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Real Humans of BCG: Reid Velo, NYU Stern ’19, Consultant

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Consulting can be a dynamic career, meeting new clients in new places and solving new business problems every week.  Boston Consulting Group (BCG)—one of the Big Three of the top consulting firms known as MBB—has 90 offices in 50 countries, and therefore no shortage of opportunities to pursue a diverse and lively profession.  In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Reid Velo, NYU Stern MBA ’19 and consultant at BCG, offers his perspective on the industry, the value of an MBA, the power of New York City and more.

Reid Velo, NYU Stern MBA ’19, Consultant at BCG

Reid Velo, NYU Stern MBA ’19, Consultant at BCG

Age:  31
Hometown: Ball Club, MN and Nashwauk, MN
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Bethel University, psych (+ philosophy)
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): New York University Stern School of Business, 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Startup consultancy (6 years), energy company (1 year)
Post-MBA Work Experience: Boston Consulting Group (<1 year)

Why did you choose to attend business school?
WAY back in 2016, the idea of tri-sector athletes was all the rage. Ok, maybe not, but it was in my apartment. It’s the idea that society’s biggest problems continue to complexify. Solutions only exist at the cross-section of business, government, and the social sector and so tomorrow’s leaders need to develop within each domain. I looked out at my network. I saw a handful of men and women who I admired as global tri-sector athletes. Two common themes amongst them were management consulting experience and advanced degrees from top programs. I looked at myself and it was clear – the MBA could both round-out my skills and slingshot me toward a top firm, where I could further build tri-sector capability.

Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? One of my favorite arguments to have with friends is ‘what is the world’s greatest city?’ The answer is New York City, of course. Okay, okay, I get it if you want to bring London or Tokyo into the discussion. But 91.7 out of 100 business people agree, it’s New York. Stern is at the heart, no, the aortic valve, of the city. What does that mean for an MBA program? Let’s just look at one factor – recruiting. Sure, every top firm in consulting, IB, fashion, tech, media, etc. has a strong presence on campus. But, when everyone and their mother is scrambling to get to NYC from around the world for interviews and office visits, Sternies are hopping on the R, W, A, or C train.

NYU Stern is in NYC – AND – NYC is in NYU Stern. Stern is a microcosm of its city. Its driving energy. Its rich diversity of people. Its zeal for life. Walk through the halls, sit in a class, or join a group for lunch in Greenwich Village, and you’ll feel it.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Advice to future students: the more you clarify what you want from the MBA, the easier it is to harness the firehose blasts that pin all new students to the wall (blasts from classes, clubs, networking, events, recruiting, programs, volunteering, competitions, and treks). Revert to the tri-sector athlete concept. That’s the mental model I brought to Stern. It informed how I focused my energy. With that in mind, here are a few highlights of how the MBA helped prepare me.

  • Business sector – My observation is that finance and economics are the crux of the MBA. Both departments at Stern are world-class. The finance department has been filling IB and PE firms for decades. The cornerstones of the econ department are four Nobel Prize winners. That said, Stern is no longer just a finance school – roughly the same percent of students now go into consulting. On that note, my favorite course was Advanced Strategy, which converges all MBA learnings together into the holistic CEO perspective.
  • Government sector – Involvement in two bipartisan clubs on campus, as well as international travel, helped build my acumen in this domain. As a club co-president, I organized a trek to DC, where we met with leaders from across the aisle. Separately, I did an international exchange program at London Business School. It afforded a great deal of travel in the region and I studied each country as I went.
  • Social sector – Volunteering and community involvements during the MBA reminded me WHY we must build solutions that are sustainable for all stakeholders. However, it was Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business (CSB), led by Tensie Whelan, which helped me to see HOW sustainability and profits are not mutually exclusive, despite what Milton Friedman’s half-century-old thesis has led many to believe. Through sustainability-focused courses, case competitions, and events (like the flagship CSB Annual Practice Forum, which attracts big-hitters from across the globe), I was equipped with a network and a tool chest for how to approach my work. Thanks to Professor Whelan and the CSB team, the Stern MBA is arguably the best for sustainability.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Simply put, my summer at BCG confirmed my belief that management consulting would be the best fit for my post-MBA endeavors. I could continue building tri-sector capabilities while being on teams changing the world for the better. Tangentially, during my internship, I learned about the possibility to participate in a BCG Language Fellowship after the MBA and before starting full-time work. So far, my post-MBA BCG experience has consisted of a few months studying a foreign language, a handful more months traveling Central Asia and the Caucasus region, and the rest of the last year serving clients in the industrial goods and financial services industries.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
“Healthy things grow, sick things die.”
“Follow those who serve.”
“Go where people are celebrated, not just tolerated.”

These three phrases, from different mentors, immediately jump to mind. During my internship, I observed BCG as a place that is growing and doing it in a healthy way. The leader in my office and the leader on my case were genuinely committed to growing others. The firm showed a resolute devotion to the best interests of clients and society. The culture was, and is, one that celebrates diversity of background and perspective, both with a conviction that it’s the right thing and with intelligence that more diversity = better ability to creatively solve the most complex problems.  With these factors in mind, BCG was an easy choice.

Ok, but WHAT ON EARTH does that look like? Here’s an example. As I write this, the U.S. is declaring a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic. Society and the stock market are wavering. BCG is banding together. Leaders are pulling all-nighters to safeguard teams as if they were family. Teams continue to meet client needs while adding extra workload to help them navigate the pandemic. BCG experts of all types are collaborating from across the globe to help governments and international health groups quell the crisis, just as they helped the UN manage the worldwide response to Ebola in 2015.  It’s impressive to watch one firm unite to serve one ultimate client, society, to deal with the crisis.

Advice to current MBA students:–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Visit people in their work ecosystems. If you’re interested in consulting, go to the airport. I’m kidding! Go to offices. I learned a great deal by visiting eight firm’s NYC workspaces. While on-campus events are a great way to meet people, you must take the next step. It’s like dating. Eventually, you need to meet the family in their home. Who knows what you might uncover!

Also, I’d like to hijack this question to emphasize the importance of paying it forward. When I was a 1st-yr MBA student, I was fortunate to have a 2nd-yr friend who must have practiced 7 case interviews with me. He was an inspiration and it was only right to pay it forward when I became a 2nd-yr student. You’ll experience the same thing.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
If you don’t like standing in line, and if you haven’t already, go get Global Entry + TSA pre-check or another alternative. My summer internship was spent across Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and New York. While my colleagues skipped lines, I waited and sometimes slowed them down. Beyond internships, Stern students take every opportunity to travel. The aggregate wait time in airport lines is much worse than a small membership fee.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
BCGers’ down-to-earth friendliness and genuine support through the recruiting journey was unmatched. From case prep and office tours to email responsiveness and interview coaching, I was impressed. For goodness sake, one guy flew halfway across the country just to celebrate with me at an offeree dinner.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Despite busyness or tiredness, initiate conversations and attend get-togethers. Thankfully, a mentor did pass on this advice. Some of the best career guidance I got came from talking with Dean Peter Henry and Dean Raghu Sundaram. Some of the best learnings I had were with professors after class. Some of the best skills I acquired came during TA office hours. Some of the best friends I made were those I shared meals or weekend activities with. Some of the best times I had were through extra-curricular events. For example, a highlight each year was spending a spring Saturday at Randall’s Island Park, near the Upper East Side, competing in the annual MBA flag-football tournament. It was equally as fun to win (STERN, STERN, STERN) on the gridiron alongside classmates as it was to make friends from Booth, Tuck, Columbia, MIT, and Yale.

What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
Solving complex high-level problems.
Being unbound by industry, function, or geography.
Doing it with smart diverse teams of both clients and BCGers.
Being challenged and resourced to get better every day.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.