Case Studies: Consulting Careers

Three King’s alumni tell their stories about their different experiences in consulting.

Dr Fahd Choudhury, Deloitte

Fahd defines management consultants as ‘people who help a business implement a change’.  He moved from a PhD studying Alzheimer’s disease as he found that it wasn’t really bringing enough meaning: there wasn’t really a point where there was a yes/no answer.  After spending some time at Merck & Co, he moved to Deloitte where he spent six months in the life science consulting division before moving into banking.  Here he was worked in some of the most profile banking mergers of recent years and is able to say ‘I helped build TSB’!  He built the credit risk function, which took 2.5 years to do and cost over £1bn.  He also gets involved in look at the conduct of sales staff and how TSB brings on new customers.  He advises the company on how to defend itself or collaborate with technology affecting credit card providers.

Through the opportunities Deloitte gives to employees to do some pro-bono work, he has been able to get to know the CEO and Head of Research at the Alzheimer’s Society, thus giving and outlet to his science interest.

Dr Shirley Wong, Sociable Pharma

Shirley’s PhD is from the Dental Institute.  She took 18 months to move into the role that she wanted and she did some work for the Oxbridge Round Table to help her get some relevant experience.  She started off working for a small competitive intelligence company and then moved to be an analyst working for Sociable Pharma.  Here her work is not to change business structure, but to help them to be more competitive.

Work might include looking at the ‘landscape’ of particular therapy areas: what drugs are there, what are the regulatory checkpoints that competitors have reached, comparing the situation in the UK, EU and US.  She has been to two conferences since starting in June where she gets to talk to clients and key opinion formers.

She feels she’s learning all the time, particularly the jargon of the business and how better to do stakeholder engagement.

Dr Catie Rousset, Prescient Healthcare

Catie’s post-doc was in the medical imaging department at St Thomas’s.  She moved into Prescient about 18 months ago (you can read more about Catie’s journey here).  Prescient works in partnership with 16 of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical firms in three areas: new product planning, brand planning and mature brand planning.  They do this through stake holder research, workshop moderation and arranging conferences.

She feels it took about six months to understand what the job is and how to get the right information from people.  It’s different from academia in that there is a different kind of pressure: each client brings its own pressure.  You develop a broader knowledge rather than having a deep expertise.  You HAVE to work with people, rather than on your own!  You learn new skills, particularly in presentation and learning about new areas.  So far, it has not got boring, there are no labs to work in, and there is some travel!

Smaller companies may appreciate a speculative approach to them.  Language skills help (her company works 24/7 across Asia, Europe and the US), and there are roughtly 50/50 women/men.  She works more or fewer hours depending on the time of year.  Ad-hoc projects from clients increase as the financial year proceeds and at conference season days can be very long.  Otherwise, you can decide how much of yourself you want to invest in the role.





King’s Pharmacology PhD makes his way in banking

Amir Smailbegovic was a speaker at last week’s SSPP careers panel.  He completed his PhD at King’s a few years back and told the assembled students about his life in banking.

What happened after you finished your PhD?

Amir worked on a post-doc for a while after his PhD but found that he wasn’t doing enough research but instead was spending a lot of time completing grant applications.  At the same time a group of his peers were having a good life in the City and that seemed very attractive!  He had done a year working for the World Bank in the US prior to his MSc/PhD and knew that he enjoyed that kind of world.  He joined a Japanese bank as a trader and moved later to Daiwa in Hong Kong to set up a new trading desk.  After a while, he decided for personal reasons to return to London.

What do you do now?

He works for RBS, as chief operating officer of a section of the bank.  He is directly responsible for about twelve people and indirectly manages about 400.  He realised that, rather than enjoying the trading side of the bank, his strengths lay in working with people and so has been able to use those skills in his new job.  He doesn’t particularly use his ‘Dr’ title!

Why did you not stay in academia?

Partly because of the reasons outlined above, that there was no longer enough research in his role.  Partly too a desire to use the analytical skills he had gained, in a different context.

What might you go on to do after this current role?

Amir stated that it would be possible to move to a similar role but in a different sector, for example pharmaceuticals.  Equally, there would be other roles within the bank that might suit him.

How does one get into banking at the moment and what else can you do in banking?

Getting a job in banking is harder than usual, at present, because there are plenty of bankers who have been let go from banks, all competing with graduates for those junior roles.  Remember that only 5-10% of bankers actually do the trading; the rest of the companies are the back office roles of research, operations, sales, HR, training, marketing and so on.  Some banks have specific PhD routes, for particular quant roles.  Amir himself has never actually applied for a job within the banks he has worked for – he has always been headhunted by a recruitment consultant. 

Like the sound of this?  Come on the City Course!  (see previous posts)


Panel event for SSPP PhDs this Friday, 11-12.30pm

Hello SSPP people!


Final speaker for the panel on Friday confirmed, so the full list looks like this:

Amir Smailbegovic, RBS

Having obtained Masters degree in Immunology and a PhD in Pharmacology (Effects of glycosaminoglycans on inflammatory cell function) at the Sackler Institute of Pulmonary Pharmacology, King’s College London under Prof Clive Page, I started working as a Wellcome Trust postdoctoral fellow at the School of Pharmacy, University of London. Although my education was science oriented, my other interests were international affairs and finance, something I developed while working for the World Bank in New York during my Gap year. Upon finishing postdoctoral fellowship, I joined Mitsubishi UFJ, largest Japanese bank as a derivatives trader, where I spent 6 years. In 2010, I moved to Daiwa Capital Markets in Hong Kong tasked with setting up a new derivatives trading desk, however, decided to move back to London a year later. I joined Royal Bank of Scotland’s investment banking arm in 2011 as Senior Business Manger within Global Trading.

Tom Huskinson, IPSOS Mori

Tom was awarded a PhD in Social Psychology by Cardiff University in 2004.  His PhD  was concerned with the psychology of attitudes: Tom researched the extent to which individuals differ in their tendency to base their attitudes on factual versus emotional information, whether these differences can be measured, and how these differences relate to aspects of attitudes such as attitude strength and susceptibility to persuasion. 

Tom joined Ipsos MORI (then MORI) after completing his PhD, and since then has managed surveys and research projects for a wide variety of clients, including the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education, Victim Support, and the government of Trinidad and Tobago.  Tom currently works in Ipsos MORI’s ‘Research Method’s Centre,’ which serves as the company’s internal hub of expertise in survey design, research methodology, and statistics.  The RMC applies the latest developments from academia to Ipsos MORI’s work, generates primary methodological research for dissemination in journals and conferences, and offers training and support internally and to clients on research methods.

Sara Fazlali, Secret Me Ltd

Sara Fazlali is the co-Founder and CEO of Secret Me Ltd, a high-end luxury invitation-only programme where individuals learn key personal protection skills that are then also applicable to real life and business from ex-Special Forces and Intelligence personnel. She is also the Founder and Director of Areté Club, a private members club that brings together different generations from the worlds of politics, military, business, law and the arts and hosts small intimate events to discuss and develop on today’s pressing issues. It brings people together to make valuable introductions and connections and fixes or brokers business problems around the world for Club members and contacts. She is currently still studying for her PhD at King’s in War Studies. 

Chris Mackmurdo, Foreign Office

Chris Mackmurdo is Head of the National Security Research Group at the Foreign Office. He leads a team of expert Research Analysts responsible for providing strategic analysis and advice on national security issues, such as international terrorism. Prior to joining the Diplomatic Service, he completed a PhD in international relations at the London School of Economics and was awarded an MA (IPS) and BA (War Studies) from King’s College London.  

Jamies Gillies, Bain

I joined Bain just over 2 years ago as an Associate Consultant, after finishing my doctorate in which I looked at how eagles control themselves in flight. Since joining Bain I have worked on 13 different projects, which have ranged from helping an Airline alliance to assess whether its financial model was sustainable, to running a survey of 5000 women in 5 countries to understand what they wanted in a pair of hair straighteners.

11-12.30, Friday 24th May, War Studies Meeting Room.

See you there!

CVs: the good, the bad and the ugly….

If you were creating an online dating profile, you wouldn’t upload every detail about yourself, would you?  That annoying habit, those bits unlikely to be attractive, the dull-sounding part-time job?  You’d leave off some of those insights and instead focus on those things that a future partner might be interested in: the successes, the exciting bits, the one-off achievements.

The same will apply to your CV.  It’s not that you’re not admitting to all the bad stuff, just that instead, you’re showcasing the areas of your past that are relevant, interesting and match in with what the future employer is looking for.

The good…

Find out what the future employer really is after.  Research their organisation – its philosophy , culture, language and attitudes – by looking at its website, the websites of its competitors for comparisons, and its professional body.  Make sure you’ve understood the job or post you’re going for inside and out.

When you’re writing up your CV, use strong, active language.  Use the skills (competencies) that the employer is looking for as side-headings and provide evidence from your past that match their requests.  If you can include feedback or numbers as part of the evidence, so much the better.

Keep the CV neat and tidy: don’t be too fussy with boxes, underscore or fancy fonts.  Using bullet points rather than relying on paragraphs usually helps with the speed of reading.

Use headings to help separate out your experiences (eg ‘Relevant’, ‘Industry’, ‘Teaching’, ‘Committee’ or ‘Other Experience’) so that you can group sections together and something you’ve done in the past can be brought higher up the CV, where it won’t be lost.

See ‘Your CV Format’ here  for samples of good CVs.

The bad…

CVs that are just a long list of past roles and achievements are not interesting to read.  They don’t lead the employer to think that you have bothered to really look at their job and understand it.  They want to know that you have researched their role and are presenting your past to them in a way that is helpful for them.

If you are going for a role where your PhD subject is less relevant, you need to present the time you have spent working for the PhD in such a way that it can be understood it.  Do you need to devote a lot of space to your research topic? Or are the research, project management or other skills you have developed more relevant for the role?

CVs that are too long will not be read: the standard UK format is 2 sides of A4.  Of course, if you are going for an academic role, you’ll be able to put your conferences and publications onto an Appendix that will take it over the two pages.  For banking and management consultancy, you may just be required to submit one page.

The ugly…

Please don’t put a photo of yourself, however beautiful you are, on your CV!  (Unless you’re going for modelling or acting).  It is standard to do this in mainland Europe, but not something that UK employers ask for.

I run workshops on CV writing as part of the RDP programme: the next one coming up is in February.  By all means book through Skills Forge.  If you’d like help in the meantime, find some resources here or watch the video you’ll find on this page.  Otherwise, please do contact me at

Thinking about a career in finance?

Postgraduate researchers will have many of the qualities that would be attractive to employers in the finance sector. For example, researchers will have had to explain difficult concepts to people outside of their field, analyse and evaluate complex information as well as manage their own time.

But what does a career in finance mean? For some people, it’s a career in ‘the city’- commonly in an investment bank. The city is actually an area of London, sometimes called the square mile, where many business are based including law firms, insurance companies and financial regulators as well as investment banks.

However, there are lots of jobs in finance that aren’t based in city institutions. Find out more by using the tag ‘finance’ at CareersTagged, or follow the tags on the RH side of the blog.