Real Humans of BCG: Simon Pannatier, INSEAD MBA ’20, Consultant
Once you make it through the admissions process, there can be many exciting peaks — seeing “accepted” in the application portal, leaving a job you’ve outgrown, heading off to a new location and new community to begin the next chapter of your life! The first day of business school is full of promise and hope and determination — the last thing on anyone’s mind when matriculating in 2019 was graduating into a pandemic in 2020. Amidst a cold market, Simon Pannatier, INSEAD MBA ’20, landed a coveted position at BCG. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, read about Simon’s transformational journey through business school and how INSEAD supported his success.
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Fribourg/Technical University of Munich, BSc in Business (2009)
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: ESCP Europe, MSc in Business (2011)
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 3 years in consumer goods, 6 years in renewable energy
Post-MBA Work Experience: 1.5 years in strategy consulting
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I worked for nine years in consumer goods and energy in Europe and West Africa. I wanted to change industry, geography, and job function. Pre-MBA, I had managed a team of 70 employees, which made me keen to strengthen my managerial skills and improve on how to lead large organizations.
Why INSEAD? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I wanted to access an international network of prominent business professionals, and INSEAD has one of the largest MBA networks in the world with an alumni footprint that goes far beyond the main business hubs. I also wanted to transition to Asia post-MBA and INSEAD has had a campus in Singapore since 2000, as well as about a 12,000 alumni-strong network in the region.
The program duration – 12 months – was also a reason for my choice. I already had a solid academic background in business and didn’t want to spend too much time away from the job market.
Finally, I felt a special bond with the INSEAD community. Before applying, I engaged alumni from various business schools and INSEAD alumni stood out, as they enthusiastically described the MBA year as a transformative year, rather than a just a year back to school, which was exactly what I was looking for.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The INSEAD MBA has helped me structure and solve business problems in different ways. I have also been very active in the INSEAD network, reaching out to alumni to get information or new introductions. More importantly, through coaching, teamwork, case resolution and organizational behavior classes, I have gained soft skills that I use every day as a consultant. To some extent, strategic consulting is a logical continuity of an MBA in terms of learning and development.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
During my summer internship, I worked as a program manager for a large multinational pharma company that needed to redesign their supply chain in the first month of the COVID-19 crisis. Together with a cross-functional team of data scientists, supply chain and marketing professionals, we applied machine-learning to commercial data and defined a list of supply criteria to tailor supply chain services to distributors and affiliates’ needs. It was both meaningful and impactful and satisfied my curiosity for the healthcare industry, which follows different dynamics from industries I was previously familiar with. As a consultant, I keep an eye on healthcare projects, as my internship has sparked a strong interest for the healthcare industry.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Interestingly, consulting was not the industry I had in mind when I started the INSEAD MBA. In hindsight, it is quite the norm to change industry choice over the course of the MBA journey. Thankfully so: you go through a truly transformative experience and coaching, peer testimonials, and various engagements ensure that you constantly question, reflect, and refine your industry of choice. At INSEAD, there is a certain availability bias, as 32 percent of the cohort has a consulting background. In my case, I focused on finding the right company rather than spending too much time on the industry choice. I was looking for a well-recognized company offering opportunities to learn, grow and have a positive societal impact, while offering a wide variety of tasks, displaying a culture of collaboration, creativity, and intellectual curiosity. Putting names on what I really wanted took some time, but the most challenging task was to collect information and imagine how I would fit in the company. I talked to classmates working for BCG who encouraged me to contact hiring managers. I had coffee chats with INSEADers at BCG and I reached out to BCG former employees to get a full picture. Today, I am glad I did my homework and am pleased with my company choice.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
At the start, COVID-19 surely complicated the MBA experience and limited future job prospects. During Spring 2020, we anxiously saw the number of job opportunities shrink on the MBA career portal. However, INSEAD’s response has been commendable. We are lucky to not only have a large alumni community, but also a very active one: the alumni associations mobilized to offer internships and job opportunities across the globe – that is how I found my summer internship, when a board member of the company, an INSEAD alumnus, was contacted by the Career center and agreed to open MBA internship positions. Aware that the job market would take time to recover, INSEAD also offered flexibility and the opportunity to differ one or two terms to maximize chances to get a job offer at graduation. Three months after graduation, everyone in my circle of friends had found a job.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Everyone has a different objective, so it is hard to give relevant advice. A few tips remain true no matter what your post-MBA objectives are: be open to change your opinion about your job/industry target. You are not looking for consistency with your past career choices, but for exploration. During the first four months of the program, take time to reflect on what really matters to you in a professional activity and make use of your career advisors to help you in the thinking process. Also, do not underestimate social pressure: if you are not clear on your intent, you are very likely to follow the cohort wisdom, which is the best way to end up in a job you dislike. Lastly, as a job seeker, the biggest challenge is the asymmetry of information with companies you want to apply to. How to know that a company is the right fit for you? INSEAD enables you to collect information that you would not be able to access otherwise (e.g., alumni or classmates working in the firms, career advisors with strong industry knowledge, etc.). Make use of the opportunity.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I wouldn’t change much. A month before joining INSEAD, I wrote three things I wanted out of my MBA on a piece of paper: finding a job in Asia, getting a network in Southeast Asia and improving my managerial skills. I have been successful in all three of them.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Not really. As said before, I had done my best to collect genuine insights on the company and the life as a BCG consultant. Consulting companies are well-established on INSEAD’s campuses. BCG also ensures that you know what consulting is before you apply: they have ambassadors among their students, organize coffee chats, and follow a standardized and transparent hiring process.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Manage your time efficiently. You will need to compromise between studying, socializing, and… sleeping. You can’t always balance well, but you will need to choose your priorities. The best way to choose is to clarify your objectives and the way to reach them before you join the MBA. Then act accordingly.