Maria Elena “Mena” Morales
1. What was your Role in BALSA?
2. Where do you work now?
I am a Senior Consultant for IBM. I work in the Life Sciences Sector as part of the Strategy & Analytics Practice within IBM Global Business Services. I am currently working on a business transformation project for a large pharmaceutical company.
3. What is the difference between working in BALSA versus a professional consulting firm?
While the foundational elements are the same, there are a lot of differences. The biggest differences are all related to business practices and processes inherent to working for a very large company (e.g. documenting work, navigating internal processes, staffing projects, etc). In addition, the projects we take on are more complex and the project delivery is more formally structured. The approach is very similar, but the timeline is shorter. We generate a lot more content for our clients in a short amount of time (naturally, as we are working full time on these projects). In addition, we can apply a lot more resources to serve our clients. IBM has an enormous knowledge repository and many internal experts that I can just reach out to for help on a project. We have a powerful collection of assets and market intelligence that helps us serve our clients. Further, the projects do tend to lean more towards the business side than the science side, but having a science background is still incredibly beneficial. In addition, the projects are far more expansive and as a consultant, you need to develop skills across many different functions (process modeling, business transformation, change management, data analysis, strategy, etc).
I could list a lot more differences, but really the core of what I do is the same.
4. Why did you join BALSA?
I joined BALSA because I wanted to get some experience to see if consulting would be a good fit for me, and I wanted exposure to the biotech/life science industry.
5. What did you learn in BALSA that was transferable to the real world and how did it help you get to where you are today?
Everything that I learned in BALSA was transferable to the real world and it helps me every day. The structure that we applied to delivering projects was really helpful. I particularly appreciate having had the experience of defining the project scope with clients and interacting directly with clients. Working on BALSA projects gave me a chance to try out consulting in a very safe environment. The emphasis on training and the open feedback helped me hone my skills and identify areas that I needed to improve. My BALSA experience was instrumental in driving my path to where I am today.
6. What would you do differently?
My BALSA experience was extremely valuable. Looking back, I think I should have joined BALSA a lot sooner and perhaps been more active in a leadership role. I think the experience of taking on more operational responsibilities is very good preparation for a career in consulting (or really in any business capacity).
7. What advice would you give current BALSA consultants?
I would probably say two things: 1. Leverage BALSA as much as possible. The quality of service and the quality of talent that BALSA can provide is on par with the broader consulting industry and you cannot beat the price. 2. To all the very early stage entrepreneurs, don’t underestimate the value of your idea/product and keep expanding your network.