What's It Like to Work for a Top Boutique Consulting Firm?
Tara Sullivan is an Associate Consultant at Putnam Associates, a boutique life sciences consulting firm that serves a global client list from its base in Boston. Vault recently caught up with Tara to find out a little more about what it's like to work at Putnam, and the skills and experiences that she's learned during her time at the firm so far.
VAULT: Can you tell us a little about your background?
TS: I graduated from McGill University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Though my degree was not directly related to healthcare, my econ classes taught me how to think about strategic decision making in various market environments—a skill that has proven to be very important in my role at Putnam.
Outside the classroom, I gained exposure to the healthcare industry in my undergrad years through two internships; one at the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington D.C. and another at a global biomedical device company in the Boston area. This combination of my academic and internship experiences resulted in an excitement to pursue a career on the strategy side of the healthcare industry.
VAULT: And your role at Putnam?
TS: I am an Associate Consultant at Putnam, and my responsibilities on case teams typically include performing data analysis, developing research instruments, conducting primary research with key industry stakeholders, building revenue models, and contributing to client deliverables.
VAULT: What attracted you to the firm?
TS: That’s an easy one. There were two big draws: the breadth of projects Putnam works on within the healthcare industry, and the quality of the people on the Putnam team.
VAULT: Can you tell us a little more about how the project work helped you make your decision?
TS: When exploring boutique healthcare firms, Putnam stood out due to the variety of its projects in the healthcare space. Simply put, Putnam’s work covers the health care strategy spectrum. We develop strategies for products across many therapeutic areas, at all points in the product life cycle. It’s probably better to use examples: I recently worked on a project which helped determine the clinical trial design for a phase 3 candidate in our client’s pipeline, while another one of my projects determined how a product which had lost exclusivity should defend its market share against biosimilar market entrants.
VAULT: So Putnam operates a 2-case model? How have you found that in your career so far?
I think the 2-case model allows Associates to take a fast, deep dive into the healthcare industry; I’ve been exposed to various strategic challenges across therapeutic areas in a short period of time.In a little over a year at Putnam, I’ve worked in therapeutic areas including rare diseases, oncology, cardiology, rheumatology, and growth hormones. I’ve learned some of the strategic considerations for products in a commoditized drug class, as well as the considerations for products that serve as the only therapy option available for rare diseases.
VAULT: You also mentioned that the people at Putnam stood out when you were selecting a firm. What specific qualities stood out to you as an applicant?
TS: Firstly, the variety of academic backgrounds at Putnam lends itself well to our collaborative environment; each case team member brings a unique perspective to the table and we frequently draw on one another’s expertise as we approach different strategic questions. Secondly, the comradery within and across levels of employees at Putnam is very strong, creating an environment for fast professional development. My managers on each case have provided me opportunities to tackle new challenges, and are consistently willing to provide guidance.
VAULT: How have those initial impressions translated to your day to day experiences at the firm so far?
TS: The team-oriented environment at Putnam has been my favorite part of my experience, because it has given me the opportunity to learn directly from my colleagues on a daily basis.
Putnam places high value on teamwork. Our case teams meet daily to collaborate on work streams and push projects forward. Our team-oriented environment extends beyond meetings: at the end of each project, teams celebrate their success with a “case team event”; these have included group dinners, F1 racing, Patriots and Celtics games, etc.
I also have a great teammate in my official mentor at Putnam (each new employee is paired with an official mentor on their first day). I turn to my mentor to brainstorm solutions for challenging casework and to discuss my personal goals and professional development at Putnam.
VAULT: What other factors have played a part in your career development at Putnam so far?
TS: I think that one of the best resources that Putnam offers to its employees are its other employees. Our low travel model ensures that we are able to take full advantage of the experience and expertise of our colleagues.
Beyond supporting my professional development, my colleagues at Putnam have encouraged my personal endeavors in meaningful ways. Last fall, I set a personal goal of training for my first marathon. My peers and managers kept me excited about my training, consistently checking in as I increased my mileage during weeks of long work hours. As a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, I had a lofty fundraising goal, and I was truly overwhelmed by the fundraising support I received from my colleagues at Putnam. Not only did the firm make a donation, but so many members of the firm, from peers to partners, made individual contributions that helped me achieve my goal of raising over $8000 for Dana-Farber. Crossing the finish line of the 2016 Boston Marathon was made much more special knowing that I had the full support of the Putnam team.
VAULT: As you know Putnam was named as the #1 firm on our boutique consulting list. Do you have any insight about what makes it such a great small firm to work at?
TS: The work ethic of our team members and the bonds that form between them make working at Putnam a fantastic experience. Another contributing factor is Putnam’s emphasis on integration of case team members in almost all aspects of our projects. This allows me to learn directly from successful managers and partners at Putnam on a daily basis – which has been huge for my professional development. As an Associate, I have consistent opportunities to present frameworks, research outputs, and strategic implications directly to managers and partners and learn from their feedback. The managers and partners at Putnam set a high bar for Associates, make themselves accessible, and readily acknowledge our successes – this makes Putnam a great place to work.
This post was sponsored by Putnam Associates.