A Summer in Consulting at L.E.K. with Partner Gigi Wong

Gigi Wong joined L.E.K. Consulting as a summer intern in 2013, crushed the experience, then stuck around to become a Managing Director/Partner. In this podcast conversation, you’ll hear about her internship experience, why she stayed, and much more:

  • What a summer internship at L.E.K. is like
  • How the firm structures engagements
  • Ways L.E.K. supports intern and full-time employees
  • Current internship opportunities
  • Entry points to L.E.K.
  • Average tenure to promotion per role
  • Application info, important dates, and tips

MBA summer internship applications go live on August 1st.

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Transcription: A Summer in Consulting at L.E.K. with Partner Gigi Wong

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Gigi, thank you so much for joining us today.

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Thanks for having me.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Before we jump in, really excited to get to know more about your professional background and your journey, and the work you’re doing now at LEK. But we do have a little bit of a tradition here at Strategy Simplified. We want to throw in some fun questions as well, get to know you a little bit more just on a personal level. So we’ll go ahead and start there. If you could share with us, I understand you’re located around the Bay Area, what’s one of your favorite outdoor activities around where you live?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Well, like you said, you know, I live in the Bay Area. So it’s impossible to talk about the Bay Area without mentioning wine country. So my favorite outdoor activity most certainly is having some really nice wine up in a vineyard up in Napa Sonoma. As a matter of fact of fellow LEKer, Kenny Casper, and I were just up there in Sonoma a few weeks ago. And it was a very pleasant weekend.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Oh, woman after my own heart. You know what, Gigi? I don’t know that that’s one of the first things that I would have thought of in terms of outdoor activities, but I can’t agree with you more. I mean, I love it. That was a great start. Another one here for you. What’s something that you are consuming right now, something you’re reading or watching or listening to that you’re enjoying?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

I think I’ve decided that every question you ask, I’m just going to give a very unique answer that no one else can repeat. Hopefully, this will engage the listeners a little more. But I have a co-worker, Ben, who is basically a music genius. And every night, he uploads a short live performance on Instagram. So that is my most consistent thing that I consume, is I just watch his nightly performance. Aside from that, in case people are interested in a non-stockering recurring thing to also enjoy with me, I guess. I’ve finally started watching Only Murders in the Building. So I just got to Season Two. It’s a great light thing to watch.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

I appreciate you sharing both of those. And it stands out to me to say and mention, there are some myths out there in consulting. There’s a whole slew of them. One of them might be, I’m not going to have time to do my hobbies, and I’m not going to be able to balance things that I enjoy outside of work. And here you’ve got Ben, who’s recording what sounds like maybe kind of songwriting and recording custom things every day. How fun is that?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah, it’s incredible. I don’t have that sort of talent. The only the only thing I would be able to record is just me watching him perform, which I don’t think anyone would really be interested in in watching.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

But I’m glad to hear that kind of work life-balance and still being able to pursue hobbies is something that can be absolutely possible. So let’s talk about something that you’re excited about then in that vein. It’s not all work and no play. What’s something on your bucket list? What’s something that you would love to do or maybe you are even planning to do and looking forward to?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah, so a few of my friends and have gone into an idea of renting a cabin nearby and just hanging out for maybe a few days, maybe a week, work from there. And really just sort of do some barbecue, maybe use the pool, go on hikes. Very sort of simple vacation that’s kind of like staycation because we’re not really flying anywhere. We’ve wanted to do this for a while now, and just haven’t found time to do it. And so that is one of the key things I’m really hoping to check off in 2022.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun. I like the mix there where you can still, especially in this hybrid or remote environment. We’re in the summer of 2022 tight now. It’s like, why not take advantage of a little bit of relocation?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah, exactly. I didn’t get to do that during most of COVID. A lot of my co-workers did. So now I’m per usual late to the party. But at the party, so we’re excited to go and do this.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Well, Gigi, as I understand it, as we transition to the consulting world, you are leading the party, right? So we’d love to hear a little bit about your background and journey, and kind of where you’re at in the work you’re doing right now at LEK.

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Sure. So I’m a partner and managing director at LEK in our San Francisco office, I actually sit in two of our practices, the TMT practice as well as our financial services practice. So the crisscross between the two, FinTech is most certainly where I spent most of my days. I joined LEK as a summer consultant between my first and second year of business school at Chicago Booth, and then rejoined full time when I graduated in 2014. And prior to Booth, I was actually at two other consulting firms. And so LEK sort of my third one. And then before that, let’s just say a few years ago, I went to college at UC Berkeley.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

And pre-MBA, were you also in the FinTech space? Or have your industry or practice area affiliations, have they changed over time?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

It definitely changed over time. The the two other consulting firms that I was working with was a little bit less industry focused, meaning that we were more focused on almost like a horizontal service line, if you will. So I did a lot of forensic accounting, fraud investigations, transaction advisory. Because I was based out in San Francisco, a lot of our clients ultimately ended up in tech, but they weren’t necessarily just tech clients themselves.

Even at LEK I actually started in our TMT practice. And I actually, the key part of kind of my journey at LEK was helping build up that practice from being relatively small when I first joined in 2014, to it being a global sector today. And then as my journey through LEK’s manager and principal years, got more experience in financial services. FinTech most certainly is a very happening place right now. And kind of turn that into a key focus area for me and a big part of my platform as a partner nowadays.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Very excited to hear, we’re going to focus this conversation on as you alluded to, the beginning of that journey. And now that you’ve given me the preview that you helped build up the TMT practice, I’m even more intrigued. So we’re going to  rewind the clock. We’re gonna go all the way back to your opportunity and your decision to take on a summer consultant role between your first and second year of your time at at Chicago Booth. So what if you can remember back why LEK? You’re at one of the top business schools, I’m sure you had choices and offers and options. What drew you to LEK?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

So I think it’s safe for me to say this after so many years, but I really didn’t know much about LEK when I first got to business school. I knew about consulting, I knew about management consulting, coming from the industry itself. But I didn’t really know a lot about the nuances of the different firms really until I started attending the information sessions, chatting with the folks from the firms during coffee chats, and then also connecting with some of my classmates that were LEK sponsored. And that’s when I really got to know the firm a bit more and more intimately, if you will.

And sort of once I did that, the thing that really stood out for me, was the people themselves. And, as I mentioned, right, I come from a consulting background. So I knew how important the people aspect was to this job. And so it was really exciting to see that everybody I met at LEK seemed really intelligent, but also just really down to earth. And that combination was really important to me. I would also say that, when I was talking to the LEKers back then, and they still do today, they just genuinely seem to really enjoy working and hanging out with their colleagues.

And that’s stuff that you can really kind of tell when you hear them talk about their friends at the firm, and what they do on the weekends, and how they support each other. And that was an environment that I could really see myself being a part of.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

I love that. Yeah, when you’re working long hours in what can be an intense, but always a team environment, the people around you, I couldn’t agree more. They they are what matter the most. So you’re in this position as a summer consultant at LEK. What are the responsibilities of that role? One project, only a few weeks, what do you expect of your summer consultants?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah, thinking back, there’s actually quite similar to my responsibilities as a full time consultant. So sort of the summer of 2013, and the summer 2014 are kind of similar in some sense. And during that time, I worked on two projects. So I’m happy to kind of share more about that. But really, it was about helping manage the various work streams of a case. So that can include getting my hands dirty with the research itself.

So that might be secondary, or doing some primary research like interviews, managing the associates, and providing guidance as needed. Obviously, maybe a little less so as an intern than as a full time consultant. But most certainly played a role in helping kind of scope the workstreams, and laying out the key steps, and answering questions, and working through roadblocks as it comes up. And then finally, as expected, really helped pull together the deliverable or slide deck, if you will.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

You mentioned you’re on two projects, and I would love to dive into one of those that you were on during your summer internship. If you were able to select one to tell us a little bit more about, who was the client, what was the objective? What did they hire you to do?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah, so the one that I remember more of is commercial due diligence. So a private equity firm was looking to make an acquisition of a data backup and recovery solutions vendor, which is a very exciting space. By the way, I know it doesn’t sound like it. And they asked LEK to conduct due diligence to help them understand how the target had managed to grow at a rate that was significantly higher than the market itself. And really, they wanted to understand if this fast growth was sustainable, which is a very fair question to ask if you’re thinking about investing in an asset.

So the workstreams itself included a very extensive primary research that was both a online quantitative survey as well as interviews of end customers in the target’s addressable market, as well as value add resellers that help resell the solutions itself. So that was a multi-week project, and through our work, what we found was that the company was very well regarded by those who had used them, but not very well known in a relatively crowded marketplace. As I was saying earlier, it is a very exciting marketplace. So there were lots of players in there. But they did do very well and people that use them, do love them.

And we do believe that, or we did believe that the growth rate would be achievable if the company could focus on really kind of building its business through some of the larger growth value added resellers, and really sort of focus on building out those relationships, growing that account. We did note that some of the really, really large ones, so the sort of the largest global resellers were probably a little bit too ambitious for them. But there was a group of target resellers that would be perfect partners for them. And so that was a key finding for our client. And ultimately, the client made the acquisition and has done very well over the last few years.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Oh, that’s great to hear. I was curious as you were talking through, if you knew a status update or not. But no, that’s lovely to hear

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Well, we’re going to dig back into your memories, if there’s a few other things you can pick up about this. So if you remember kind of how was that team structured? Who are the different roles on the team? And then speak a little bit as well, in terms of whether that matches the average LEK team today.

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah, it was very similar. So there were three partners on the case: an engagement manager who was 50% dedicated to the case. So they were kind of working on two different cases at the same time. This was one of our larger cases. So we had multiple consultants. That included two full time consultants and then myself as a summer consultant on this case. And then we had around I think four or five associates. And associates are various levels, pre-MBA. So ranging from zero to four or five years out of college work experience.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

At the associate and consultant level, is it most common for individuals to be dedicated to one client and one project at a time?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yes, everyone below the manager is dedicated to only one project at a time.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

When someone reaches that engagement manager level, is it pretty standard that they are 50% and dedicated to two clients? Or does that vary?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

It’s fairly standard for them to do that. There are certain projects that require 100% consultant. So, you know, for certain cases that are larger, so maybe the scope of the project is a bit larger, and the team itself is larger, a manager may only work on one. But in most cases, managers are working on two projects at a time.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Well, what were things on that project as a summer consultant, what are things that you remember that stood out to you? That could be around client impact, or something that stood out to you that made you decide that you wanted to stay with the firm?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

I think from a client impact perspective, I remember sort of pulling together the final analysis that really kind of laid out, what’s the best way for them to think about these value add resellers in the marketplace. And I distinctly remember, it was a simple, very simple slide in the deck, and it made it into the executive summary. It was a slide I had worked quite a bit on, and that’s probably my most memorable moment of that project because it was such  – it felt so great to see it just synthesized into such a simple chart.

I think up until that point, when I thought about presentations, you sort of don’t think about slides like that. You think about slides that had a lot of content, that you might use a single sentence and slide or something like that. But the synthesis of all that into a simple graph was very powerful, I guess, in my memory. In terms of why that project, along with the other project I did, which was on school buses funny enough. Yeah, it was a market entry for school buses. And then, just the overall kind of experience with working in the team, with working with the people, the internship experience itself, that LEK built for us.

So all the non-project stuff as well. It really was kind of that whole experience that I wanted to keep having, if that makes sense. The people themselves proved to be very intellectually interesting. I enjoyed working with them. And I felt like there was a lot left for me to learn from people that I not only respected and enjoyed working with, but also they wanted to mentor me. And that was something that was very attractive as an opportunity to join LEK after business school.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

I love that. It makes a lot of sense why you stuck around initially. Would love to fast forward then because you didn’t just stick around for a couple years. It’s what, eight or so years and running, maybe almost nine? What’s helped you stay the course at LEK? Why have you decided to stay with this cohort and this firm?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

So it’s really the various opportunities I’ve had to do over the years. I know, on the resume, it still says just one firm, but my roles, my responsibilities, the things I’ve gotten to do is drastically different. And all that allowed me to make an impact on my community, whether it’s the office, the practice, or the firm, really sort of helped me understand why I wanted to be at LEK. So aside from just polishing my skills as a consultant over the years, I’ve had a chance to help build our TMT practice as a consultant, I worked in our Sydney and Tokyo office as a manager.

I play a core role in a lot of our San Francisco office initiatives, especially during COVID. And now as a partner, I’m focused on helping build out our global FinTech practice. So to be able to sort of do all those things, and make an impact on the organization as a whole, rather, the firm or the people at the firm. And to do that even when I was a fairly new LEKer, that’s been really important, and very attractive for me.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Absolutely. Now, let’s think about, I’m sure a lot of our listeners are hearing you and they’re saying, Gosh, I would love to replicate that pathway and have that journey. You know, let me get started on the Gigi pathway. So first off, we’re here in summer 2022. You still have summer internships, you still have a summer consultants position. Has the look and feel of that changed at all? Is there anything that you want to speak to in terms of the, you mentioned the structure that the firm puts in place in the way that they support the the summer consultants. How do you think about that role today, now that you’re a leader within the firm?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

I think it’s structurally very similar in terms of the the job responsibilities to solve and the team structure. The construct of the internship itself, the kind of nine weeks program, if you will, is very similar. You’re likely to be working on two or three cases. So you have quite a bit of access to different people during your time at the firm. And then I think we’ve always put a lot of other things around the sort of internship program itself as well. So we have a lot of activities, that that we get involved in.

There’s both kind of more social aspects as well as chances for people to get to know the firm because we do see the internship as sort of a two way mirror, right? It’s a chance for us to get to know the interns better to see if that’s a good fit. But it’s also a great chance for the intern to get to know LEK better, to see if they think it’s a good fit. And we’ve always sort of treated our internships that way.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Do you also have an internship opportunity at the associate level, or just at the consultant level?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Both. So it’s both at the undergrad as well as the MBA level.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

And so whether someone’s coming into the firm at associate or consultant level, they might be thinking about the broader and longer journey as well. Could you speak to at each of these roles, what the average tenure is, starting at the associate level?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah. So at the associate level, it’s about a four year journey to consultant. So there are various sort of titles that occurred during the four years. But you get to sort of the post-MBA level at consultant in around sort of four year timeframe. We do also have what’s called Life Science specialists. So those are folks with a PhD, and those entering a little bit more senior than the associates and it normally takes them about two years to consultant. And then from consultant, that’s about two to three years to manager. And the length of journey, if you will, really just depends on performance.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Is LEK a firm where you have long term managers? Or do people rise up to a partner level or decide to leave the firm, that whole up or out idea, is that in play at LEK?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

There’s no up or out at LEK, and that’s probably one of the key things that I found very attractive about LEK. With that said, we don’t have people who are managers for 10 years. I think people, as most do in consulting, sort of at some point realize that this may not be what they want to do. But we sort of let people stay as long as they want at a level, if they really are against making partner, I guess. But but most folks who want to make partner end up making partner.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Well, I’m sure that there’s a lot of people who’d love to get started on this journey. So what could you tell them about applying to LEK? What’s the best way to get to know the firm, and are there any certain deadlines or application processes that you’d want to share with our group?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

Yeah, so I think in terms of getting to know us, we’re on campus a lot, especially during the fall and spring time. So definitely look for us there. We also post a lot of our recent industry insights online through our websites, as well as articles in broader publications like Wall Street Journal, and things like that. If you’re more interested in sort of our social aspects, Instagram is a great way to track what we’re what fun things we’re doing. And then obviously, you could listen to me yap away on podcasts like this, about the firm.

And then in terms of application, so there’s two ways to do it. The first is we do have job postings for full time associates, consultants, life science specialists, and PhD analysts on our website. And so we do review those applications on a rolling basis until positions are filled. We also recruit heavily on campus. So if we happen to be at your school, check Handshake or 1220 for your school specific deadlines. I’ve also been told if you have a lot of questions that can’t be answered that way, you can also reach out to one of our recruiters, Renee, at [email protected] if you have any questions. And then my understanding is that summer associates and consultant postings will be up starting August 1. So almost there.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Oh my gosh. Fantastic. Well, Gigi, as we’re thinking about those prospective candidates listening who might be considering LEK versus other firms, and thinking about launching into this recruiting process, anything else you want to share for them as they consider whether or not to apply to your firm?

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

I think the first thing I would say to those applicants is it’s gonna be okay. So not a firm specific answer. But I always felt like when I was going through it, I wish someone had just looked me in the eye, or I guess whispering to my ears since this is a podcast, that things will be okay. And no matter where you go, you’re going to end up having a great internship experience. Everyone’s going to be able to, as you look for something you’re interested in, and you work hard, every internship experience has something that they can teach you and is valuable.

In terms of why LEK, I think this is probably a little bit of a biased opinion. But it’s a really great internship experience, that is a true indicator of the full-time experience. We don’t try to create something that is more sugar coated than the realities that you can expect. So it gives you a really true sense of what you can expect to kind of re-enter, or enter the workforce in. It’s a really good group of people to work with. I know, I’ve kind of talked about them quite a bit already. But we’re highly intellectually curious. We’re down to earth, which me saying it probably doesn’t prove it.

But it’s just a fun group of people to work together. And then I think, having worked at larger consulting firms before LEK, I think the size of LEK most certainly has been really important to my experience here. It’s grown quite a bit over the last few years and will continue to grow quite a bit. And that growth has really helped me to be able to kind of shape my own path and do some really amazing and cool things that I wasn’t expecting when I joined joined LEK.

MC: Stephanie Knight 

Gigi, thank you so much for taking the time to share all your thoughts and your journey with us today.

L.E.K.: Gigi Wong 

No problem. Thanks for having me, Stephanie. This was fun.

Filed Under: Boutique Consulting Firms, case studies, Consulting Firms, consulting recruiting, life as a consultant