I participated in the Consulting Careers forum last night in Charlotte, NC at the WFU SsOB campus. It was a well-attended event with about 30 students and 6 panelists (5 alumni) representing other consulting companies such as The North Highland Company, Carlisle and Gallagher Consulting Group, Techcheck Inc., and Mercer Health & Benefits. It was my first event as an Alumni (now 18 months out) so I was excited to get involved with the WFU community again.
I enjoyed the discussion. Mainly student Q&A, it covered questions on the typical consulting day (not that there it is such a thing), how to break into consulting, what industries are served by the consulting industry (essentially all of them), what skills are most valuable to be a good consultant, and the pros/cons of working for bigger vs. smaller firms. There were a few points that really stood out to me as being insightful from the other panelists. I’ll share them here.
First, on the topic of getting introduced to a consulting company, the point was made that it can be very helpful to make an informal introduction of yourself to the company. This can be done by leveraging whatever personal connections one might have with a company, alumni connections perhaps, to simply have lunch or coffee with a company rep which would hopefully give a sense of the culture/lifestyle that might be the norm at a given firm. Consulting is a field which relies on personal touches and comforts, and different firms will have different slants on these softer aspects of the work. The experience at Vision Point Systems, an example of a small boutique technology firm, is going to be much different than at a mega firm like Accenture.
Second, on the topic of what skills would stand out when applying for a consulting position, we all seemed to agree that the things that matter are not the things that come through on a resume. In fact, when discussing certifications such as PMI, or Six Sigma Black Belt, it was raised that these may not just simply be not valued or ignored, they can also become liabilities at certain firms, because of the potentially negative connotations that come along with them. (i.e. spreadsheet jockey)
The last major takeaway I had was on what the definition of “consulting” actually is. There were a few differing perspectives on the panel. Some were close to mine – a consulting is about problem solving end-to-end while leveraging expertise in a particular business aspect and/or industry. Others had the background of consulting being tied closer to sales. My point was that a true consultant differentiates themselves from an integrator, salesperson or technician by not only being an expert in a field or product, but by knowing how the immediate problem is impacting the overall business of the client. In my opinion, there is where the MBA really becomes valuable and why MBAs are so often associated with the consulting field
I look forward to continuing my involvement in the WFU Alumni community, and it was great to make connections with the students and other panelists in the Charlotte area.
October 24, 2009
I’m currently in my fourth and final semester in the Wake Forest University Schools of Business (Formerly Babcock Graduate School of Management) Executive MBA program. Our capstone, of sorts, is known as the Management Practicum. Dan Fogle, our faculty sponsor, has set the requirement for this year that all of our team-based practicum projects must have a sustainability or environmental theme. There has been great enthusiasm among the cohort for this and I’m excited for my specific project.
I learned today that Wake Forest recently received accolades for its attention to sustainability by the Aspen Institute. According to the news release, The Schools of Business rank 43rd among the Global Top 100 Schools and have been among the top 50 since 2005. Projects, like our practicum and the hiring of a sustainability director are real signs of applying these themes to the curriculum in a meaningful manner. We had the opportunity to meet with Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, WFU’s new sustainability director this morning and lunch. She provided a good forum to validate the ideas of our projects, as she’s certainly been someone with her “ear to the ground” on these topics for a while.
The projects among the class certainly are wide of field, even within the scope of the “green” universe. Some of the topics include:
- Solar power rollout in the US and remote locations in Central America
- Lean manufacturing with a focus on reducing environmental impact
- Environmentally preferential sourcing policy development for municipalities
- Groundwater conservation in India
- Improving environmental impact of large data centers
I can’t talk much (yet) about my team’s project, but it involves Eco-labels such as Cradle2Cradle, LEED, and GreenSeal. The topic is actually very closely tied to this article from triplepundit. The question of whether government intervention is required as the impetus of implementing sustainable practices is a huge one. Our team is monitoring closely developments in the State of California, the EU, and China to come to a conclusion on this that might predict the strategic direction firms in all industries must consider. This is a matter of real business, whichever way this particular question falls. I’m pleased that I’ll be wrapping up the MBA in December knowing that we’ve tackled one of the most important business questions in my generation and all those to follow.