ZS Associates Reviews

Updated June 15, 2015
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ZS Associates Managing Director Chris Wright
Chris Wright
6 Ratings

Pros
  • Work-life balance is ok after a few years (in 23 reviews)

  • Great work culture with lots of upfront responsibility (in 48 reviews)

Cons
  • Due to crunched timelines minimal work-life balance (in 132 reviews)

  • long working hours,repetitive kind of work (in 67 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

23 Employee Reviews

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  1. Business Associate

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    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 (More than a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    smart people, challenging, interesting work. very analytical, lots of opportunity to craft your own work environment

    Cons

    rather narrow industry focus (most the company works in biotech), not as much pure strategy work

    Advice to Management

    they do a great job of allowing you to craft your own experience, but could be more involved in helping younger people gain more general strategy exposure/skills


  2. Helpful (1)

    Business Analyst Associate

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

    I have been working at ZS Associates

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    People are hardworking and smart. Truly a great working environment.

    Cons

    Fractional staffing model can sometimes lead to spikes in work. However, fluctuations in work are typical of consulting. What isn't typical of consulting is that the people at ZS are always willing to help you during times of high work load.

    Advice to Management

    Management at ZS does an excellent job keeping people motivated and willing to collaborate with each other.


  3. Helpful (3)

    Business Analyst at ZS Associates

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

    I have been working at ZS Associates

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great culture. Very friendly and open at every level. Variety of projects.

    Cons

    Need to narrow down your focus to be able to progress in the company. Generalists do not progress as fast.

    Advice to Management

    Take a harder look at promotion cycles and incentives to keep the best employees.


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  5. Helpful (2)

    Unorganized chaos

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

    I worked at ZS Associates

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Great free meals almost daily.
    Outings every few months

    Cons

    Office Services often keeps employees who aren't hard workers and gets rid of....the hard workers which wreaks of favoritism.
    Hard to communicate with Management because they do not want to hear suggestions and terminate you if you do speak up.

    Advice to Management

    There are Employees who work hard for the Executives but are not treated with respect.
    Culture is suppose to be key but it is pretty abysmal....unless you are an executive.


  6. Helpful (2)

    Great people working hard within a fun company culture

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

    I have been working at ZS Associates full-time (More than 5 years)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    - Smart, hard working good people
    - Fun company culture, aimed at keeping employees engaged
    - Good for self-starters

    Cons

    - Fractional staffing causes conflicting demands on time and priorities
    - Limited exposure to industries beyond pharmaceuticals and bio-technology (i.e. more limited than the broader healthcare space)


  7. Helpful (28)

    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

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    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)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    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 Management

    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.


  8. Learned a lot, overstaffing is frequent

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    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)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    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 Management

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


  9. Helpful (3)

    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 a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    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 Management

    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!


  10. Helpful (2)

    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 a year)

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    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.


  11. Helpful (2)

    Positive. Demanding job but chances of growth.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    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 a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    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 Management

    Be more honest during recruiting about what the job actually entails



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