Nathan McWilliams is a senior at the Haas School of Business. He transferred from Berkeley City College, and he has been very successful so far. After starting a business at the age of 16, joining a consulting group on campus in his first year at Haas, and interning at a small consulting firm during Summer, he is now finishing up his classes before starting full-time at Bain & Company in Fall 2017. May his story be your inspiration.
- Tell me a little about yourself.
I am originally from Oakland; I went to Oakland High School, where I graduated early at the end of my Sophomore year when I was 16. At the time, I wasn’t planning on going to college, and I started a video game business with a friend. I ran that business for four and a half years and grew it from startup to just over 500K in revenue. At that point, I realized that the business had started to stagnate— and with it, my life. Coming out of high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I was really passionate about business, so I went to Berkeley City College for 5 semesters before I transferred to Haas.
- What things did you get involved in with while at Haas?
There is one program that I really loved, and that is Social Sector Solutions. In this program, one undergraduate student joins a team of MBAs to provide consulting services for local non-profits. My team worked on an economic cost report for the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center to calculate how much child abuse costs to the city each year. Although the time commitment was significant— at least 15 hours a week— this experience definitely boosted my Excel, PowerPoint, and public speaking skills, as I was able to work next to very talented and smart MBA students.
- What classes did you enjoy the most?
My favorite class was UGBA 115 (Competitive Strategy) with professor Frank Schultz. This class is about high level strategy, so you learn how businesses compete in the marketplace: it’s basically what a CEO does on a daily basis. Lots of group work, phenomenal lectures, long but very interesting papers. Highly recommended.
My second favorite is UGBA 195T, which I am taking right now with Robin Chandra. It’s Alternative Investing: private equity, hedge funds, and venture capital. I took it because I didn’t want to graduate from Haas without knowing what those things were! But I am learning a lot of valuable skills that can be applied to the real world, and guest lecturers are amazing.
- How did you find out consulting was right for you?
I came in as a transfer student and I enrolled in the Haas PreCore Program during the Summer. When I transferred I was interested in technology and management in general, but I had no idea about what I wanted to do– and I didn’t really know what consulting was. After I got started at Haas and learned about the ABCs, I started looking into Consulting and Investment Banking. I recruited for both throughout Fall semester, but in the Spring I eventually settled on Consulting for three main reasons.
First, it’s gonna get me to where I wanna go, which is business strategy and management.
Second, I really fit into the culture, and that is important for me. I am among phenomenal people, that I like both on a professional and on a personal level.
Third is the ability to be exposed to many different industries and keep my doors open while I progress toward my final goals of achieving upper management positions within a firm.
- How do you feel about recruiting? Feelings, thoughts, advice?
I think I am pretty unique on this because everyone hates it, but I actually kinda liked it. Granted, it is super stressful. I didn’t get any round 1 interview until December. I think it’s a very imperfect system, but it’s also the best I could think of.
In terms of consulting recruiting advice: you should practice case studies a lot in order to do well in the interview. It’s also crucial to have some experience that aligns with strategy consulting. It doesn’t have to be a consulting internship per se, as long as it can align with business strategy.
- Can you tell us about your Summer internship?
I interned at a small TMT consulting firm— Tech, Media, and Telecom—in San Francisco. The firm only had about 20 employees, so I felt like I was really doing less of an internship experience and more of a practical experience, because I was doing very real work. I worked on a couple projects, and it was a lot of technical work. One project was on a wireless company that was considering buying another wireless company to get a hold of their frequency spectrum. We had to come up with a valuation for this spectrum. Clearly, I knew nothing about this, and this is representative of consulting. If you’re interested in consulting you should feel comfortable diving into something that you don’t understand and you should be able to learn on the fly and get up to speed with whatever is put in front of you.
- What are your plans for the future? You got into Bain, what do you expect?
I am going to stay at Bain for at least two years. Then, if they sponsor my MBA, that would be an opportunity I couldn’t pass on. Regardless, I eventually would like to move on to a management position in a mid-stage startup with a lot of room for growth, like Airbnb. Another option I’d like to explore is private equity. Bain has a strong private equity line and I would love to gain different types of skills before I dive into the management role that I want to have in the long-run.
- Any advice you would give to transfer students? What are the additional challenges that we face and how did you approach them?
Continuing students have the advantage of being exposed to different career fields and opportunities early on, when they are still freshmen. Transfer students have only one semester to figure out what continuing students have had two and a half years to gain experience on. On the other hand, there are also advantages of being a transfer. Transfer students often have more real world work experience, they often have been through more difficult situations, and they had to adapt to a changing environment. Many times they also have very interesting stories, so it is up to them to leverage on their strengths.
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