Career News, Updates & Insights

“Try & Hire” internship experience at CRA Zurich amid the COVID-19 pandemic

by José Bila

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 individuals are employed as an intern before being considered for full-time employment.

1. What did you do before joining CRA?

I was pursuing my PhD degree in Chemistry at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and was part of The Consulting Society, an association for consulting enthusiasts. I wanted to pursue a career in the field after organizing multiple workshops and speaking with experts from various companies. I was a little concerned about the transition from a purely scientific field to a consulting career, but I felt the industry would offer me career growth in an environment filled with intellectual challenges and where my voice would be heard. When I heard about CRA’s Life Sciences “Try and Hire” position in Zurich, I was eager to apply, as I felt CRA offered attractive professional growth opportunities.

2. What was the recruitment process like for the Life Sciences “Try and Hire” position in Zurich?

About two weeks after I applied I had an introductory call with CRA’s Human Capital team, where I discussed the reasons for my interest in a consulting career at CRA. Following this, I went through a virtual assessment with consultants from the Zurich office, where we worked through a case study. In the final steps I had the opportunity to speak with Angela De Martini (Vice President in the Zurich office) and received clarity on my remaining questions. I wanted to meet the team in person before joining the office, but that was not possible because COVID-19 came knocking. I met the team virtually, however, and appreciated the mix of people coming from scientific and non-scientific backgrounds, which made me confident about starting my career at CRA.

3. How did you start your new role at CRA?

I started my “Try and Hire” position virtually along with 30+ other new joiners across CRA’s global offices. All the IT equipment I needed was shipped to me before the start of onboarding. The onboarding program provided us with information to get started. To aid communication, ice-breakers were often used. Regardless, starting at a new company with a new team without meeting anyone in person was not easy. Throughout the onboarding period I participated in several training programs with the other new joiners. In addition to the trainings, the onboarding team organized virtual coffee meetings in smaller groups where we were able to meet and chat with each other, which was a great opportunity to connect.

4. What did you enjoy most about your new role?

As part of the Zurich office, I was immediately an integral part of the team. On my first project I worked on analysis and reporting of complex market research data. All of the members of my team were very supportive and always open to questions, which facilitated my immersion into project work. When the restrictions in Switzerland were relaxed in summer we were able to finally work together in our newly built office. As I had a very long commute, I felt lucky that the office is located in the heart of the Zurich. With all social distancing precautions in place, being at the office for the first time after my virtual start meant I was finally able to meet the rest of the Zurich team. This certainly added a different and positive dynamic to my internship. Working with a diverse team composed of highly experienced senior leaders, I found myself climbing a steep learning curve. The fact that all team members, regardless of the rank, worked hands-on and collaboratively was one of the greatest motivators to continue my career at CRA.

As of September 2020, I am now a full-time Associate in CRA’s Life Sciences Practice, and I am glad I made the jump from an academic environment to the consulting world.