreciate you doing these, because if you have an interview scheduled, and you don’t even know the process or you’re afraid of what you’re getting yourself into, hopefully this gives people a little bit more ease into walking in and knowing what you’re going to walk into, who you’re walking in with. We’re not scary people. We’re normal people just like you and we’re just here to help.
Thanks so much, Nare.