"I fell in love with consulting," says Marla Kessler of IMS Consulting Group (IMSCG), "solving problems, helping clients and working with really smart, interesting people." Marla started her career as an economist, but then realised that she wanted to work much more closely with the business world. So she did an MBA and then joined a leading generalist strategy consulting firm. Here, she worked extensively with clients in the healthcare industry which led to a move to a global pharmaceuticals company, where she led a corporate strategy team, and then to IMSCG: "I'd worked with them while I was in-house and really liked them," she says. "They've been a natural fit for me."
IMSCG is one of the world's leading consulting firms in the life sciences sphere. Dedicated entirely to this field, "we do all the things a classic management consulting firm would do," says Marla, "just focused on one sector." The firm assists clients in six key areas: brand and commercial strategy, geographical investment, economic analysis, product launches, pricing and market access, and strategy and portfolio analysis (see box for more details).
Marla leads the firm's team providing "real-world evidence" to clients to help them make decisions about how best to deliver healthcare products to their customers: "Right now, a lot of decisions about healthcare - for example, how to treat patients, how to pay for drugs, how to value new products - are made on the basis of assumptions about the marketplace. Real-world evidence is about looking at data sources like electronic medical records, claims from insurance companies, pharmacy records, and even social media sites where appropriate. We then use this evidence to help our clients develop better corporate strategies."
Many of the firm's clients are pharmaceutical companies, including some of the world's largest, and the firm also works with producers of medical devices, diagnostics firms, and even governments - "we help them understand how the global healthcare industry works and in making healthcare policy decisions," says Marla.
Marla loves the fact that at IMSCG she's able to specialise in the healthcare field. "You work on things which are relevant to everyday life," she says, "and the industry is fast-moving and dynamic, and requires such complexity of thinking that you never feel bored or constrained." She adds that healthcare is a great industry to work in now in particular because it's currently growing, and also developing to respond to the pressures of the current economic climate and new trends, such as patients taking a more active interest in their treatments.
What could you be doing at IMSCG?
IMSCG is currently recruiting graduates who want to enter the consulting industry to join the firm as analysts. Marla explains that starting your career at specialist firm like IMSCG won't limit your future prospects at all, and could enhance them: "If you want to learn how to be a good general consultant, the healthcare work at IMSCG is so broad that you can do just that. The methodologies you use and the abilities you develop can be applied to any industry. For example, here you'll learn to do great forecasting models and work on product launches which you could go on to do, say, for the automobile industry. And if you wanted to stay working in healthcare, you'll have a strong base because you'll have seen the industry from so many different perspectives." Analysts at IMSCG get a broad spread of experience across all the firm's areas of work. "We're very committed to analysts being generalists," says Marla, "because we think that if you've covered a core set of consulting fields and clients across an industry, you're then well equipped to work on all kinds of different projects."
A good example of the type of work you might be given when you first start as an analyst at IMSCG, says Marla, is "understanding the global landscape of a particular disease - how it's currently treated across different markets, which could include both desk research and talking to experts about current medical practice, then analysing the data and producing a presentation for a client." And "in general," she says, "there are great opportunities here. From an early stage you get to command your own projects and see them from start to finish. You can demonstrate your skills learn how problems are solved, and see how a client uses information. You move between different projects and different teams, with training in between, learning so much about different parts of an industry in a short period of time." As you progress at IMSCG you'll get the opportunity to specialise more, but will never become trapped in one area: "You'll move in and out of different kinds of work," says Marla, "because our goal is to solve our client's problems, not to just to do projects of specific types."
Who is IMSCG looking for?
Marla says that, for any graduate role in consulting, ability in four areas is key: problem-solving - "it's what consulting is all about"; teamwork - "we want people who like working with others"; communication - "you should want to write presentations explaining things and like talking to people"; and working with clients - "they're our business". She adds one more that's specific to working at IMSCG: an interest in life sciences. Marla says that you don't need to have studied or worked in the field already, but you do need to demonstrate a genuine interest in your application.
In the nearly five years since she joined the firm herself, Marla has progressed rapidly, which, she says, "is indicative of the mobility and opportunities to pursue your interests you'll find here." And as a graduate at IMSCG, you'll be encouraged to make a significant contribution right away: "We're very non-hierarchical in terms of how we get things done," says Marla. "There are certainly different levels of work and team support structures here, but people who have good ideas are valued regardless of the title they have."
*IMS Consulting's six main areas of work *
and the questions the teams here help clients answer
Brand and commercial strategy
Helps clients improve the performance of their brands.
How can a pharmaceutical company make a product more profitable? What should it do to respond to the sale of generic versions of its products?
Helps clients to maximise the potential of growth in emerging markets.
What kind of business model should a healthcare company adopt to respond to the new world economic order? How should it expand into China?
Helps clients use real-world insights to make more efficient healthcare decisions.
How should a client use data drawn from pharmacy records to improve its business strategy? What can Facebook reveal about the healthcare market?
Helps clients optimise the effectiveness of the launch of a new product.
How should a product launch be co-ordinated globally? How successful is a proposed product launch likely to be?
Pricing and market access
Helps clients price their products effectively and access new markets.
What additional clinical trials could a client conduct to increase the value of a drug? How will new pricing regulation affect access to a particular market?
Strategy and portfolio analysis
Helps clients build the best possible portfolio of pharmaceutical investments.
What is the potential future market value of a product that a client is considering acquiring? What steps should a client take to build the best possible portfolio of pharmaceutical investments?