{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Grew up in MBB. Hit the bamboo ceiling right at PPMD election (almost exactly 5 years ago). Went into industry at one of my clients. Now a C-suite officer. AMA.", "post_id": "5fe9e7bc8acbf40020c28cfb", "reply_count": 172, "vote_count": 56, "bowl_id": "5a898b0457e95c001826dcad", "bowl_name": "Asians in Consulting", "feed_type": "bowl" }
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Grew up in MBB. Hit the bamboo ceiling right at PPMD election (almost exactly 5 years ago). Went into industry at one of my clients. Now a C-suite officer. AMA.

likesmarthelpful
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Thanks, OP - as a mid-20s woman, first in my family to grow up in the States and also to be in client services, it’s been really interesting and informative (and sobering at times) to hear from others and figure out how to think about my career. Appreciate your advice and candor.

I am curious - did you feel that leaving consulting for a strategy role was the best option for you? I know a lot of folks say to optimize for P&L roles if you’re hoping for meaty roles later down the line (vs strategy roles, which can have their own ceiling internally), and I’m not sure what to make of that, Clearly it didn’t matter in your case. I’m generally not in the camp of trying to optimize for everything when in reality, the serendipity of opportunity and luck play large roles - in both work and life - but am curious to hear your take.

For context, I’m currently in business school but will be going back to consulting after. I genuinely love the job and the firm, but there’s a part of me that’s nervous about the partner promotion process for the reasons you laid out, and since I do want to be a decision maker/operator at some point, I wonder if leaving for a Director/VP of Strategy role in industry after the Senior Manager or Associate Partner level makes sense (vs trying to make it through to Partner).

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P1 and McK4, I don’t disagree with what you’ve said - I guess my thinking was whether there’s job security in client-facing roles WITHIN the same firm (vs consulting as an industry) if you’re counseled out. Maybe it’s a Bain thing but your performance is evaluated within the office level - so if you’re done within your office, you’re done across Bain, at least on the client-facing side. Practices aren’t as formal as I think they are at McK and BCG. And then if you’re counseled out, from what I understand, it’s not so easy to restart and succeed at another consulting firm because you’ll always have the “did they fail at Bain” thing hanging over you and will have to rebuild your network from scratch in what’s a very relationship-driven industry.

In industry, my understanding is that there are plenty of roles outside of your company in the same industry. So job security within your firm may be a mixed bag, but you can still “zig zag” your way up across firms if you find the right opportunities.

Re: the point around targeting senior exec roles, I agree that you shouldn’t self select out of the CEO track, but as OP mentioned, becoming C-suite and CEO aren’t always givens. So my phrasing was more around seeing it as a nice aspiration but not necessarily something you actively plan for and calculate in the same way that you might try to put a plan for partner (since in my book, targeting C-suite isn’t the same thing as targeting partner in the way that theres a formal track and timeline). Maybe I’m limiting myself by thinking that way though.

I don’t want to distract from the earlier question, but open to hearing perspectives here and where I’m wrong!

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I'm in a senior level position at my company, am quite young (think less than 30), and am new (to both the industry and role). While the CEO and COO have high respect for me and believe that I can add a lot of value, other senior folks (all white 60s male and many southern) are not bought in yet and are nervous of my data-driven ways.

1. What should I watch out for?

2. What should I do to help show my value to other senior folks especially when it's data-driven and others aren't well-versed (e.g., old salesman)?

3. How aggressive should I be in pushing for initiatives given that I'm the new person / not look like the other people both age-wise?

4. Same line as #3, how often should I contribute vs. sit back and listen given the above in #3?

Thanks!

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You have to be careful around the dinosaurs. Think of them like end of the Roman Empire. Sure, they're on their way out, but they took a hell of a long time to collapse and the legacy weight really obstruct other forces from rising.

I'd say the best thing you can do is to make the old salesmen not feel threatened. If you Willy Loman them, everyone around them and you would get the message that they are next.

Our HR group used to have someone who insisted on physical paper signatures for all hires above a certain level (and since our offices are somewhat distributed, that multiple Fedex overnights in serial). I could have bashed that person over the head with DocuSign, but that would have alienated a lot of other people who looked up to that person as a fount of institutional knowledge. And then COVID killed that physical signature requirement far more effectively than I could have (and I didn't have to spend any political capital)...

likeupliftingsmart
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How much do you make?

likefunny

And how many years have you left MBB?

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OP, thanks for doing this! We need more role models like you to step up. I’ve long tried not to imagine I’m being held back by a bamboo ceiling but now I’m forced to confront that possibility. Thank you for holding out a beacon of hope!

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What do you think were the factors that prevented your election?

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Same at BCG to be honest... I can see 0 MDPs in my system that are asian. Literally 0

Just wanna thank you for this thread. I shared it on the wider consulting bowl to get perspective from non-Asians because I can def see this being an issue for many of us, even those of us who are outspoken and have good networking skills like you.

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Jet Li will say it

Knowing your bamboo ceiling experience with your previous firm, would you award them work or would you prefer a competitor?

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Interesting. Do you have some suggestions about how can one develop that mindset if s/he has say 4-5 before giving a shot to VP/CxO role. What sort of readings, industry networking can help? Thx!

By reading the way you answered some questions here, I think there might be other issues beside the “bamboo ceiling” you mentioned, pal.

smartfunnylike

Tone is hard to gauge online but ego didn’t come across.

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What caused you to hit the bamboo ceiling at MBB? Is your current role more satisfying and more geared towards your interests (a staff level question for sure)? Would you consider yourself a generalist or a specialist?

likefunny

^very forgiving, yet to some extent, this is the root of the problem. In your future hiring, remember that and consider doing your part to unforgivingly tear down the bamboo ceiling!

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What's your bio? Ethnicity, education, age range, gender, professional experience, specialization.

Any tips for the younger generation post George Floyd where diversity and inclusion training and cognitive bias is being stressed more now?

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Did you have to burn any bridges along the way?

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I think Victor Hugo once said "You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea."

likehelpful

This is the most one-sided AMA I’ve ever seen lol

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Sorry.

Are there traits or tendencies that are typically “Asian” that you had to change in your senior executive role? How much do you feel that you had to “reinvent / change who you are”, so to speak, to advance & operate successfully beyond the bamboo ceiling?

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First, thank you for this really honest and insightful AMA. 👏 👏 The note about the language patterns is really subtle (and therefore most people won’t even tell you about it) but I get the feeling it’s the kind of thing that makes a difference in the long run.

The other thing I wanted to say is your note about your wife being Caucasian. I was at an Asian networking event where the whopping total of 2 female Asian partners in the whole country spoke about their experiences, and one of the brutally honest things they said to this field of mostly 20-something single Asian junior folks that almost made me cry in despair was “we are both married to white men and that has probably helped our careers.” (I am Asian F married to another Asian.)

likehelpfulfunny

Congrats! What do you think contributed to you being able to pivot to C-suite from consulting?

like

Well, you try to be helpful to people who want your support, but even those you have to turn down (and in my role, it's the majority), you do so in a supportive and friendly way. For the few shots on goal that you do take, you try to maximize the odds of success, and make sure that the people who brought the opportunity forward have their time in the sun.

helpful

Were you hired in as a C-suite?

like

I was looking for a C-suite role at some point. In this case, it fell into my lap as my predecessor chose to move on, thereby creating an opening. I had coincidentally been working quite closely with him, so knew the strategic agenda. Even then, they made me an interim first, before confirming me as permanent a few months later.

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If you could redo and have your choice, would you choose PPMD or C-suite?

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My consulting experience was incredibly valuable, but the higher up you go, the more it turns into a sales job. I want to be an executive leader, not a highly paid traveling salesman. I would have had liked to have made PPMD, but I also recognize when its time to go.

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Is OP going to answer any questions? LOL

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Yeah, sorry. Not a beach vacay. Ski vacay.

likefunny

Can I get a referral?

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Sorry.

likeuplifting

Did you transfer to a B4 before exiting consulting? Asking bc you use terms like “PPMD” and “SMD” as well as “selling”

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Sorry. Force of habit. Have worked with more B4 than MBB in recent years.

I’ve always wondered what the interview process is for c-suite roles. I can’t imagine that they would sit a very senior guy down and try to give him a case. Any color you can provide here?

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That's very much the case, but the worst thing you can do is bring in someone laterally who doesn't have the organizational standing to be successful in a new environment. Usually, only CEO-level folks or newly created positions (eg. "Chief Design Officer") or utility-style staff roles (e.g. CIO) can come in as a lateral.. coming in any lower on a senior level is challenging bc you don't have the political instincts for the place, and you're not the big dog.

likehelpful

What did you do during your time at MBB that best prepared you for this role? And at what “level” did you feel like this learning experience came (e.g., analyst, manager, AP)?

like

I think OP was an EM?

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