ZS Associates

  www.zsassociates.com
  www.zsassociates.com

ZS Associates Reviews in San Mateo, CA

501 Reviews
3.5
501 Reviews
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ZS Associates Managing Director Chris Wright
Chris Wright
179 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Work-life balance is ok after a few years (in 22 reviews)

  • Very open work culture, great work-life balance, provides work from home facility (in 47 reviews)


Cons
  • No work life balance - especially when staffed on multiple projects with different managers (in 131 reviews)

  • Tedious work culture because of long working hours (in 67 reviews)

More Highlights

18 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    Learned a lot, overstaffing is frequent

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Business Analytics Associate Consultant in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Business Analytics Associate Consultant in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    - There is a lot to learn and I gained a lot from the job very quickly
    - Everyone is really nice and the San Mateo (no its not San Francisco despite what they claim) office is really cool.
    - Not constantly travelling
    - Very quickly get to talk with and present to clients

    Cons

    - Regularly overstaffed (although hours still aren't as bad as other consulting firms)
    - Consider your future interests and ensure that this job will get you there

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Need to hire more people as people are far too overstaffed.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2. 19 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

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Business Associate Consultant in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Business Associate Consultant in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates full-time (more than 3 years)

    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.

    Cons

    1. 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 ManagementAdvice

    Try 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.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  3. 2 people found this helpful  

    Amazing people, great first job

    Former Employee - Business Associate in San Mateo, CA
    Former Employee - Business Associate in San Mateo, CA

    I worked at ZS Associates full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    After reading the recent negative reviews regarding what it's like to work at ZS at an Associate level, I thought it would only be fair if I gave my two cents. I left the company recently, after a year and a half. I decided that pharma/biotech, which is what you will be working in 99.9% of the time, just wasn't the right industry for me.

    I completely disagree with some of the negative reviews about market research tracking projects that most Business Associates are staffed on in San Mateo. I felt that they were great first projects that allowed you take ownership of your work, gain a high level of visibility with senior managers and principles, and build a strong solid foundation of skills. It's perfectly reasonable that you are expected to first graduate from these more structured projects before you can tackle more complex ones...you can't be expected to be a seasoned rockstar from the first day out.

    I enjoyed the mentorship and apprenticeship model at ZS. Many people contributed to my growth and success during my tenure here, and the most rewarding thing is when you become a mentor to someone else and witness their growth and empowerment. I experienced that firsthand on these so-called "monotonous" tracking projects, and I would never replace that experience even if I could.

    After all is said and done, it was the perfect first job and it opens doors to many other opportunities. I met amazing people, made great friends, and enjoyed the wonderful culture this place had to offer. It was really a second home to me.

    Cons

    The major downside with ZS in my opinion is its puzzling devotion to the multi-project staffing model. It creates horrible work life balance and really emphasizes quantity over quality. As far as I know, this is the only consulting company that employs such a model. You can't help but feel like a chess piece sometimes. Also, there is this inaccurate portrayal of this company as a strategy consulting firm during recruiting events and PR. Are there pure "sexy" strategy projects where you get exposed to C-level management at Fortune 100 companies? While I'm sure there are, those are few and far between.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Listen to your employees and strive to create better work-life balance for them. Embrace that you are not a strategy consulting firm and focus on your strengths: sales and marketing operations!

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5. 2 people found this helpful  

    Just ok

    Current Employee - Business Associate in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Business Associate in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    Great coworkers, and decent office culture in the San Mateo office. Hardly any travel, which is a pro for me.

    Cons

    Heavy emphasis on sales and marketing. Need to be more upfront during recruiting about what this job actually entails. A lot of what we do doesn't really seem like consulting to me. Felt a little disillusioned coming straight out from undergrad.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6. 2 people found this helpful  

    Positive. Demanding job but chances of growth.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Associate in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Associate in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    -Excellent training and professional development
    -Great culture, supportive and friendly people
    -good (but not great) pay, good work/life balance (if you know how to push back)

    Cons

    A lot of focus on healthcare (not a Con for me but may be for some)
    - Focus on sales and marketing issues - strategic as well as operational (again - good for some but may be restrictive)
    - This is consulting - so wake up and face the reality - you are not going home at 5 pm everyday!

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Be more honest during recruiting about what the job actually entails

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 9 people found this helpful  

    Declining in consulting; Emerging in process operations

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Consulting Manager in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Consulting Manager in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Good place to get a year or two of hard experience.
    No up or out.
    Brand recognition in pharma sales operations and marketing.
    Get it right, Treat people right, and Do the right thing - is a firm motto

    Cons

    Not a good place to stay and grow.
    Mediocrity is accepted and often rewarded.
    Over the last few years the best talent tends to leave in frustration, resulting in the average performers becoming the "new" best, and getting promoted. End result is a culture in decline.
    Very poor mid-level leadership (myopic home grown management, with tunnel vision and lack of perspective)
    Senior partners tend to talk disparagingly about clients; creating negative and incorrect perceptions in junior associates minds.
    Management rarely follows the firm motto - treat people wrong (make juniors work hard/nights/weekends, and under bill hours to avoid projects going over budget); get it wrong (never admit calculation mistakes to the client to save face; conceal errors in excel and complex formula to confuse and redo analysis); do the right thing (hard to do it when you make a habit of violating the first 2)

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Treat clients with respect
    If you want clients to pay $250k for projects that others are willing to do for $50k; either you add significant more value, and try to fool them into buying it. More often it is the latter; since new insights and knowledge are not created by making "selling decks".

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8.  

    Biggest learning experience

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Associate Consultant in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Associate Consultant in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Amazing work culture, people and learning

    Cons

    Work life balance can be improved

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Transparency

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9. 2 people found this helpful  

    The brightest group of people I have had the priviledge to work with

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates

    Pros

    ZS is a work had play hard firm with a young vibrant energy. People are incredibly bright without a lot of ego. ZS works incredibly hard to live up to its values and the leadership continually tries to grow the company the right way, doing the right thing, and treating people right.

    Cons

    People at ZS work hard and sometimes harder than they would like. The expectations are set high and play onto the high achieving mentality of most ZSers leading to long work hours and a fairly high ongoing stress level.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Don't grow so fast you begin to lose the core values that make ZS so special. The very fast growth in India and in the drive in the tech group appears to have compromised the very things that makes ZS great as evidenced by reviews from others in those spaces.

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    Rewarding if you enjoy consulting and work smart

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Consulting Manager in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - Consulting Manager in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates

    Pros

    + Brand Recognition within Healthcare
    + Smart and helpful people (at all levels)
    + Right amount of flexibility
    + Interesting work, if you take the initiative

    Cons

    - Work life balance (if you dont know how consulting is)
    - Very Sr. Management is still sometime stuck in old school thinking
    - Variable mix of managers/Principals

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I have seen a lot of positive changes in the company in last 12 months - defined vision, more structure, emphasis on branching out of pharma and setting up industry standard expectation from management group. Keep this going.
    However some of the initiatives have a short outlook, dont be penny wise pound foolish.

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO
  11. 10 people found this helpful  

    Boring, repetitive work for one industry with little chance for real growth

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - For College Graduates: Try to Avoid Working Here in San Mateo, CA
    Current Employee - For College Graduates: Try to Avoid Working Here in San Mateo, CA

    I have been working at ZS Associates

    Pros

    - Base pay is decent
    - Knowledge sharing is good, coworkers very friendly in helping each other learn
    - Emphasis on training/ramping up for US teams

    Cons

    Where to start?
    - Projects/Clients
    - The work is better described as 'business process outsourcing' where pharma company X can pay ZS to do an operational project that they could do internally, but ZS will just provide at a lower rate.
    - The work is very boring, repetitive for most BAs etc - imagine having a calculator that you plug numbers into and put into a spreadsheet quarterly
    - The projects are mainly with managers, maybe VPs (at small pharma companies) - not high visibility or highly rewarding
    - 99.99% of the time you will be working with pharma
    - Staffing is not very transparent, as managers and staffers will place you with little consideration. Most managers don't want to lose your staffing so they will 'officially' put you on a project for months, but you might actually work on separate projects for them
    - Very easy to be stuck in one type of project/practice area. Some managers take it personally that you don't want to work with them anymore

    - Teams/People
    - Company moving towards a model of having part of the project staffed from the India offices in order to maintain a 'low - cost component'. All this means is you have to work extra hard to make sure the India staffing work is up to par, as training there is not as good.
    - Company does not provide much, if any training on working with teams across offices. Most people assume that to-do lists, check-ins, weekly status calls provide enough structure to have good quality work but in reality most Associates in India are not trained well enough to thoroughly provide decent work
    - Managers and above can do what they want - company has an extremely hierarchical structure where managers are not involved in most projects. They focus on selling as many easy projects rather than building good teams that solve bigger problems.
    - Managers are extremely different to work for: some are extreme micro-managers while others disappear for the duration of the project while others can only provide feedback on formatting and colors. Don't they all receive the same training?

    - Company Overall
    - For a small firm, there is an excess of policies such as 'having to work 12 hrs in a day before qualifying for an expensed dinner'
    - Most of the bonus/performance process is not transparent. Very unclear why people receive the bonuses that they do.
    - The usual tactic for solving problems in this firm is create a committee that has an initiative, create a survey to gather feedback, do some grouping on the survey, and make recommendations that are usually never implemented. (Feedback from associates is never implemented)
    - As the company is growing, its lost most of its fun culture which usually kept people here longer. People are hired more as 'bodies' recently to just staff on mindless projects.

    For anyone considering working here: its not a real consulting job. Work here as intern max, but leverage it into something better.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Please take a deep look within before implementing initiatives for growth with new tracks etc. Growth is not as rosy as it seems.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO

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