Fangfei Yin spent 4 years at BCG out of undergrad and is now in the process of getting an MBA at Stanford GSB. On the side, she helps aspiring consultants navigate the rigorous journey into the industry as a Management Consulted coach.
In the episode, we discuss:
- Keys to standing out in the MBB recruiting process
- Why she accepted BCG’s sponsored offer to get her MBA
- What life as a BCG consultant is like
- How she prepares aspiring consultants for interviews
- The top 2 skills all successful candidates possess
To work with Fangfei one-on-one (i.e., case interview prep, building a networking strategy), click here.
- Reach out to Fangfei via email
- Work with Fangfei 1:1 to land a consulting offer or prep for life on the job
- Connect with Fangfei on LinkedIn
- Join an MBA-only case prep cohort
Transcription: A Week in the Life of a BCG Consultant with Fangfei Yin
Today on Strategy Simplified, I’m excited to bring you another installment of our coach interview series. In these conversations we learn more about our coach’s background, journey to MBB, and their case coaching philosophy. Today, we get to learn more about Fangfei Yin, who spent four years already with BCG out of undergrad, and is now a first year MBA student at Stanford GSB. She enjoys working with candidates to help identify and develop their spikes, which is consultants speak for strengths, as well as weakness areas. She’ll walk us through her perspective on what candidates can do to stand out, and how she helps prepare her clients for their interviews. I hope you enjoy the discussion. Fangfei, welcome to the Strategy, Simplified podcast. We’re so excited to have you.
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
I look forward to get to know you a little bit better. And I know that the audience will as well. To kick us off, could you just give us a brief background or introduction about yourself?
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Yeah, of course. So I grew up in Maryland. I lived there through my high school years. I went to undergrad at Berkeley. Fun fact, I was actually admitted as a pre-med student took one class on diseases, plagues and pandemics specifically and I decided I needed to switch majors. So I ended up switching to be a business administration major at Berkeley. And I really loved the flexibility that it gave me. And at least at Berkeley, the Business School is quite small. So I really love the community there. Ended up doing a finance internship at Salesforce in the summer of my sophomore year. Didn’t love it. Then I discovered consulting, which I found to be much more interesting. I ended up doing an internship with BCG, San Francisco office my junior summer and signed with them full time and the rest is history.
Wow. So I’m sure that there’s those listening who are trying to get an early start in their career as you did. Certainly, an undergrad level internship is even tougher to get than our graduate school internship. Can you tell us a little bit about just rewinding the clock, what you can remember about that process, and what do you feel like helps you stand out at that stage when you haven’t had much career experience yourself.
Yeah, for sure. So I think my general sentiment, when I reflect upon my initial recruiting process was It was very stressful. So I can really empathize with everyone who’s going through recruiting right now. I think that being said, thinking about the process, I think the first thing to remember is that because you don’t really have a lot of work experience, I would say grades actually really do matter, especially for the MBB firms. So I would say that, as you’re starting your undergraduate career, take school seriously, that actually really matters.
I would say once you actually get into the years where you’re recruiting and entering that recruiting cycle, I think what’s really important and what helps you stand out, is really go to all of the networking events, get to know the firms and get to know their cultures and the people that you vibe with at these companies. And I think it really stands out and makes you one, more memorable for the recruiting team there, makes them more likely to want to talk to you, to interview, but also makes you seem much more educated about consulting each of the companies etc. Because they are very different. And then I would say once you’re in the actual interview, stage, one, on the case interview, I think it’s really really differentiating if you’re hypothesis driven and have a point of view while you’re doing the case interview. When you do one of these jobs after undergraduate, nobody expects you to know what to do. But you’ll be expected to have a perspective on what you think you should do. And I think that that really helps you stand up in the case interview. And then my last point, thinking about the application process is, I think don’t under account the importance of the behavioral interview. I think everyone gets really stressed about the case interview, and it is very stressful.
But I think at the end of the day, it’s really important that you come across as a likeable, coachable, energetic person, because I think consulting is one of those unique jobs where someone’s gonna have to work with you for 12-15 hours a day. And so it really matters who you’re working with. And that’s crucial when you’re going through the recruiting process.
You talked about the fit and liking people that you want to work with. You talked about the differences between the firms. What was it about BCG that stood out to you? Why did you end up there?
Yeah, I love the people at BCG, both during the recruiting process, and during my summer, and that’s continuously proved true over my four years there. I will say that even in the recruiting process, for example, when we were going to do our interviewers, the recruiting team sent us pre-printed cards of who our interviewers would be, what their interests were, what their backgrounds were. And so it was really clear that the firmI’m caring about its people. When I got my offer, the firm actually gifted me a book that I had talked about during the recruiting process. And I just like, cannot believe that they listened to me so much during the whole interview process that they would actually know what to give me that was so personalized. I’m so super impressed by that.
And after I started working at the company, I think everyone at BCG is so interesting, but very humble about it. It’s like you talk to people very casually, and then somehow unearth that they have climbed Mount Everest, or I had a manager who would literally run a marathon every single day before coming into the office, just casually in the morning. Every single person has this interesting tidbits and facts about themselves. But there’s zero ego associated with it, which I think makes it such a fun place to work.
Absolutely. So although I understand that right now, you’ve decided to step aside for a couple years and go to Stanford GSB. What made you decide to do that and why now?
Yeah, great question. I realized I forgot to mention that earlier, but just started my MBA this fall at Stanford GSB. Incredibly excited to be here. I think that I was thinking about why to do the MBA, it’s like, like I said, I loved BCG. But I think that the way that consulting goes is you get to be a manager very quickly. And I found myself getting fast tracked into that management position. And it was exciting. But I just felt liken at 26 years old, I didn’t really feel ready to step into that position yet.
So I wanted to take the time away, go to business school, specifically with the intention of developing my leadership skills. So I feel like that’s my primary academic focus here. And I was really excited about the GSB, because that’s what the school is known for specifically. But I think also more broadly, I wanted to take the time to slow down, reflect on what I wanted to get out of my life more broadly. Meet a network of people that I felt like were similar to me and that I can learn a lot from. And I will say, BCG is sponsoring me. So it’s very hard deal to turn down and I’m very excited to go back to the company after I graduate.
So you’re still bought in, you’re not pulling yourself away from consulting yet. Certainly there are those who are still considering and really wrestling with is this the right kind of job for me, is this the right kind of lifestyle for me. So when you think back to the four years you spent at BCG so far, what can you speak about the average day or the average week? And I know that it varies, but what does life feel like as a consultant at BCG?
I think what does life feel like? It feels just super fast-paced and exciting all the time. I think every single day, I looked forward to going in and solving really hard problems with teammates that I genuinely loved. And so I’ll go into more tactically what that might look like on a weekly basis. So most of my cases were travel cases. So which means I was doing the classic Monday through Thursday travel. So travel on Sunday nights or Mondays, get in. Let’s say that we’re kicking off a new project, first day might be just to understand the scope of the project that we were assigned to. For example, I did a lot of work in our private equity practice. So our mandate was usually here’s a company that may be acquired, help us determine if this is a good idea or not.
So first is getting smarter, like what is the industry that this target operates in, how do they make money. What is the competitive landscape like, kind of the 101 market research. And then let’s say throughout the course of the week, it’s running customer surveys to understand more from a customer perspective, what they think of this target, doing market interviews with market participants, maybe from competitors, maybe from the company itself to understand how it operates, how it compares to peers. And then there’s also a lot of Excel work and desk research to try and understand the market that this company plays in. Is it big, is it growing and kind of modeling out what that would look like. At the end of the day, it all accumulates into PowerPoint presentations that we give to our clients.
So let’s say at the end of the week, we would have a client checkpoint, get on the phone with our clients and walk them through our findings so far, and kind of based on that, iterate on, what did they think, what should we focus on next. So it’s a very iterative and collaborative process, both within our internal team and also with our clients.
But I’ll tell you what, Fangfei, the content of what you just talked through? Gosh, that sounds an awful lot like a good case interview framework, doesn’t it? The connection there of like, what we test and the conversation we’re trying to have in the case interview process, thinking about can a candidate prioritize the key issues, ask the key questions, disaggregate the problem into a MECI structure. Completely from a different angle, you just provided what is the core of one of our master frameworks at Management Consulted, as we think about mergers and acquisitions. And so I just want to point out the synergy there. It’s like we’re not doing case interview preparation in a black box, it’s not a vacuum.
These conversations exist because it does reflect the type of thinking and the type of work that these firms do. And I love that you just went through that. And I know, Fangfei, that you have a desire to give back to the next generation of folks considering consulting, wanting to get themselves ready for these positions. And so you decided to join us as a coach here at Management Consulted to work with prospective candidates. And I just would love to hear you talk a little bit more about your process, your philosophy that you work with your clients on to help them prepare, and to put their best foot forward in this process.
Yeah, so I have had a great time working with candidates so far. Like I said, I feel like when I was recruiting, I feel like I had no one to talk to. And I was very stressed the entire time. So I really want to help ease candidates through the process. I would say that at a high level, my philosophy is help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, shore up your weaknesses, but also spike on your strengths, right? I think realistically, it’s impossible to be great at everything. And even when you’re on the job in consulting, you can not be great at everything. But what you can do is find out what you’re really great at, go really heavy there. And just make sure that in terms of where you’re weak, that it’s not a horrible gap for you.
But recognizing that it doesn’t have to be a strength for you to succeed. And how I translate that into my coaching is I always start my first session getting a diagnostic from the candidate have what they think their own strengths and weaknesses are. I think that can be a very telling baseline. And then I’ll try and run through one short diagnostic case so I can evaluate where their strengths or weaknesses are. I feel that folks are generally pretty self-aware, but sometimes you need the perspective of somebody in the industry to actually tell you what they think your profile looks like. And then once you’ve identified some potential weaknesses to work through, and then I’ll go and kind of drill on those components.
So for example, one of the candidates I just worked with, we decided that she has some trouble structuring cases. So instead of going through five full cases, we just spent our hour working through case starts. So I just ran her a case, we did the framework, I gave her feedback, and then we moved on to the next one. And I find that that’s a much more efficient way of getting yourself up to speed and getting you to the level that you need to be. And then after each session, of course, I’ll give everyone detailed feedback and answer any questions that they have. But I think, also importantly, after our session, I’ll also always outline next steps for candidates to practice offline, just so it can help them get to the next level.
Absolutely. And I’m sure that that’s a custom process as you work with individuals and you run these diagnostics, you figure out their strengths and weaknesses. You balance that against their self-aware, hopefully feedback, as you said. But is there anything that sticks out thematically to you about a couple of top qualities or skills or capabilities that desirable candidates seem to possess?
Yeah, I think that two that come to mind are one, being super adaptable and being coachable. And the second is being hypothesis driven, like I touched upon earlier. So on the first point, I find that candidates who tend to be very successful can learn very quickly, right? Like I said, if you’re just starting your prepping process, nobody expects you to know, what does it gross margin mean, right, like, what is cogs? What is products product mix. There’s zero expectation. But I find that the candidates who tend to be very successful, are able to learn very quickly once they’re told. And they’re able to take learnings from cases that we’ve practiced and apply them to future cases. And I feel like that’s a critical skill. And I feel like it also makes them successful not only in the case interview process, but also just generally through the recruiting process, and also on the job. Because at the end of the day, like I said, no expectations on incoming performance.
But you definitely have to be really coachable. And the firms want to see that you are a coachable candidate, because they want to know that they can train you up once you’re in the company. So I think adaptability, coachability is super important. Second point is to be hypothesis driven. Like I mentioned, I think you’re always expected on the job to have a point of view on what needs to be done. It doesn’t have to be right, but you always have to come to the table with a point of view. And I find that candidates who build that muscle through practicing really stand out in the interview process. And the ways that this could manifest itself during the case interview is maybe you’re setting up your structure, and you’re thinking, okay, there’s probably something here about competitive dynamics changing, I’m guessing based on the industry, because it’s a commoditized good, then I would guess that margin really matters. And so the fact that low cost competitors are coming into the market is probably very harmful for our margin. And so having those thoughts as you go through the case of you know, what the evolving answer is, I think is really important.
Absolutely, yeah. Somebody who does all those things would would stand out for sure. I agree. As you think about your work being a coach, their journey so far, I appreciate what you’ve been able to share with us in this conversation. I’m sure that there are folks who would love to learn a little bit more about you, maybe start to work with you. Any other thoughts for the listening audience who are maybe interested, or on the fence about kind of one-on-one coaching service, anything you’d share with them?
Yeah, I think if you’re on the fence, give it a try. I think it’s really, really helpful to get feedback from someone who’s been in the industry. I genuinely feel like one hour of coaching with someone who has been a management consultant is equivalent to doing like five or six hours of practice with a friend. Not that the latter is not valuable. But I do think getting that individual coaching with someone who knows exactly what the firm’s are looking for. I have done recruiting at BCG, I’ve seen the rubrics that they use, I know exactly what they’re grading you on. And so I think I can offer a level of insight that you wouldn’t be able to get from just working with a friend or another peer.
And then I also think that the value of coaching really comes in because your coach can see the trajectory of your growth, and work with you within that context. So if you’re always working with different people, it’s hard for them to see the trajectory of where you’ve come from and what you need to further develop. And I think it’s only by working and creating that one-on-one experience, that you’re gonna have someone who can follow your entire trajectory and journey and kind of piece all the parts together.
Yeah, there’s really great synergy and momentum when you’re able to, at least for a number of sessions, perhaps work with the same person to be able to have that, to not have to start from square zero and a diagnostic with every person.
Yeah, for sure. And it’s just nice to have a personal relationship. I think some of the candidates that I’ve worked with, you know, I tell them, if you’re stressed about an interview, like text me the night before, text me whenever. Like if there’s something on your mind, let me know. And I feel like just feeling like you have an individual who is on your side during that process can be really helpful.
Absolutely. Well, Fangfei, I would love to wrap up our conversation with the Strategy Simplified tradition, which is a couple of more personal questions to get to know you in a different way. So we’ll start with, I understand that you describe yourself as an aspiring wine snob, which I kind of I love that phrasing. Tell me more about that. And is there a favorite wine or a favorite wine experience you can share with us?
Yeah, so I think that I decided to start on this wine journey because I felt like at BCG, I was going to a ton of team dinners and one, I feel like I had a lot of good wine and didn’t understand any of it. So it was very wasted. And two, sometimes you’d order at dinner, the partner would hand me the wine menu, say pick something, and it would just strike me with so much terror. I was like, Okay, I need to be kind of educated, so I don’t disappoint everyone. So that was kind of the catalyst. I think since then, the way that I’ve mostly worked on the school is I’ve done a lot of wine tours during my previous travel. So I, in the past year, I was in Tuscany in Italy, I was in Spain, I was in Bordeaux, in France, and just doing a lot of wine tours is a great excuse, and a very fun hobby to pick up. And I think now that I’m back in Northern California, definitely have some Napa trips planned. And I’ve just joined wine circle at business schools, so excited about that.
Oh, my gosh, I love it. I was gonna say you listed all these places around the world, and it’s kind of like, and you’re in a great geographic nation right now to like, double down on this too. So I love that you’ve got that kind of on the docket in the near future, hopefully. And you’ve already shared a bunch of places that you’ve been in that you’ve traveled. What’s a favorite city or country that you’ve visited, and why?
Yeah, so travel is one of my biggest passions, I think, no surprise, since I chose to go into consulting. I’ve been to almost 70 countries, and I will say my favorite is still going to Japan, I think I’ve been three or four times now. It’s just like, no matter how you cut it, it’s amazing. The food is great. There’s so much to eat, there’s so much to do, the shopping is amazing. There’s so much good culture that you can get there. And I will say I am a big, like public transportation aficionado and there is not a more efficient city that you can find than Japanese cities in terms of like the public transport network, and you can get anywhere. So I’m going to have to say Japan.
Oh, my gosh, I have not made it to Japan yet.
You have to go.
But I did get to live in Switzerland with McKinsey for a year. And the the efficiency of their train systems was like a definite pro of living there. So now it’ll be high on my list as well, for sure. Fangfei. We really appreciate you taking the time to spend with us today. Is there anything else top of mind that you’d like to share with the audience as we close out?
Yeah, I think just wanted to echo the point that we’re talking about earlier is if you’re on the fence about coaching, you should definitely do it. Obviously, I would love to work with you. But just overall, I’m a big proponent for the value of one-on-one coaching. So I’d say if you’re on the fence, definitely go for it. Try it at least once. And I think that you’d be really surprised at the value that you can get out of it.
Absolutely. Fangfei, thanks so much.
Want to work one on one with Fangfei? There’s a link to her coaching calendar in the show notes. All of our coaches are ex-McKinsey, Bain, or BCG consultants and interviewers who have been extensively vetted and only coach with us here at MC. They love working with prospective candidates to mock through full interviews, or drill in areas that you need extra help, just like Fangfei was talking about doing a bunch of case starts in a row with her clients. You can find a link in the show notes or read more about our offerings at managementconsulted.com We’ll see you next time.