First Gen Fireside Chat: Consulting Insights with ZS Associates, Heidi Lee CAS ’19 and David Thai CAS ’18

In celebration of First Gen Week at Penn, Career Services is highlighting experiences, perspectives and advice from first gen professionals in various career fields.

Want to understand life at a consulting firm? Join us for a Fireside Chat Zoom Conversation with alums Heidi Lee CAS ’19 and David Thai CAS ’18 of ZS Associates. 

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021
12:00p – 12:30p
LIVE via Zoom

** Want to listen on your own time? All registrants will receive a link to the interview.**

Heidi Lee graduated from Penn in 2019, majoring in Fine Arts with a minor in Consumer Psychology. She is currently based in New York, after living in Philly post-grad, and currently works in healthcare consulting at ZS Associates.

David Thai graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 with a degree in Health and Societies (HSOC) and a concentration in Healthcare Markets and Finance (HMF). Upon graduation, David moved to rural Vietnam through the Fulbright Fellowship where he taught English to 150+ high school students. After Fulbright, David moved back to Philadelphia to pursue a career in Healthcare and Life Sciences Consulting. Currently, David is a Strategy Insights & Planning Associate at ZS, where he works with a number of biopharmaceutical clients across several practice areas, including pricing and market access, commercialization, strategy and transformation, and patient and consumer health.

What surprises you the most about your job?

Heid Lee: Being flexible in working towards a goal is key to actually achieving a goal. This includes being flexible in working styles with teams and coworkers, being flexible in timelines and schedules, and being flexible in how we think about life and work especially since COVID.

David Thai: Fortune 500 companies do not (always) have everything situated and settled, and they rely on consultants to guide them to make strategic million-dollar decisions. What’s surprising to me is that those consultants can sometimes come in the form of a young, 20-something-year-old fresh college graduate.

What three adjectives would you use to describe your company’s culture?

David Thai:  Collaborative. As consultants, you’re expected to work with each other and your clients to make informed decisions. Collaboration is integral, and it’s important that you not only ensure your voice is heard, but also give the space for others on the team to share their perspectives.

Opportunistic. ZS, as a global consulting agency, has multiple practice areas that offer aspiring professionals a unique opportunity to explore several avenues of the healthcare and life sciences industry while gaining key, transferable business skills to be successful.

Supportive. Consulting is not regarded as a 9-5 job, and there are certain expectations that come with working in the consulting industry. The job can (and will) be stressful and demanding, but I feel extremely supported at the firm because of the people I am surrounded by, and am fortunate to have a pretty good work-life balance. This includes not only my immediate teams, but also past teams I’ve worked with, colleagues, professional development (PD) coach, and ZS buddy (which is an experienced ZSer that new hires are formally paired with to guide you through your first 6 months).

What internship opportunities does your company offer?

Heidi Lee: We have summer interns every year (with the exception of 2020 due to COVID, but restarted in 2021 summer) – please reach out if interested.

What unique qualities do you think first gen students bring to the table?

Heidi Lee: Having a strong work ethic (because we’ve had to work harder to get to where we are now), willing to go above and beyond the ask or expectation, and always thinking about community building — what can we do for each other, how can we work together, how can we advocate for ourselves and others?

David Thai: First gen students are extremely resourceful, and sometimes we forget that about ourselves when we’re nose deep into our day-to-days. We have a lot to offer, and when it comes to making an impact when there are limited resources, first gen students are second to none. In consulting, this can be extremely beneficial, because when you’re placed in ambiguous situations, you’re expected to build structure, identify gaps, and ultimately come up with tangible solutions (among other things). First gen students have lived experiences with being resourceful, and it’s important to translate that grit and tenacity into a mutually beneficial offering.

By Ariana Alexander
Ariana Alexander Associate Director, Graduate School Advising