Monday, March 23, 2015

In the Consulting Academy, working with clients builds invaluable experience

By Ellen Gartner-Phillips, MBA ‘15

Last year I was assigned to a project engagement with a local veterinary hospital. We spent the Academy Week mapping out the engagement: Meeting and building a relationship with our client, scoping the work we would be doing, laying out a project plan and timeline, and finally presenting the week’s work to the client.  It was a long process, but really set us up for success moving forward after spring break.

As a second-year student, I have the privilege of working as a Subject Matter Expert for this year’s Academy. While the first-years I am working with didn’t require a lot of guidance through their Academy Week process, it was pretty awesome to reflect back and realize how much I have learned in the short year and a half that I have been here at Kelley and with my internship at Deloitte.

The Academy Project does an excellent job of preparing students for the summer internship. For me specifically, I gained invaluable experience in the nuances of client interaction and storytelling.

Client Interaction

While my previous work involved a lot of client service, I was not familiar with formal project management and scoping.  Our client initially came to us with a list of project ideas, and we learned quickly that many of those project requests were symptoms for a more central need that should be approached first.

Figuring out how to best communicate our process, rationale, and defined scope to our client and receiving buy-in for our approach was an important takeaway for me.  Having had the client interactions we did and working with a great team, I felt much more confident going into my work last summer.

Telling a Story with Data

While the recommendations we made were supported with data supplied by our client, it was a great learning experience having to figure out how to support some of our more qualitative recommendations.

Throughout the process we received feedback from our advisors. “That sounds promising, but how do we know that’s going to work?” Having to really dig for support led us to make more refined recommendations that were in the end much more impactful for our client. There are many ways to look at data, and it is in the story that you can make an impactful and implementable solution.

I was impressed with my first-year team’s organization, thoroughness, and professionalism. I am excited to see what they will be able to deliver to their client through the course of the project.

Best of luck to this year’s Consulting Academy!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tackling real business challenges in the Consumer Marketing Academy

By Lyndsay Hoban, MBA'15
Each spring semester, first-year Consumer Marketing Academy students are given the opportunity to replicate the summer internship experience through an 8-week project that tackles real business challenges from some of the country’s top brands.

As a second-year in the program, I was given the opportunity to serve in an advisory role to one of the project teams, just as junior managers will do over the summer at each student’s respective internship. After completing my own summer internship with Dr Pepper Snapple Group and experiencing both sides of the CMA project, I’ve been able to better reflect on just a few of the characteristics that make the opportunity so valuable:

The emphasis on consistent reflection

It’s easy to draw logical conclusions and recommendations from research, only to realize later that the data was not as impactful as it may have initially appeared. Throughout the internship process, it is crucial to continually review the findings and ask myself, So what? Where are the true impacts on firm performance or consumer behavior? What inputs are making the biggest difference? By routinely meeting with junior and senior managers played by second-years and faculty members, CMA teams learn the importance of regular gut checks.

The importance of a logical and persuasive narrative

The final project is not just a collection of PowerPoint slides, but a convincing story. My goal for the end of the summer was to have the CMO leave the presentation going, “Why aren’t we doing that already?”

The Who-What-How framework established by the CMA project allows students to develop a persuasive argument by fully understanding the mindset and demographic of the target consumer, the functional or emotional benefit the product or service is offering that consumer, the tactics to employ to communicate to those consumers, and the ultimate size of the prize from winning that consumer. By breaking each piece down into smaller assignments and memos, students learn to give each component the attention it needs.

The ability to hit the ground running

The semester flies by, as will an actual summer internship. One of the things stressed during the CMA project is the importance of incremental goals and benchmarks, as well as the importance of gaining stakeholder feedback through the process.

One of the most valuable takeaways from my experience as a first-year was the plan I created for myself to use my first week on the job. At which point will your scope of recommendations start to narrow? During what week will you begin to build the final deck? When should senior managers see my research? If given only 10-12 weeks to make a positive impression, you need to use that time wisely.

Although second-year advisors are instructed to provide only limited coaching and allow the teams to reach their own conclusions, there is one point I have to stress–take this thing seriously. These projects are like elaborate dry runs and are something other MBA programs do not have; something that gives Kelley students an incredible advantage over the summer.

Good luck teams, make us proud!