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Consulting and ‘Making Sense of the Pieces’

Erhan Ermis (MS ’05, PhD ’10)

Erhan Ermis (MS ’05, PhD ’10)
Erhan Ermis (MS ’05, PhD ’10)

Usually, earning graduate degrees in electrical engineering will prepare a student for a variety of fields including communications, health care, transportation, and security. But when Erhan Ermis (MS ’05, PhD ’10) graduated from Boston University, he decided to take a different route.

Ermis works in his home country, Turkey, as a consultant for The Boston Consulting Group. He may not apply the full depth of his engineering know-how on a daily basis but said that the skills he sharpened in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department (ECE) prepared him for his career today.

“My work involves breaking down problems, making sense of the pieces, and putting solutions back together, which I did a lot of while at the ECE Department,” said Ermis.

As part of his work, Ermis works with a number of industries, including financial and pharmaceutical, and advises them on the best way to run their business. Depending on the project, he might focus on developing a growth strategy for a client or optimizing their business portfolio, and then switch gears and work on cost-efficiency for another client.

“It’s a great job because you’re not boxed into a specific area unless you prefer to be, and you gain a lot of exposure to different industries and business functions,” said Ermis.

Ermis’s advisor, Professor Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE), said that his student was always interested in leveraging his engineering background in a business environment. While at BU, Ermis was instrumental in founding the Entrepreneurship & Design Contest and built momentum for the program through the Student Association of Graduate Engineers (SAGE), of which he was the president before leaving BU.

“While he did excellent research work during his Ph.D. and had post-doctoral offers, he viewed himself as someone who could not only work on hard research problems but also could help manage and analyze problems at the interface of engineering and management,” Saligrama said.

Talking about his time at BU, Ermis expressed a specific appreciation for the open door policy of Information Sciences and Systems professors like Saligrama, who encouraged both his research pursuits – statistical signal processing and sensor networks – and interests outside of academic work.

“Professor Saligrama was always accessible and excited about our research,” said Ermis. “He would give you energy if you didn’t have any – and I mean that in a positive way. You won’t find many professors like that.”

Ermis spent some of his summers away from the classroom to test out careers in finance and business. “It helped me experiment with my interests a couple of years before graduation, and once I chose my direction, I had enough time to prepare for what I wanted to do next,” said Ermis.

For ECE students considering a career in consulting, Ermis suggested developing soft skills to complement their analytical skills.

“Top consultancies look for top talent and find that in many dimensions. The best candidates are all well-rounded people,” Ermis said. “It’s imperative to do well on your research and academics, but that alone is never enough. You must have strong leadership and communication skills, and you need to start developing them as early as possible – if you don’t already possess them, of course.”

-Rachel Harrington (
July 2012