• Role: Assistant Consultant
  • Location: London
  • University: Imperial
  • Degree: BSc Biochemistry with Management
  • Organisation: BDO

Haoqi Pan

BDO has offered me exactly what I want as a graduate: a place where I am challenged, where I can learn and develop, and where I can meet new people and form long-lasting friendships. The graduate scheme offers fantastic training and support, and there is a strong focus on the graduates receiving the right support to allow us to grow as consultants. We are each assigned a mentor as well as a sponsor who are there to guide us towards achieving our short-term and long-term goals. This includes helping us to get onto our preferred projects. As part of the graduate scheme, we also study for the PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification and the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting in our first year. This provides us with a broad understanding of various elements of business such as management and financial accounting, business economics, and business law and ethics. BDO has a very friendly but hard-working culture where people are empowered and valued.

How did you get your job with BDO and what was the application process like?

I first looked into BDO when my friend applied and recommended the firm to me because she enjoyed the application process so much. BDO sounded like a great place to work, offering a range of client and business development opportunities. I was looking to start my career in management consulting, and when I noticed the firm had opened applications for Graduate Management Consulting Trainees, I applied straight away through the online application process. I had to complete a couple of online tests, which is a typical part of the consulting application process, before being invited to a first face to face interview. This was a very enjoyable experience for me because although interviews may be daunting, my interviewer was very welcoming and put me at ease. I had to do a case study during the interview. If you are interested in applying for consulting, I would really recommend practising case studies as this will help you to understand how these cases should be tackled. I found it useful to practise with friends because you get to hear a different approach to tackling the case studies, which further develops your thinking.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the exercise, and remember to talk through your thought process – it is more important for the interviewer to see how you got to your answer, rather than simply getting to the right answer. The last stage of the application process involved a Partner interview, a 20 minute presentation, and a group and individual exercise. For the presentation, it is really important to do thorough research on what BDO does and how we help our clients.

Why did you choose consultancy?

I chose consultancy because I wanted a career where I could use my skills and expertise to help firms by coming up with effective solutions to the problems they face. The diversity offered within consulting is something which greatly appealed to me because it means I will have the opportunity to gain experience across different sectors and in different capabilities. A career in consulting will give you a vast skillset which can be transferred to any job you do, so I believe it’s a great profession in which to start your career.

What are your main duties?

When I first joined BDO, I had about a month of training before going straight onto client site! This early exposure to clients was something which attracted me to BDO in the first place. I have been working on a transformation programme within a Clinical Commissioning Group which has proved challenging. My team’s role is to encourage and facilitate an integrated approach to working, and provide structures and processes to reporting within the organisation. My role in this project is to support my team and create reporting tools and process maps that are tailored to client needs. I also deliver the relevant training to ensure effective implementation of the tools. I have recently just started a piece of work where I am creating a pricing model for an outcomesbased approach to commissioning. This work involves extensive consultation with senior management executives. This has been really rewarding because I have been directly involved in idea generation and problem solving for the client. There is quite often ad-hoc work, which sometimes means I have to drop everything I am working on and reprioritise my work – a skill in itself!

I am currently studying for the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, which involves sitting five courses followed by exams throughout the year. BDO gives us fantastic support for this, allowing us time off work to attend the courses in college. We are given flexibility to manage our own time for revision which is really useful.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I would like to continue to gain exposure to different sectors in order to broaden my experiences and apply my knowledge to businesses at a more senior level. BDO also offers opportunities to undertake secondments in the UK offices and abroad, which is a fantastic opportunity to either develop a further understanding of another stream or of how the firm works in another country. This is something I’d be keen to do upon completion of the graduate scheme.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into consulting?

  • My biggest piece of advice would be to do your research on what consulting is all about and what it involves. Go to career fairs and employers’ presentations and speak to consultants to get an insight into the life of a consultant.
  • Get any work experience you can as this will boost your CV and give you more to talk about at the interview stage.
  • Make sure you know what the firm is looking for in terms of skills, personalities and experiences. Different firms have different cultures and theymay not all suit you. Work should be fun after all, and if you are surrounded by the right people, it will be!
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