ZS Associates

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  • Culture & Values
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12 people found this helpful  

Real Deal: What's it's like to work as an Associate/AC at ZS from someone who's been through the ups and downs

Business Associate Consultant (Current Employee) San Mateo, CA

Pros(in no particular order):
1. People - The people at ZS are the company's true asset. They are all very bright, talented and, above all, good people. You will hang out with ZS people outside of work and some will become lifelong friends. As a result, the office culture is quite strong and very friendly.

2. Healthcare Expertise - ZS largely does its work in healthcare and has developed a strong expertise in the industry. If you have any remote interest in healthcare, you can learn a lot from prior projects and partners. It's truly extraordinary and something not enough people take advantage of while working here.

3. Lack of traveling - You will almost never have to do the Mon-Thurs client site travel that happens at most other consulting firms.

Cons1. Healthcare Focus - 99% of the project work you will do will be healthcare-related. While this is a huge pro for those who want to work in healthcare, most Associates coming out of undergrad have no idea what industry is best for them and ZS's lack of other industries makes it difficult to figure things out.

2. Repetitive Work - Apart from the healthcare focus, most incoming Associates are staffed on a large quantitative market research project where you will find yourself using taking the slides that have been around for several years and just adding in new data. The work becomes repetitive extremely quickly as most people work on this project for TWO YEARS (not a typo, you read that correctly). This is very different from other consulting firms in that at you won't really do any major problem-solving, work collaboratively with the entire team from partners downward, or contribute much. Plus at other firms, you would never be on a project for such a long period of time.

3. Nature of Projects - ZS tries to position itself as a management consulting firm, but in reality the projects are more business analytics. With the previous example, you can see that the project isn't a strategy project,. At no point did I sit in the same room with VPs or C-suite level people and give recommendations based on the data. We worked with middle management who then take our data and figure out insights and pass it up the chain. The true nature of what you will mostly end up doing is a little disappointing especially since during recruiting, you will be lead to believe that you will do mostly strategy projects and work with top-level executives from the client. The reality is that management consulting firms require Mon-Thurs travel because most of their projects involve strategy and then working with the client to implement them. While ZS projects don't require travel, it also means the types of projects you work on aren't that exciting or high-impact.

3. Staffing - ZS has a multi-project staffing model, which means you will work on more than one project at a time. To the best of my knowledge, I don't know of any other firm that does this. I know of people who have been on 4 projects at once and while each project manager will claim that your involvement will be only 10 hours/week (4 projects x 10 hours = 40 hours/week), the reality is that you will have to work 20 hours/week per project. It really encourages quantity over quality of work. Plus, managers often have a cohort of associates that they will want to staff on all of their projects. It can be very easy to pigeon hole yourself into a particular project type or working mostly for one manager. Some managers even take it personally if you decide you want to work with other managers.

4. Pay - It's low especially compared to your friends at startups. Once you get promoted to AC, your salary will match a first year at MBB. Plus, you have to factor in transportation costs. The firm tries to make it seem like its located in SF, when the office is about 30 minutes away. Gas and parking definitely adds up over the course of your time there. There's also very little insight into how bonuses and salary raises are calculated.

5. Office Culture - While the people are great, ZS does not retain top talent like other consulting firms leading to an underwhelming office culture. Many of the high performing associates leave the firm (either to school or other jobs), which leaves behind more mediocre associates who are the new "top performers" who then get promoted and eventually manage projects. Compounding this problem is the fact that most associates who go to business school do not come back, whereas at other consulting firms most do end up returning. In general, ZS does not have the same level of talent as other top consulting firms. To put things in perspective in the ZS San Mateo office, there are only three people in senior leadership who have gone to HBS/GSB/Wharton. Not to say that other business schools are bad, but its a stark contrast to other firms where you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a GSB/HBS grad. In addition, the firm has been going through a crazy period where a large number of people left or were counseled out, including a long-time partner.

4. Exit Opportunities - Simply put, ZS does a terrible job of preparing associates for potential exit opportunities. In my entire 3 years at the firm, my PD manager or anyone in senior leadership has never sat me down to help me plan my future career. If you are looking to leave ZS, you are really on your own in terms of talking to people and finding opportunities. Even the topic of leaving is considered taboo at ZS. People go to extreme lengths to hide the fact that they are looking to leave. Not to mention that if your goal is to enter a top startup or a lucrative financial opportunity (PE/VC/Hedge Fund), you are out of luck as you'll have to either go to business school or find an intermediary path to get there.

Advice to Senior ManagementTry to be more forthcoming during recruiting to prevent disappointments, create a one project staffing model, try to find ways to get people off quantitative market research projects faster and figure out how to retain top talent.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    Great experience, just not what was advertised

    Business Associate (Current Employee) Los Angeles, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates as an intern for less than a year


    Pros: Provides its interns with great exposure to the world of… Cons: Multi-project staffing model can be grueling at times, but this is also… Advice to Senior Management: None. Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company… More
    • Culture & Values
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Career Opportunities
    • Approves of CEO

    2 people found this helpful  

    Great co-workers, but the projects can get repetitive

    Manager (Former Employee)

    I worked at ZS Associates full-time for more than 3 years


    Pros: Great work life balance Very interesting industry to focus on Associates are… Cons: Projects can get repetitive as the same approach is often applied to a variety of different problems. HR… Advice to Senior Management: Ensure that all parts of the organization are aiming to be best in class - it may… Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company… More
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