Changing industries is difficult, but worthwhile if it puts you where you want to be in your professional career. For Khoa Pham, moving from engineering to consulting offered more flexibility, and Accenture’s handling of and adaptation to Covid sealed his desire to work for the elite firm. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Pham explains how a Washington Foster MBA prepared him for his new career in consulting.
Khoa Pham, Washington Foster MBA ’21, Technology Strategy Manager at Accenture
Hometown: Saigon, Vietnam
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Clemson University, 2010, Mechanical Engineering; Georgia Institute of Technology, 2013, MS in Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Foster, University of Washington, 2021
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 9 years, Oil & Gas and Heavy Industry
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1.5 years, Consulting
Why did you choose to attend business school?:
I chose to pursue an MBA because I was interested in a career switch. I knew I had transferable skill sets from my previous work. and I needed an MBA to not only learn new skill sets but also fill the gap.
Why Foster? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
There were 3 major factors that influenced my decision to attend Foster.
1) Strong track record for graduates’ job placement rate
2) Relationship with Seattle’s tech firms. I was initially considering Tech in addition to Consulting as the industry of the career change. I wished to find employment in Seattle where my husband was already practicing law.
3) A curriculum with the option to explore the consulting industry – Applied Strategy
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?:
In addition to the case-heavy curriculum that emphasized the learning of problem-solving skills, the support and dedication from the members and leaders of Foster Consulting Society (school club) ensured that there were zero surprises during the job searching and interviewing process.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
My summer internship was with Accenture, where I developed a growth strategy on an ADP (Accenture Development Partnerships) project for a non-profit based out of India. I was impressed by Accenture’s agility to quickly source new projects for all of the new interns in spite of the sudden COVID restrictions in the summer of 2020. Even though the project’s industry was not aligned with my interest, I was glad to have gotten to learn more about ADP. The experience only further confirmed my decision to pursue a career with Accenture after seeing the firm’s commitment to ensuring that no internship offers were rescinded.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Through Foster’s programming and the Consulting Society, the students had ample opportunities to socialize and network with consulting firms that had a Seattle presence. During one of the early networking events, I was given the advice, “Ask yourself. If and when work gets busy and stressful, can you see yourself rubbing elbows with those people?” I took that advice to heart. Accenture already had a team aligned with my industry and functional interest, but it was the personal interaction that I can only describe as “fun” that tipped the scale for me.
How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
COVID has completely altered the consulting industry and lifestyle where the hybrid work policy is now the norm. Consultants are no longer expected to travel weekly to client sites. A weaker emphasis on geography also means that consultants are less tied to a “hub.” A hub is an office with a strong representation of an industry or function. Consultants at Accenture now have more freedom to pursue a specialization beyond their local hub.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Attend all the information sessions hosted by the school and school clubs. It is a very low lift on your part. Additionally, firm representatives from those sessions can help put you in contact with those that are in specific fields or functions of your interest.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
If you are interested in consulting, do not only case study among your peers. You may end up forming habits that need to be unlearned. Schedule time with second-year students that have gone through actual case interviews ASAP. It is best to get guidance from those with experience early on.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Accenture moves VERY quickly when strong candidates are identified – Round 1 and 2 interviews are only a day apart!
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Do not focus solely on career and academia. Set aside time for friends and social events.