Consulting as a path to social sector leadership, entrepreneurship

By Angela Fleekop

For the past three years, 20-26 percent of Berkeley Haas MBA graduates have gone to work in consulting, with companies such as Bain, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, and McKinsey making regular appearances as top employers of Berkeley MBA students. In addition to enjoying consulting, students find the work to be great preparation for future career opportunities—including launching or leading in the social sector.

Meet Hady Barry, working with social impact consultancy FSG, and Farah Dilber, building skills at McKinsey to prepare for nonprofit M&A integration work:

Working in consulting to build the skills for launching a social venture

Hady BarryHady Barry grew up in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal and saw that there are parts of the world that still struggle with ensuring access to education. "I fared better," she says, "but it also came with a lot of sacrifices from my parents."

This experience shaped her career goals and her desire to ensure "that more girls are able to live their fullest life and have the same education opportunities that I had," she says of her interest in starting a social enterprise in the education space.

She chose Haas as an incubator for developing her ideas to solve the challenges of girls’ education in Africa, but realized after her first year that she would need to develop additional skills and decided to do so in consulting. "Consulting teaches how to think through and solve problems, and working in social impact consulting, in particular, allows me to working on challenges in the spaces that interest me most, like education or financial inclusion."

Now a senior consultant with FSG in San Francisco, Hady says she gained valuable preparation opportunities at Berkeley Haas. "I had many of ways of learning and replicating the type of work I wanted to do," she says. "With classes like IBD (International Business Development), I gained exposure to consulting —and the challenges—I can expect in this industry. My team partnered with a Peruvian social enterprise that works with highland populations to collect, process, and sell sphagnum moss."

Hady also sat on the board of the Daraja Education Fund through the Berkeley Board Fellows Program. Daraja is a secondary boarding school in Kenya for girls who otherwise wouldn’t be able to complete high school.

"What transformed me most was the chance to stretch myself in leadership roles," she says. "There were many opportunities to identify something I thought would be helpful to the community and partner with my classmates to make it happen." These included starting a Humans of Haas podcast, leading and organizing the 2017 Africa Business Forum, and leading the admissions committee for the Berkeley Haas Gender Equity Initiative.

"For me, rewarding work is work that ultimately adds value to the world or rights something that's wrong," says Hady. "I gained from Haas the confidence and knowledge that there's nothing I can't do."

Preparing for senior-level nonprofit work through consulting

Farah DilberPrior to Haas, Farah Dilber worked in the education sector, first as a teacher and later in a variety of program management positions, including as a leader of an internal consulting department within a charter school network. "When I started to seek out opportunities outside of that organization, and I found that other employers were looking for a more professionalized skillset," she says. "If I wanted an entire career in one place, my track record might be enough to help me advance, but I knew I needed an MBA if I wanted more optionality."

"I wanted a school where my nonprofit experience would be valued, where there would be others with similar experiences and aspirations," she says of her decision to choose Haas.

In the long-term, Farah wants to return to her nonprofit roots, doing nonprofit M&A and integration. "The nonprofit world is full of many small-scale shops trying to achieve the same goals and fighting for the same resources. I want to help nonprofits deepen impact and make better use of limited government and philanthropic dollars through strategic joint ventures and consolidation," she says.

To get there, her short-term priority is to build on the skills she has developed in business school and to diversity her industry and functional experience. To do so, she has joined McKinsey & Company as an Associate. "I see it as the best way to get the most business experience in the shortest amount of time, to develop the structured problem solving skills and top management exposure that would prepare me to reenter the nonprofit world at a more senior level," says Farah, who shares more about being at McKinsey in this Poets & Quants profile.

While she knew she wanted to recruit for management consulting, she had some apprehension that consulting firms would be skeptical of her ability to work outside of nonprofit or education. "Connecting with Haas alumni in consulting disabused me of this assumption," she says. " I was warmed by the number of 'Haasies' with “nontraditional" profiles like mine who were quite happy and successful in their consulting roles. This made my aspirations seem far more achievable and let me go for it with abandon."

See how Berkeley Haas can help you make your social impact aspirations more achievable; get our free ebook on the Berkeley MBA and social impact.

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Posted on March 23, 2018
Angela Fleekop
Angela is the Associate Director of Full-time MBA Admissions at Berkeley Haas. She has over a decade of experience working in higher education and nonprofit organizations throughout California. She enjoys meeting prospective students and sharing the story of the incredible Haas experience and culture.