Sage Jung is a Senior Project Manager with Roland Berger. Based in Chicago, he joined the firm full-time in 2013, following a successful summer internship in 2012 and the completion of his MBA at the University of Chicago Business School. During his time at Roland Berger, Jung has played a significant role in both internship and full-time recruiting; as such, he has a strong sense of the firm's processes from both sides of the hiring experience. Recently, he found time to share some of that knowledge with Vault, and to talk about what makes the firm stand out to potential recruits.
Vault: What attracted you to the consulting industry?
SJ: "I had always wanted to do it. During undergrad, I knew about consulting, but not soon enough to really jump on board. Prior to business school I worked at a company called Eaton Corporation. I went from a full-time position there to business school, interned at Roland Berger, and then joined the firm full time. I always had it in my mind that I would eventually get an MBA and then potentially try to get into consulting afterwards. I used my time at Eaton to gain industry experience."
Vault: So consulting was on your mind before you went to business school?
SJ: "Yes! I was one of the few people who went in wanting to do it versus jumping on the bandwagon after arriving to business school.
The reason I wanted to be a consultant was because I always had the question in my head of 'what do executive level managers do at businesses?' And even when you are out of undergrad, working at an actual company in the industry, it's still kind of hard to see that. That question--'what does a CEO do every day?'—I never could have answered it, but now I have a much better idea of what that entails, and I guess [my interest in consulting] was just kind of to see what drives the machine. If a company were a machine, how is it designed? Who tells it where to move? As opposed to being one of the parts in the machine that learns how to handle that function better—faster and more efficient—versus trying to see the big picture."
Vault: What attracted you to Roland Berger?
SJ: "I was always looking to see if there were smaller companies or startups, because I had come from a big corporation. And with Roland Berger it had a nice setup—we were growing rapidly in the US but still not very big. And at the same time, we were a large international firm that had the network, the capabilities and the background, so it was a pretty nice setup in that regard.
And the other thing was how diverse our office is in Chicago—it's just astounding to me. At the time I was looking, I met people from eight different countries even though we were smaller at the time, and I liked that."
Vault: What was the internship experience like?
SJ: "The big thing that I noticed was that I was slated to go a project with the team early on. They had a plan for me and knew what I wanted to work on. So it was a nice mix of really seeing what consulting was about—trying it, getting responsibilities—with training, development and learning. So, as well as giving to the company, I was also taking away a lot in terms of development and also mixing it with some social events and things like that.
No other company I know of does this: we go to our headquarters in Germany for internship training and really go through training like a new joiner would."
Vault: How did the experience prepare you for the full time role?
SJ: "Like anyone who is new to consulting, the first time I joined as an intern I remember having a lot of nervous energy, in a positive way—because you don't really know what it is until you do it. So I remember trying to prepare as much as possible, reading up on what I could, but once you get here and you actually do some work and understand the trade itself along with the content, it was a lot easier to come back full time, where I was not nervous, but rather excited to come in knowing that I could do it."
Vault: Did the internship help with the second year of the MBA as well?
SJ: "It did. It was pretty educational in how to handle any sort of coursework—just in terms of structuring things or when you have papers or ambiguous projects. I also did a new venture challenge, which is a kind of entrepreneurial competition with real live investors at Booth. And I remember, having a consulting internship, knowing how to work hard and how to structure things that are a little bit ambiguous, so it definitely helped out.
Vault: How would you describe the methodology that you were taught during the internship?
SJ: "It's about understanding what it means to take an ambiguous problem and break it down to its fundamentals, so that you know where to start. Otherwise, some of the problems that can come up—what should I do in China, etc.—can seem intimidating to start on. But if you start really breaking it down to the key questions, and start trying to answer that question, then it actually makes the project actionable. So it's really more of a mentality to drive the tools, the education, the content we learn at school or on the job. Otherwise you can have a great toolbox and a great mind, but you don't know where to start from—so it's more like understanding the key issues so you know what to use and what to do."
Vault: What was the process for transitioning from the internship to the full time role?
SJ: "During the internship we had a mentor who would give us advice and act as a manager. We had a feedback session within a month of the internship and at the end we gave a presentation on what we had worked on and received further feedback. It was a quick turnaround to an offer so that you knew if you had go through full-time recruiting or not. Our process is to let people know pretty much at the end of the internship. We let people know prior to them having to do full-time recruiting, so they'll know and it's then up to them if they want to do that or not."
Vault: What does your role with Roland Berger entail today?
SJ: My title is Senior Project Manager, and it's pretty much leading teams on projects and cases that come up, being the point man with the client, with partners, and then managing the team. It could be a couple of people or ten people. It could be domestic, or it could be international. So my role is to make sure that the project is delivered, and that the client is happy and the partner is happy. And there's a lot of coaching and junior development—coaching people, motivating them, getting them to produce content, structuring what the work plan should be, and communicating and presenting."
Vault: You said that the US arm of Roland Berger had a small-firm feel when you joined. Is that still a fair characterization today?
SJ: "I would still characterize it that way, although the US consulting base has probably tripled since I joined, and we're continuing to grow. But there are a couple of distinct differences. I think because we're smaller and we enabled our consultants to be entrepreneurial and support and help out and give opinions, we put way more structure on how we do certain things: recruiting, social events and things like that. And thus, I think a lot of us who joined around that time and before us have helped to shape our culture to truly be a blend of all these international backgrounds—it kind of makes it very American, because it's a melting pot. There's no distinct German culture or Midwest culture—the US offices are very diverse."
Vault: How much interaction is there with the European side?
SJ: "Quite a bit. The way we try to operate is to make sure that we are constantly communicating and helping each other out, and also leveraging the knowledge base which is being developed everywhere—not just in headquarters; they'll reach out to us to find out how ideas are working out in the US, or in Asia. Given that, we are often communicating with international colleagues, and we also have internationally staffed projects too. A lot of projects that are going on in the industry are global, where they need a strategy for a major region—so instead of trying to have someone who doesn't innately understand a region, we'll have global projects once in a while. And so there are opportunities for people to travel and work globally."
Vault: Final question! As someone who has seen both sides of the intern recruiting process, what would your pitch to interns be?
SJ: "In addition to the reasons I joined, I would say that if someone wants to feel that they are influencing and shaping their firm, this is a great place to stand out. And if you want to get to know your colleagues, we're all pretty amicable here! That's what I would say would be the biggest selling point for us."
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