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Software Engineer to MBB/Tier-2 or Boutique consulting to MBB/Tier-2?

Someone asked on Feb 11, 2019 - 2 answers

I have a Master of Science degree in Computer Engineering from a non-target school (top 40) with a GPA of 3.71. No full time experience (4 years Bachelor's in Engineering + 1.5 years Master of Science) (but good EC and a couple internships in tech industries) I am confused between 2 possible career paths at the moment-

1. Should I join a boutique consulting firm (~900 employees, $50M-$100M revenue) as an Associate and make a switch to MBB/Tier-2 within 2-3 years? (95% of their clients are pharma companies)

2. Should I join a mid-size product company (~220 employees, $10M-$25M revenue) as a Software engineer and make a switch to MBB/Tier-2 within 2-3 years? (I would like to explore strategic/management consulting and not just be a tech consultant if I make a switch)

What are your thoughts on both these scenarios? Is an MBA the only option for a Software engineer (with MS degree + 2-3 years exp) to break into consuling?


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Vlad replied on Feb 11, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School


  1. If it is a pure software engineer - it will be probably easier to make make a transfer from a boutique firm
  2. If you get a Data Science / product manager role - it can be a great advantage if applying to the digital arms of the MBB companies. Note that in McKinsey digital you may be working on both digital and generalist projects.


Francesco replied on Feb 11, 2019
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Hi Anonymous,

if you want to switch after 2-3 years, option 1 would be better. However, the fact that such company is limited to pharma may limit your exit opportunities; it would also make sense to check on LinkedIn if such a transition has been possible historically – the brand of the boutique will matter for that.

Option 2 won’t realistically allow to switch after 2-3 years unless you first do an MBA, which means that you will effectively be able to switch in 4-5 years. You may also try to go for a product manager role and then follow a digital path, but it would not be the easiest/fastest way to get into MBB.

As an additional option, you may check if there are alumni of your school currently working in MBB and second tier, and try to network now an opportunity to interview with those firms. You can find more about that at the following link:

If you are interested to know more about the exact steps to maximize conversion for referrals, please feel free to PM me.