I know, you’re pouring over the McCombs website doing your due diligence researching all of the great programs the Texas MBA Program has to offer, and you’ve most likely come across the MBA+ Leadership Program.
Those smiling faces and their Starbucks aprons. “I want to try out my new b-school skills consulting for real live companies!”, you think. I know, because I wrote about it in my application essays, too. It is one of the unique experiential learning programs that drew me to McCombs. Now that I’m a real life McCombs student doing a real live MBA+ project, I’d like to share a report from the front lines.
First, it’s worth saying that I had no idea what to expect. I came to McCombs from the education sector, so I knew very little about business or consulting, except that I wanted to learn the tricks of the trade. Consulting (and all things business, for that matter) seemed like a black box. You put numbers and analysis and strategy meetings in on one end, and out come decisions.
For my MBA+ project, I’m working with Deloitte’s Human Capital practice to research the impact of the “Industrial Internet of Things” on people. How will workplaces change? How will people’s jobs change? How can companies proactively position themselves in the midst of this change? It sounds pretty high-level and vague, but the reality of the project has been more than I imagined: more company face time, more learning, and more fun.
1. Company Face Time
We interface with a team of six Deloitte employees who are company leaders at various levels. Across the board they have bent over backwards to make themselves available and to make this a positive experience for the McCombs team. Senior consultants fresh out of McCombs help to guide and navigate us through the process, and senior partners generously take our calls and emails. Everyone provides thoughtful advice and feedback. Who knows how many potentially billable hours of their time we’ve racked up at this point…
As a “nontraditional” student interested in transitioning to strategy consulting, it’s been an excellent way to hit the ground running right from the beginning. It’s true that making an office visit is a great way to get a feel for what it would be like to work at that company. Doing a MBA+ project is even better, in my opinion. You get a feel for what makes the company tick, you know people at the company, and they know you.
I knew literally nothing about consulting at the start of this project. In the words of one of my fellow MBA+ teammates, “I thought a vertical was how high you could jump.” We’re halfway through our project, and I can say that I now understand what consultants do (kind of) and how to do it (ok, that’s a gross overstatement, but I know more than I did).
I’ve learned from my peers, many of whom are former consultants, and can style the heck out of a PowerPoint deck. And I’ve learned from jumping in. Week one of the project we were meeting with senior consultants who were giving us the rundown on the project trajectory. Week two we were on a call with partners. Week six we were presenting to those same partners.
And from all that work, I now feel like I’m starting to gain two very consultant-y (and generally useful regardless of industry and function) skills: I’m comfortable with ambiguity and I can work with a team to structure an unstructured problem. They’re skills I already had, but the project has helped to refine them, strengthen them, and make me view them in a new light.
On our launch call, an hour into a slew of tips and frameworks and ideas from Deloitte, one of the higher ups closed with this advice:
“You’re getting to do consulting without any of the downsides—don’t forget to have fun! There’s no downside, only an upside.”
I’ve gotten to work with five stellar fellow first years and have gotten to know them and learn from them. We’ve gotten to play consultant and present in a fancy downtown conference room. We got to spend hours reading fascinating research, talking to industry leaders, and coaxing a neat, structured final deliverable out of the mass of available information. It’s basically a playground for a b-school nerd. What more could you want?
Is it hard to focus on the project because there is a ton of other things going on at this point in the semester, most of which involves grades? Yes. Does the project help to ground me in the reasons I came here in the first place, and give me a taste of what I can do on the other side of this place? Heck, yes. So when you get here, just know that your very own MBA+ project awaits!