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Beyond the Blueprint: An Engineer’s Venture into Strategy and Finance

Beyond the Blueprint: An Engineer's Venture into Strategy and Finance

Ms. Muskan Taneja graduated from BITS Pilani (Goa '20) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Finance. She holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. She is a passionate consultant with an aptitude for solving problems and a solid commitment to the social sector. Ms. Taneja recounted her journey towards becoming a consultant, illustrating how her resilience led her to success.

How did your journey from studying mechanical engineering to becoming an expert in strategy and finance unfold? Does your engineering background play a role in your current work?

I was deeply involved in robotics during my engineering studies, which provided a solid foundation in problem-solving and analytical thinking. Working with the Waves sponsorship and controls teams offered invaluable insights into project management and strategic planning. My passion for commerce and consulting became evident during my second year with 180 Degrees Consulting (180DC), where I found a perfect blend of social impact and business strategy. While my mechanical engineering degree didn't directly influence my career shift, the structured thinking and analytical skills I developed have been crucial in my consulting and finance roles.

What advice would you offer engineering students aspiring to transition to careers in commerce?
For engineering students looking to move into commerce, I would advise leveraging any opportunities your institution offers, such as minors in finance or internships with finance and consulting firms. It's essential to excel in what you're doing, whether engineering or any other field, as this builds a strong foundation. Additionally, gaining relevant professional experience through internships or project work can significantly enhance your resume. Every bucket in your application must have a spike.  

Could you recount a memorable project or client engagement that significantly influenced your career, particularly your involvement with 180DC since relocating to France?

One memorable project with 180DC was for Teach for India, where we improved volunteer engagement for their fellowship program. We investigated the decline in applicants and sought ways to enhance applicant quality. This experience, merging social impact with strategic consulting, influenced my decision to pursue a consulting career focused on social work. After college, each project was different, but I developed a linear thought process, learning to break down big problems and tackle one piece at a time. Working on meaningful projects that drive social change while applying business strategies was both rewarding and pivotal in shaping my career path.

How did you prepare for your studies at IIM, and what steps could engineering students take to pursue a similar path?

Preparing for CAT involved extensive practice of various question types rather than focusing solely on new concepts. After two years of work and regular reading of consulting reports, resuming studies was manageable. TIME coaching in the third year of college provided 10 percent of foundational support. Success in CAT depends on practicing different problems rather than revisiting concepts. Given the timed nature of the test, taking multiple mock tests and solving diverse questions is crucial.

Did any extracurricular projects or internships during your college years contribute to your current success?

Extracurricular projects and internships played a significant role. My involvement with robotics and the sponsorship and controls teams provided hands-on experience in management and strategic planning. These experiences enhanced my technical skills and provided a broader perspective on how businesses operate, which has been invaluable in my consulting roles. Working in 180dc in college led me to where I am today.

Balancing academics with extracurricular interests along with academics can be challenging. How did you find this balance?

Navigating challenges was difficult, but everything became much smoother once I figured it out. Creating your path, where you can decide what not to do, requires time, thought, and effort. It would be best if you made conscious tradeoffs, but once you master this skill, nothing can stop you. An important lesson from an IIMA professor was that "strategy is the art of closing doors," meaning knowing what not to do is crucial. This principle applies to both life and business: choosing which path not to take clarifies and strengthens your strategy.