A top-tier MBA program can prepare you for any role in any facet of business, from operations to marketing to investments. In today’s Real Humans: Alumni feature, we meet Cathy Chen, who credits the breadth of her classes at Chicago Booth — and especially her fellow Boothies — with preparing her for a career in strategy management at an elite consulting firm, Accenture.
Cathy Chen, Chicago Booth MBA ’20, Strategy Manager at Accenture
Hometown: Potomac, MD
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Chicago, Economics
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, 2020, Strategic Management
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 4 years, Retail (Corp Dev) and Construction (FP&A)
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 2.5, Consulting
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I had gained some great experience from my previous roles on Corp Dev and FP&A teams. However, I felt that there were skills, frameworks, and critical business acumen that I was missing. I thought going to business school would provide the best opportunities to learn these skills and further develop myself. I also wanted to build new connections that would enrich my personal and professional life.
Why Booth? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Having attended the University of Chicago for undergrad, I was well-versed in the Chicago approach and the data-driven mentality of the students and professors. I thoroughly enjoyed that environment in undergrad and wanted something similar for my business school experience.
When I came to Booth to visit and interview, it was clear that Booth had so much more to offer. From the flexible curriculum to the vast network of student groups, from the on-campus guest lectures to off-campus internships, Booth provided so many opportunities for all different student interests. It was up to me to choose and become an active member of the Booth community.
The pay-it-forward culture at Booth also featured prominently in my decision because the vast network and willingness to help fellow Boothies was evident even from basic coffee chats and networking calls. I have continued that mentality, and my classmates have become lifelong friends, and we travel across the globe to visit each other.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
The breadth of the coursework at Booth has really helped me in my post-MBA career. I took classes on Marketing, Investments, Accounting, and Operations, to name a few, and they all provided me with a foundation to tackle different problems with different clients in a variety of industries. One class that stood out was Abbie Smith’s course Financial Statement Analysis. She taught me to look beyond the numbers and to find the actual story that companies are trying to tell with their public statements.
Booth’s network has also been a great resource for me both at Accenture and outside of my company as I turn to my classmates and friends for guidance on how to navigate the post-MBA experience.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned at Citi during my summer in the Finance rotation program. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience learning from the Commercial product teams and how to manage a truly global team.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I decided to join the Strategy practice at Accenture as a consultant in the New York office. Accenture offered flexibility in projects across industries and functions, something that I wanted to try since I had been mainly focused on the Finance function for my previous roles. I also wanted to work for a truly global company because I wanted to learn from people with different backgrounds, skill sets, and cultures. Since joining Accenture, I have aligned with the M&A practice. But in the short time I’ve been here, I have worked on projects in industries such as High Tech and Life Sciences, focusing on the semiconductor value chain, divestitures, and data integrations. They have all provided me with a new perspective on how to manage new challenges in the future.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
It was tough starting out at a new firm during COVID, especially when trying to build relationships with your clients, peers, and leaders. It also made it more difficult to develop hone skills for consulting. However, since COVID restrictions have lifted, we have been able to travel and meet teams more often to begin to build those relationships.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Leverage my MBA network! Boothies are more than happy to help a fellow Boothie with questions or interview prep.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
Ask more questions. I think I learned that a few months into recruiting, but I should have spent more time getting familiar with the process and asked more questions upfront.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
No, Accenture followed the standard recruiting calendar at Booth, so there were few surprises.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Don’t be afraid to take more risks. Enjoy the time you have during your MBA and use it to try new experiences and opportunities.