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“If You Are Hungry to Learn … HR Consulting Is a Great Option”

Nikita Varman (’21SPS, Human Capital Management) had experience recruiting for legal and compliance and for sales and marketing functions at firms in Singapore. But three years into her career, Varman was ready to take her skills to the next level. In 2019, she enrolled full-time in Columbia University’s M.S. in Human Capital Management program, completing it in just a year. Said Varman: “I was impressed by the faculty. I knew I could learn a lot, not just from the coursework but also from their individual experiences as successful HR professionals.”

Varman now works as a senior associate for the People Advisory Services consulting arm at EY in Singapore, focusing on culture and talent management. She talked about HCM consulting with student writer Huiru Guo (’23SPS, Strategic Communication). Excerpts from the interview follow. 

Can you tell us about your role at EY?

In my role as a senior associate, I primarily work on providing HCM solutions to clients in financial services. Those solutions include but are not limited to organizational and workforce transformation, people mobility, people experience, and HR transformation, which encompass services including (but not limited to) organization design, transaction advisory, transformation advisory, talent management, and total rewards. 

What excites you about consulting in the HCM space?

One of the things that attracted me most to consulting is the amount of exposure I have gained to a variety of projects in a relatively short period of time. The job is demanding and fast-paced, but it has also provided me with the opportunity to explore different HR solutions and services and see where my interest lies. Consulting also expands my network across multiple industries and clients, which can open doors to opportunities in the future.

What attracted you to Columbia’s Human Capital Management program?

There were a few reasons. First, the program offered a well-rounded, solid curriculum that touched key areas within business and HR that I was keen to learn more about. Second, the prestige of Columbia University assured me that both the faculty and the resources affiliated with the program would be world-class. Finally, the program offered the opportunity to build a global network, one that I know will prove useful over the course of my career.

Did your time at Columbia help you to refine your career goals? If so, how? 

Yes—the courses covered a range of HCM topics that helped me experience and reflect on the type of career I wanted to pursue once the program was completed. I also had the opportunity to hear about the work experiences of my classmates, which helped me to further refine the career goals I set for myself during my time at Columbia. Meanwhile, I developed confidence in my abilities as a strategic HR professional, which helped me throughout the job application and interview process.

What’s the most powerful lesson or strategy that you learned from the HCM program? How do you apply it in your career?

One of the most powerful lessons I learned was in deriving and effectively communicating data-driven, informative—yet concise—insights that had the ability to link human capital strategies to broader business strategies and contribute to overall business objectives.

Any advice for professionals seeking to break into HR consulting?

If you are hungry to learn, enjoy working in a challenging, fast-paced work environment, and are interested in growing your exposure quickly within the field of human resources, HR consulting is a great option for you.

 

About the Program

The Columbia University M.S. in Human Capital Management program prepares graduates to be world-class HCM strategists able to address changing needs in building and motivating talented, engaged workforces in the private, public, academic, and not-for-profit sectors. The program is available part-time, full-time, on-campus, and online.