Category Archives: Consulting

Crossing the Atlantic

Coming to Harvard Business School was a forcing function to re-think my career path. One thing was for sure, I was committed to not return to consulting post-HBS. Therefore, it was a surprise to my friends, and most of all me, when I decided to join McKinsey’s London office this fall.

Somewhat ironically, my decision to go back into consulting resulted from the incredible experiences I had at a tech startup this past summer in Zambia. Those three months in Africa gave me the opportunity to fulfill my goals of working in a tech and e-commerce startup, getting hands-on operational experience, and navigating in an international market. Zambia also exposed me to the role of a general manager, with touch points that spanned marketing, sales, business development, HR, IT, and other more nebulous functions. While I enjoyed every aspect of my time in Zambia, the answer to “What do I want to be when I grow up” was still evading me because “everything” didn’t seem like a realistic conclusion. That’s where McKinsey’s generalist model and its breadth across industries/functions came in.

Though I have been fortunate that my personal travels have taken me to various parts of the world, my professional focus had primarily been in the US. Thus, prior to coming to HBS I knew I wanted to work somewhere abroad. That was where London came in – a crossroad city connecting dozens upon dozens of markets across Europe and Africa.  What is life if not for exploring?

So, I came to HBS as a consultant and leave as a consultant. However, it’s not the beginning or the end that’s important. The path that lies in between has changed who I am on both a personal and professional level. My classmates, professors, and friends have driven me to question myself and my goals. They’ve spun me around in circles and have left me dizzy and dazzled. Though that sounds like a pretty bad carnival ride, it’s certainly better than blindly following the herd.

That’s it for the next couple years. What comes next I don’t know. Whatever the journey, I’ll be ready with open arms (pun unavoidable and italicized for those unfamiliar with 1980s music).

– Minh Chau, MBA 2015

Becoming a Consulting Expert

I’m a full eight weeks into my internship, which basically means I’m a full-blown consultant.

…That’s only partially untrue. The number one lesson I’ve learned this summer is that when it comes to consulting, you’re expected to be the expert. On day one.

That’s right – as soon as a piece of the project is given to you, you’re the expert on that piece. Never mind if you’ve never studied that industry or heard of the company or thought about the products at all – someone’s gotta be the go-to person, and that someone is you.

In a lot of ways this is really, really awesome. It means you’re learning something new every single day (because you’re getting quizzed on something new every single day), and you leave each project with some fairly in-depth knowledge about whatever it is you’ve been doing.

The not-so-awesome part is that…you’re not actually an expert. And you can’t be – spending hundreds of hours reading industry reports will never compare to the wealth of knowledge the people working in that industry have. This is an important concept to grasp early: becoming the “consulting expert” doesn’t mean becoming an actual expert. Going down that road will lead to certain failure. Consulting isn’t about learning everything there is to know about every company or industry you work for; it is about quickly understanding the KEY aspects of the business that will allow you to make informed recommendations to the client.

It’s the same reason a software company can build a mobile app for your firm without needing to spend hundreds of hours working alongside you – they don’t need to know every single one of your customer’s desires or every single intricacy of your business; they just need to know what matters most to your customers, and how your business wants to serve those needs.

The good news is, after banging my head against the wall for the first couple of weeks, I started to realize that I can be a consulting expert. It takes a lot of work, but it’s work I can do. The even better news? It’s work I like doing.

-Kristen Jones, MBA 2014

Navigating the World of Consulting

KirstenJones2  “I literally feel a different feeling about consulting every single day,” – my Facebook status a few days ago. “Consulting schizophrenia” is what I’ve taken to calling it. Having spoken to a few of my former-consultant friends, they confirmed this is perfectly normal. The fact is, the work of consulting is grueling: it’s fast-paced, it’s ever-changing, and incredibly fun moments are often followed by ridiculously stressful ones. Despite all that I can say with 100% honesty that I LOVE my internship.  It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s genuinely, truly fun.

I’m a fan of happy endings, so let’s start with the not-so-great stuff. First of all, I spent the first week of my project alone in our New York office because my entire team was working from different cities: one person was in Boston, two people were in Dallas, and a few more were in Canada… And I was alone.  Generally speaking, I do not like being alone. I guess you could say I’m a social person (understatement of the year).

The reality is, there are times in consulting when the full team just doesn’t need to be together. To be clear, sometimes this is GREAT – it can mean working from home (though I still went into the office everyday), or leaving for vacation a day early and doing a bit of work on the beach. As an introduction to my project, however, it was lonely and more than a bit disorienting. Every question I had – and I had a LOT of questions – had to be asked via email. As a result, I spent most of the first week feeling unsure about what exactly my contribution would be. I had been given a “work stream” (consultants love this phrase), but without a face-to-face conversation it was hard to clarify what all of the deliverables were. This was made more difficult by the fact that in consulting, the target is almost always moving. The overarching goal may remain the same (i.e. Growing revenue), but the roadmap to get there is constantly changing. So this has all been a long way of saying my first week was less than spectacular.

Then something amazing happened: I met my team! On my second week of the project we all got together in Boston, and suddenly my role became much clearer. Now I say “suddenly,” but the truth is a lot of this was a result of my very deliberate attempt to create a work plan and shape the course of my summer. If there’s one thing I have learned both in my prior work experience and at Harvard Business School, it’s that waiting around for someone to make you feel useful is most certainly the wrong approach. As the saying goes (and it’s possible I made this saying up…), “If you don’t feel useful, you probably aren’t.”

The good news is, even though there are still plenty of stressful days, I know I’m adding value to my team. A good deal of the work I’m doing for our growth strategy project has actually made it in front of the client (after some thorough scrubbing by my manager), and in the process I’m learning a ton about our client’s industry and the consulting profession as a whole. Since I’m only 4 weeks in, I’ve still got plenty of time to keep adding value, keep learning, and keep having fun. I can’t wait.

-Kristen Jones, MBA 2014

A Passion for Consulting and Entrepreneurship

Kristen Jones HeadshotIt’s crazy to think my first year of Harvard Business School is over. It was one of the most enlightening, and most challenging, years of my life. I learned so many new things – how to value a business using a discounted cash flow analysis, how to compute a customer’s acquisition cost, and how to determine whether a strategic acquisition makes more sense than contracting out for services, to name a few. As I embark on my internship with Deloitte Consulting, I am incredibly thankful for the year of training I’ve received; I can’t wait to start putting some of the skills to good use!

I came to business school knowing I wanted to learn more about two fields: consulting and entrepreneurship. HBS has been great for a lot of reasons, but for me the main one is that I received hands-on experience in both areas through Harvard’s new FIELD course. FIELD, which stands for Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development, is a three part course that is meant to help HBS students transfer the knowledge we receive in the classroom to the real world. During the second part of the course, we were all assigned global partner companies who asked us to help them come up with new products or services to address their most pressing concerns.  Working with my team in Chile, I gained valuable insight into the life of a management consultant – so much of the work is about listening to the client’s needs and managing expectations – and I’m incredibly happy I learned these lessons while still in school.

FIELD 3 was fantastic because it taught me some very valuable lessons about starting a business. The startup my team launched, Rentern.co, has done well over the past few months and I look forward to seeing it grow. However, I am still excited about consulting – I see this as an opportunity to continue learning about new industries and to strengthen my business acumen.

As I begin my summer with Deloitte’s New York office, I can’t wait to see what industry I land in and what sort of project I’ll be working on. Before we started, Deloitte asked us to indicate what sort of work we were interested in doing. After a full year of school, learning about every industry under the sun, you’d think I’d have a handle on what type of project I wanted, but the truth is I can’t wait to take on another new problem with an industry I know little about. That, to me, is what makes consulting fun!

Now be forewarned: client confidentiality will mean I won’t be able to share specifics about the company or provide great detail regarding the project, but don’t worry – I’ll have plenty to share regarding the experience (like traveling four days a week…we’ll see if I’m cut out for it!).

Until then, enjoy your summers and I look forward to the next post!

– Kristen Jones, MBA 2014