‘Career Conversations’ Podcast: Paras Malik ’10, Boston Consulting Group
Paras Malik ’10 is a core member of Boston Consulting Group’s Financial Institutions and Technology Advantage practice areas. She leads the Agile for Control Functions topic for BCG in North America and has broad digital transformation experience across geographies. She is interviewed by Evan Ding ’22.
About Paras Malik
Paras Malik is a core member of Boston Consulting Group’s Financial Institutions and Technology Advantage practice areas. She leads the Agile for Control Functions topic for BCG in North America and has broad digital transformation experience across geographies.
Paras partners with clients on digital transformation strategy, including operating model design and operational efficiency. She specializes in risk, compliance, and audit, helping clients redesign end-to-end processes, determine technology needs, and reimagine their capabilities. She is on the board of Women@BCG Platinion which brings together BCG women to foster thought partnership across digital topics.
Prior to joining the firm, Paras was an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley. Before that, she was a Senior Bank Examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Paras has also worked in the alternative investment space at Bridgewater Associates and at Liongate Capital Management in London. Paras graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She obtained her MSc from the London School of Economics and her MBA from the Yale School of Management.
Paras Malik (00:03):
There's a mix here that's both fluid and at times can be rigid, but every day is different. And that's something that I really love about the challenging aspect of the job, but also very exciting as well.
Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast for the Yale School of Management. Each episode is a candid conversation between a student here at SOM and a member of the Yale community who is doing something that we're curious about.
Paras Malik (00:30):
Hi, my name is Paras Malik. I'm a managing director at BCG based in the New York office. I went to Yale SOM and graduated in 2010.
Evan Ding (00:41):
That's great. Thanks so much for coming, Paras. I wanted to start off by asking you a couple of questions about your time at SOM. First of all, given your profile, you're already a highly experienced and very impressive VP before you even joined the SOM program. So I imagine you already qualified to join the EMBAs. How did you decide between a full-time MBA and an executive MB on the weekends?
Paras Malik (01:04):
That's a great question, Evan. For me, Yale SOM was actually the only school I applied to, and I was really, really impressed by the mission statement, doing well by doing good. And I remember when I went to visit the campus, it really felt like a place where I could amplify my impact while being in an environment that was nurturing and a bit smaller than some of the other business schools, but had a breadth of opportunity as well as an opportunity for growth. And so I knew I really wanted to immerse myself in that type of environment for two years. And that's why I decided to go the full-time MBA route, as opposed to the EE MBA route.
Evan Ding (01:47):
Were you involved in any clubs?
Paras Malik (01:50):
Yeah, I was actually part of the Private Equity Club. I was an active member of Women in Business, something that is very near and dear to my heart. Here at BCG, I am part of our women's network where we focus heavily on recruitment and retention and engagement of our women talent at BCG. So that's something that stayed with me. In addition to that, I was also a research assistant for professor Sonnenfeld for the CEO Summits, which were just an amazing opportunity to learn about CEOs, participate in the background of the seminar, and really sort of think about what's on the top of mind for CEOs across the country.
Evan Ding (02:37):
What have you learned at SOM that stayed with you for the rest of your career?
Paras Malik (02:39):
Yeah, I mean, again, when I was looking at business schools, what really resonated with me was the integrated curriculum. And there are probably two things that I take away from my time at SOM that really serve me today. The first is the cross-functional nature of problems, right? We learn that in the integrated curriculum, whether you have the customer or the investor, there are always intersections and ways to think about it from various stakeholders. And I think the second point is the value of different perspectives, whether that's a diversity on your team or the diversity of your client, it's really important to be able to understand in business where your stakeholder, your clients are coming from. And that's something that I really, really picked up on at Yale SOM.
Evan Ding (03:29):
What were the differences in responsibilities between executive and managing director level when moving from banking to consulting?
Paras Malik (03:36):
Yeah, absolutely. So I think the executive director role really sets you up the managing director role in the sense that you start to understand what the responsibilities are, whether that's managing people, managing programs, stakeholder management within the organization. And I think the step up from that as you move into the managing director role is really sort of driving those programs and thinking through how do you impact change within the organizations and or for your clients? The managing director role, I think also is a bit more dynamic. So in any pressing day, you're heavily involved, not only on the internal workings of the organization that you're working at, but you're also working heavily with your clients. And so you need to be able to go back and forth very quickly between the internal needs of the organization while servicing your clients and making sure that you're helping them drive towards their business outcomes as well.
Evan Ding (04:32):
That's really interesting. I'd like to loop back to what we were saying earlier about how your love of SOM sometimes impacts all of your stakeholders be they investors or customers. Given that client focus that you mentioned, which is a key part of that managing director role, do you see a lot of key differences between servicing investors and customers and clients, or is that all blended together for you over a similar kind of approach?
Paras Malik (04:55):
Well, it's really understanding what their impact and their perspective is and what they're looking to achieve, right? So if you're an investor you may be focusing on different metrics as to whether if you're the customer, right? So if you're a customer at a retail bank, you're looking for something that's simple, that's fast, that you can get your mortgage in a day or two days, something like a rocket mortgage, for example. If you're an investor, you may be looking at the bottom line saying, okay, what is the revenue over time of this company? What's the EBITDA, what's the growth potential? So the metrics that you're looking at will be different and will impact how you're evaluating whether or not you're really thinking about whether using a service or investing in a service.
Paras Malik (05:41):
So I think as a managing director, working with various different stakeholders, you need to be able to quickly pivot and understand what your stakeholders care about and why.
Evan Ding (05:53):
Hmm. Given that this is all about understanding different motivations and it's all about communicating with these stakeholders, I'm wondering how that managing director role evolved during COVID times since communicating and understanding people will be a lot more difficult now that you can't have face to face meetings?
Paras Malik (06:11):
Yeah. It's been a phenomenal challenge. I think for everybody across the globe, thinking through how can we continue to drive impact for our clients. At BCG, we rapidly moved towards the work from home model, engaging on Zoom with our clients. And I think it really brought to the forefront the need and importance of transparent and simple communication. So as we think through analysis that we do for our clients, it just brought to the forefront how important it is to ensure that when you're communicating over Zoom, for example, that it's clear cogent precise because the time is really compressed. And so the idea here is maintaining open in communication in ways that may have been non-traditional in the past.
Paras Malik (07:01):
So I can no longer go for a coffee with my client. I might be doing a virtual coffee with my client. And being able to create those connections in new ways, especially now, as we're moving from the pandemic, becoming endemic, are there ways where we can do offsite in a safe way, in a safe manner, and thinking through creatively using tools that I had never used before, like we didn't use Slack before in the pandemic.
Paras Malik (07:29):
Now we don't use Slack and sort of like, how are you not using Slack? But there are also a lot of other online tools that we've used to facilitate workshops. Working with a large conglomerate in South America, we held a six hour seminar talking through scenario planning and ways to mitigate risk that some of those macro trends have really brought to the forefront with the pandemic. And we had a really great interactive session using some online tools that we might not have done before. And that sort of enables us to keep those lines of communication open.
Evan Ding (08:05):
Yeah. It's been really interesting to see how people have used these tools.
Paras Malik (08:09):
Yeah. There are tools that I didn't even know existed. I mean, Trello's another big one that we use as well. Especially as you think about agile ways of working, which was a big focus for us pre pandemic. And there was a lot of emphasis of being in the room and cross-functional collaboration to really bring forth enhancements to processes or products that all sort of have now gone online. And Trello is an example of using that technology to sort of get that in person feel and continue to drive in a streamlined manner some of the stuff that we were doing in person before.
Evan Ding (08:45):
I'd like to know that given everything else you've told us about working during the COVID pandemic, working from home surely also changed other aspects of how you manage projects in working and the workflows you've had.
Paras Malik (08:57):
The overall way in which we care about projects has been the same. I think what is really important is, and what we found at BCG specifically, is culture is so important. And maintaining that culture within BCG during a time when people are working from home is something that has been a major focus for us. And so whether it's virtual happy hours or virtual quiz days, we're trying to maintain a really strong culture a way in which we operate and interact with one another.
Evan Ding (09:35):
Wow. That is great. Talking about these social occasions, I'd really like to know if you have a favorite part of your job.
Paras Malik (09:42):
I would say at BCG, your job evolves over time. You can start as a consultant. And over time as a role in managing director, a lot of joy that I get is from the team that I work with and seeing them grow over time and develop skills and move up in their career. And so a favorite aspect of my job is developing talent of the future.
Evan Ding (10:07):
Talking about this talent and watching people grow over time. I bet you've met some really impressive people at BCG. Do you mind telling us a little bit about the people that you work with?
Paras Malik (10:18):
Oh, absolutely. I feel really, really lucky to be working at BCG because I've had some incredible mentors at my time here that have really challenged me and enabled me to grow in a significant way. I've worked with senior managing directors that have been with the firm for over 20, 25 years. And they've really shown me the ropes of how to do this job in a way that's effective and really can drive impact for clients. So I feel very, very fortunate and that spans a gamut, everyone from senior managing directors, to even what we do at BCG is also have a buddy system, right, so people in your own cohort can really be helpful to bounce ideas off of, and talk about challenges quite frankly, which is something that's encouraged at the firm.
Evan Ding (11:10):
Okay. Switching tack a little bit. I'd love to know what your typical day is like.
Paras Malik (11:15):
A typical day, I think is highly dynamic. You can start your day with a specific, let's say agenda that might get shifted very quickly, depending on client demands or client questions, but it probably involves a number of client interactions, whether those are steer codes or informational sessions, or frankly, touch points. And then a lot then on the internal side of managing your team, meeting with the team, talking through deliverables, reviewing those deliverables, and then thinking through some of those citizenship activities. Like I talked a little bit about my involvement at women at BCG, which is something that's very near and dear to my heart. There's a mix here that's both fluid and at times can be rigid, but every day is different. And that's something that I really love about the challenging aspect of the job, but also very exciting as well.
Evan Ding (12:15):
I'd really love to dig more into your experience on the board of women at BCG. Could you tell us more about the projects that you work on there?
Paras Malik (12:24):
Yeah, absolutely. I would love to. One of the initiatives that we did about two years ago before COVID was a digital women's summit. And what we did is we had had women from across BCG talk about digital topics and case work that they had worked on. And the idea here was really to break down the barriers across practice areas and industry groups to identify areas of commonality and create new relationships. And that was a one day seminar where we started in the Equinox Hotel down in New York City. And we ended up working with Google on a seminar, talking a little bit about there's a seminar that they do called, I Am Remarkable, and it talks a little bit about women empowerment, and that was just a phenomenal experience.
Evan Ding (13:13):
That sounds incredible. Would you mind telling us more about that experience or maybe something about a connection that you made in that?
Paras Malik (13:20):
Yeah, I mean, I think at the digital summit, we had senior women across the firm really come and talk a little bit about their experiences, what they've learned, the challenges that they faced. And I think that fireside chat with some of those women were really an opportunity to really understand common concerns, common areas of let's say empowerment, and ways to move forward and have a really successful career at BCG.
Evan Ding (13:51):
That sounds wonderful. Given the digital nature of these seminars, have you found that the COVID experience and the shift towards digital has affected the way you form networks around the world?
Paras Malik (14:01):
I would be remiss to say that there hasn't been an impact on, let's say interaction between individuals within an organization and with your clients. I think what has really come to the forefront is that you have to be really intentional about those connections and thinking through how do you create something that's going to be innovative and resonate. And using some of the tools that we talked about earlier are creative ways to do that. And so that's sort of how we've been maintaining connectivity across the last two years.
Evan Ding (14:38):
Of course, what's been the most interesting project you've worked on?
Paras Malik (14:42):
Yeah, I've worked on a wide range of projects predominantly in the risk and compliance space across a number of different sectors, whether it's transportation or financial institutions. I've also worked across a number of different geographies, both in the US and Europe, as well as in Australia. And so that's been, I felt very fortunate to be able to have those broad experiences. I would say a lot of the very interesting projects that I've had a chance to work on really relate sort of to digital transformation and thinking through new ways of working, especially as you see a lot of companies moving from sort of manual processes to automated processes, what does that mean for their speed to market, their control environment, their bottom line, working through ways in which their risk and compliance functions can really transform their capability so they can be an engine for growth and help organizations maintain competitive advantage.
Paras Malik (15:46):
So I've had an amazing experience working, I think, down in Australia, like we were talking about earlier before, working with a large retail bank on a large scale digital transformation, most of which that was running in customer journeys and agile ways of working. And so that was really a few years ago at the forefront of the way this organization was thinking of transforming. And that was a phenomenal experience.
Evan Ding (16:11):
That's interesting. I'd like to drill down a bit into that, given that we've spoken a lot about digital productivity tools. Do you see the trend towards digital transformation is accelerating over your time there?
Paras Malik (16:23):
Absolutely. I think digital transformations are going to be the way the future for organizations across vectors and industries. I think by 2040, 40% of the jobs in the US won't exist anymore. And so we're working towards a rapid pace of innovation. And within digital transformation, I think a big topic that are on the minds of the clients we work with is really around AI and thinking through responsible AI. And how do you ensure as you scale your AI efforts within the organization, that you're doing it in a responsible manner that's aligned with the cultural values of your organization, as well as societal norms. And I think that's a big challenge that organizations are going to need to think about as they enhance their processes and their products.
Evan Ding (17:20):
What do you see as your biggest challenge coming to BCG, especially transitioning from banking?
Paras Malik (17:26):
Coming to BCG. I think they have a very unique culture here. And I think understanding the BCG way of how one does analysis, how one does client service here is unique. And I think frankly, what drives the amazing culture within this organization. I would say the transition itself was for me something that was very exciting because I was coming from a wonderful firm. Morgan Stanley is a wonderful firm, and I was looking towards making a little bit of a change into digital ways of working. And given the breadth of opportunity at BCG, it was just for me at the time, something that was just very, very exciting to me.
Evan Ding (18:16):
When talking about the BCG way, would you mind talking a little bit more about what exactly that is?
Paras Malik (18:24):
Yeah. I mean, I think when you come to this organization, you'll see that it's very hypothesis driven, right? We come from a top down approach, a strategic approach, vis a vis let's say other firms which may take a bottoms-up approach. I think there's a lot of value in that looking across industries and sectors coming at problems, really from a management perspective and thinking through, as we talked about earlier, the cross-functional nature of problems and how to address problems holistically. As a result, as you think about what this means for the BCG way, as you do your case work, you're always thinking through from a top down perspective. And that means the analysis needs to be corresponding in the same way. So I think there's a lot of conversation internally around analysis in a very rigorous manner that really gets to the heart of the problem. Oftentimes, clients may talk about the symptom as the cause, but we actually really have a very rigorous approach that really gets down to the heart of the issue.
Evan Ding (19:38):
Yeah, that's wonderful. Would you mind if I ask you a little bit about your experience as an alum? What connections do you keep with the Yale community as an alumna?
Paras Malik (19:47):
Yeah, so I participated in our five year reunion. Our ten year reunion was unfortunately canceled because of COVID, but I'm also a member of the Yale Club in New York City. And I'm part of a number of clubs within the Yale Club. So I find that is a great opportunity to extend the Yale community once you've graduated. And then I would say also I have relationships with the alumni relations group, like Eric, for example. And that's been just a real pleasure and joy.
Evan Ding (20:21):
Do you have any advice then for anyone listening, especially potential BCG candidates?
Paras Malik (20:27):
I would say go into the interview process with an open mind. Don't be nervous, do the case preparation, try and learn as much about the culture as you can, because it's something that you live and breathe day to day. You're with your work colleagues for majority of the day so it needs to be a place that you really feel comfortable and where you see yourself really have the ability to grow.
Evan Ding (20:52):
If you could redo SOM, what would you do differently?
Paras Malik (20:58):
That's a great question. I think I did it pretty well. I mean, we did our global travel to China, and I participated in the CEO summit with professor Sonnenfeld. I took undergrad classes. I took a law class. I made some really wonderful friends. I don't think that I would do anything different.
Evan Ding (21:22):
That is great. Do you have any advice to anyone who's thinking of transitioning from banking to consulting or vice versa?
Paras Malik (21:31):
I would say know why you're doing it, right. I think there's an element when you go to business school, you see a lot of consulting firms and a lot of banks coming to recruit, and you sort of feel like, okay, those are the two tracks. But I think if you take a step back and you sort of say, okay, well, and I know we do this and in the curriculum, like, what are your values and are your values aligned towards your next career step? I think that brings a lot of clarity in terms of your decision making. And I think this is broader than the transition, just from banking to consulting.
Paras Malik (22:04):
I think in general, I've had, I think three jobs, and every time I sort of make a move it's because there's a shift in my values in terms of where I want to be and what I want to do. So I started at Bridgewater, and after business school, I wanted to do something in public service, given the financial crisis had just happened. So I went to the Fed and then from the Fed, I went to Morgan Stanley. And now I've been at BCG for over five years. And it's really been a wonderful, wonderful journey so far. But I think just being very open with yourself about what you want and what you're looking for from a values perspective can really give you clarity in terms of what your next career step would be.
Evan Ding (22:49):
That's interesting because we spoke earlier in terms of why you chose SOM. You mentioned a strong values alignment, and it really seems like you've made a lot of decisions in your life based on your values. And that served you really well.
Paras Malik (23:03):
Absolutely 100%. I think it has to be really intrinsic with you, for you to really feel as though you're living your authentic self. And when you can be your authentic self, you can really bring your best, not only to your colleagues, but to everyone around you and really drive value.
Evan Ding (23:24):
If you weren't at BCG, where would you be right now?
Paras Malik (23:29):
That's a great question. I've been really into the show Succession. And I probably would want to be the person that does the set design for succession.
Evan Ding (23:41):
Paras Malik (23:41):
Its amazing. I'm like, I'll go to an Italian villa, why not? So maybe set design for some amazing TV show. I don't know. But I really do like what I'm doing now.
Evan Ding (23:53):
That's amazing. And it's so good to see this other side of you. Who knew you had this passion for set design? Would you mind if I ask you some rapid fire questions?
Paras Malik (24:00):
Sure. Let's do it.
Evan Ding (24:01):
Okay. Who is the woman who inspired you the most?
Paras Malik (24:05):
Evan Ding (24:07):
If you could live anywhere, where would you be?
Paras Malik (24:10):
Sorrento in the Amalfi Coast?
Evan Ding (24:13):
If you could retire anywhere, where would it be?
Paras Malik (24:16):
Sorrento in the Amalfi Coast.
Evan Ding (24:21):
That gives a hint for the next one maybe. What's a food that you could not live without?
Paras Malik (24:25):
Margarita pizza made in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast.
Evan Ding (24:31):
Any further comments on Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast?
Paras Malik (24:35):
I think we're going long there.
Evan Ding (24:41):
Okay. Oh, that sounds about right.
Evan Ding (24:41):
That is it for me. Thank you so much for your time and insight, Paras.
Paras Malik (24:45):
You've been listening to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe and rate us on Apple podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, or however you take your podcast. Our producers are Amy Kundrat and Emily Kling both members of the class of 2021. Our theme music was arranged by Dakota Stipp and Liam Bellman Sharpe. For Career Conversations, I'm Amy Kundrat. Thanks for listening. And we hope you'll tune in again.
About Career Conversations
In this podcast series, SOM students sit down with alumni for a series of candid conversations about career paths, industries, opportunities for MBAs, and discussions on various career topics including work-life balance and creating a meaningful impact in business and society. This series is produced by Yale School of Management.