CRA’s culture is academic. Think of the vice presidents as tenured professors, the practice leaders as endowed chairs, other senior staff as adjuncts or visiting lecturers, and the junior staff as a mix of graduate students in various stages. If you’ll next consider some of the defining aspects of, say, a college economics department, you’ll understand a few of CRA’s central characteristics.
First and foremost, it’s an individualistic and entrepreneurial firm where most employees adopt a “live and let live” mentality. You’ll find that people trust one another to produce high-quality work without much management. Though there is a healthy amount of collaboration and competition, people here are internally driven. You won’t do well at CRA unless you’re able to push yourself.
The smart, self-motivated employees CRA hires have shaped CRA into a firm where creativity is encouraged. You’ve figured out a way to make the client happier? Teach everyone. You’d like to make this or that happen? Let me put you in touch with someone who can help. But lest I make CRA sound too much like a Millennial utopia, I hasten to add that incoming analysts must work hard, take direction, complete unglamorous tasks well and in a timely manner, and put in long hours to meet deadlines. Respect in this academic culture of ours can be lost as quickly as it is granted, and there is one crucial difference between the academy and Charles River Associates—no one at CRA actually has tenure.
The product of an academic mind and for-profit work is a refreshing straightforwardness. You’d be hard-pressed to find laziness among your managers, and they won’t ask you to work hard without working hard themselves. Most importantly, criticism is both provided and welcomed.
Perhaps the characteristic which makes CRA most like a college economics department is the dress code. In true academic fashion, our dress code is plus or minus business casual, though we strayed somewhat from that standard this winter. During these few frostbitten months, the dress code became “layers.” It was always preferable if one’s top layer sported CRA’s logo, of course.
Ta for now,
“Try & Hire” internship experience at CRA Zurich amid the COVID-19 pandemic
José Bila is an associate in the Life Sciences Practice based in Zurich. He joined CRA in June 2020 as part of the Swiss “Try & Hire” program, where...