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This Consultant’s Work Shows How Analytics Can Transform Industries

Shamik Chokshi, a global data and analytics director at Boston Consulting Group.
Shamik Chokshi, a global data and analytics director at Boston Consulting Group.
| Courtesy of Shamik Chokshi

When Shamik Chokshi was at the beginning of his career in 2007, the field of analytics was just starting to gain recognition in the business world—and as someone who loved working with numbers, he was fascinated by its potential.

“I felt that building a career in analytics would be both challenging and rewarding,” he says. “I thought I would be able to help some of the largest organizations drive value by using their data.”

That’s exactly what he has done during his tenure at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which he joined in 2016. Today, he’s a global data and analytics director at BCG X, a unit that specializes in artificial intelligence solutions, working mostly on projects relating to the healthcare and industrial sectors.

Here, Chokshi talks about why BCG was the right place for him, a recent project that could transform the manufacturing industry, and his secret to successfully leading a large, globally distributed team.

What led to your job at BCG, and how did you know the company would be a good fit?

Several of my former colleagues worked at BCG and reached out to see if I’d be interested in joining a new digital and analytics unit that would play a key role in future consulting projects. I was familiar with BCG's reputation as a company that tackles some of the world’s most complex issues and values entrepreneurial thinking and out-of-the-box solutions. Additionally, BCG operates across many industry sectors, which meant I’d have opportunities to broaden my skill set and develop innovative solutions to a variety of problems. With endless learning opportunities and a thriving environment for healthy growth, BCG seemed like the perfect fit.

Describe your career path and professional growth at BGC.

I began my journey in 2016 as an analytics expert within BCG X, formerly known as BCG GAMMA. BCG X is the tech build and design unit, and it is focused on helping clients enable tech innovation at scale and deliver on complex end-to-end digital transformations. As part of this team, I’ve had opportunities to collaborate with consultants, technologists, scientists, programmers, engineers, and designers to solve some of the most important challenges.

During my time at BCG, I have primarily focused on developing and implementing analytical solutions for two industry practice areas: industrial goods and healthcare. When I first joined the team, it was relatively small, which provided a great opportunity to bring entrepreneurial thinking to the table and experiment with new ideas without fear. I’ve been able to wear many different hats—building a wide range of first-of-its-kind solutions, leading large transformation projects, and representing BCG as an analytics expert in external forums.

I’ve also grown as a leader. I started out leading a team of five people and have since managed more than 150 people in the Asia-Pacific region. Currently, I lead a global portfolio and continue to be driven by the same entrepreneurial spirit that brought me to BCG in the first place.

What are you responsible for as a global data and analytics director at BCG X?

I am responsible for pushing the digital agenda and leading a team of about 200 analytics professionals based around the world. As part of my role, I have been actively involved in introducing new lines of services for our clients. My team works with consultants and data scientists to build a new product or customized solution for clients.

What skills are necessary to succeed in your role? What have been some of the keys to your success?

There are several key skills that have been instrumental to my success, including being persistent, and having a hunger to learn and understand new skills as well as the ability to think creatively. These skills have helped me navigate challenges throughout my career, generate impactful solutions, and keep up with a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

You and your team worked on a project that could revolutionize the metals and mining industry in India. Tell us about it and the impact it had on the business.

I, along with two other colleagues from BCG X, worked with a metals and mining manufacturer to optimize the cost of production and improve their yield. It took us close to 12 months to conceptualize, build, and run pilots on the shop floor.

It was an opportunity to change the way metal is made, and I feel extremely proud of how we were able to stretch our thinking and develop a complex machine learning solution involving predictive and prescriptive analytics. Our solution enables our client to optimize production of different grades at optimal cost by balancing recovery, cost, and quality of alloy addition. It also helped our client manufacture additional tons of metal daily without significant capital investments. Finally, our solution empowered shop floor personnel to transition from an experience-based approach to an analytics-guided approach, reducing dependence on any one individual and enabling greater process independence.

This digital solution can also be used in other manufacturing processes that involve the mixing of raw materials procured at different prices to achieve a wide range of products while reducing rejection rates.

I’m proud of this work, which demonstrated great collaboration among BCG consultants, the BCG X team (led by me), and internal and outside experts in the steel industry. It was a true example of thinking beyond the obvious.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while completing the project and how did you overcome it?

At first, we thought this project would be easily doable. But when we delved deeper into the planning, it became clear that none of us had experience with this type of analytics, especially in the metal industry. We began to question if we could accomplish the task. Despite our concerns, we remained patient and committed to get this across the finish line.

Some of the challenges we had to overcome were: formulating an optimization equation based on predictive output (something we’ve never done before); developing a deeper understanding of the steel manufacturing process; building an ecosystem on the client site to ensure the data we collected was correct, which involved digitizing a lot of manual processes; and convincing the steel workers that this new and improved way of doing things was not a threat to their jobs.

To keep our morale high, I encouraged everyone on the project to view this as a unique opportunity to pioneer something innovative in the industrial goods industry. This helped the team explore approaches we’ve never tried before.

What is your leadership style, and how do you help the people on your team learn and grow?

I have adopted a collaborative leadership style, which I believe leads to greater success, improved team morale, and a more cohesive and efficient work environment.

I make it a priority to enable my team members to express their own perspectives, and I also make a conscious effort to understand each team member’s interests and aspirations and align them with the team’s vision. One mantra that has worked for me is to never miss out on acknowledging great work and never delay passing on honest development feedback. This is important to let my team members know we are on this journey together and has been beneficial in achieving our goals and helping people learn and grow.

Lastly, I have focused on identifying key role models within the team and trusted them with more responsibility, which has helped prepare more stars at every level. I believe that real learning does not happen within four walls, but when one actually gets exposed to a project.