Holt Kelley and Ryan Gentzel participated in Credera’s Summer 2020 Internship Program in the Management Consulting practice. They were asked to talk about their experiences in the program, as well as explain their understanding of management consulting after a summer of interning in the field.
What does a management consultant do, and what makes someone a good management consultant?
Ryan: The first part of that question has a simple answer. Management consultants understand people and solve their problems.
How do you do that? Well, that’s when it can get a little more complicated.
Project teams will include technical consultants, data scientists, web designers, client executives, client project champions, and the list goes on and on. All of those people have different personalities, skillsets, experiences, and opinions. Your job as the management consultant is to synthesize all those different perspectives and abilities and identify the solution that best considers all the information available and meets (and hopefully exceeds) your client’s expectations. You are the glue that holds the whole project together and the conductor who keeps the train on the tracks.
There are many valuable traits that make for a successful management consultant, but there are two in particular that we have found to be the most essential in our roles this summer – be a good listener and be a good communicator. Think of yourself as the liaison between the client and the rest of your project team. The client has a challenge they need to overcome, and your team has the skillsets necessary to build a solution to the client’s problem. Your job as the management consultant is to be the go-between that breaks down the client’s vision into a feasible solution for the team to bring to life. That’s why listening and communicating well are so important.
What were some internal projects you worked on? Key stakeholders you worked with, etc.?
Holt: The management consulting intern team worked on several projects throughout the summer, but the one that we put the most time and effort into was an internal project revolving around a tool called Scout. Scout is a relatively new internal tool that was designed to simplify the process of staffing consultants on projects that align with their skills and interests. The problem we were tasked with solving was that a very limited number of people used this tool, and its benefits could not be fully realized unless just about everyone was using it.
We were given five weeks to figure out a strategy that would both drive the adoption of this tool and sustain its use in the future. Throughout the process of assessing how to address these issues, we interviewed more than a dozen stakeholders and worked closely with the internal development team. To conclude the project, we had the opportunity to share our solution with about 70 members of the management consulting practice and several members of the partner team during a 30-minute presentation. This project taught all of us what it looks like to go from an initial, unformed problem to reaching a structured solution, which is what consulting is really all about.
How are Credera project teams typically structured, and what is your role on those teams as a management consulting intern?
Ryan: Every Credera project team will have an Officer in Charge (OIC) who is the most senior member on a team, usually a partner. They are responsible for managing the high-level business relationship with the client and the overall direction of the project. Every team will also have a Project Director (PD) who is responsible for managing the day-to-day workstreams for the project and ensuring that everyone has a job to do and does it well. Beyond those two certainties, we will give the typical consulting answer of “it depends.” Project needs can vary so much that it’s hard to give a typical structure, but the rest of the team will probably consist of some combination of technology and management consultants with the skills best suited to carry out the PD’s vision.
Concerning the role that an intern will have, I think it’s important to keep in mind that as a more junior person in a consulting firm, and especially as an intern, you should be prepared to do a lot more listening, learning, and execution of your PD’s vision than shot-calling. You’ll need to bring a lot of humility to the table and understand that your PD will probably want you to do things differently than you might have thought to do them, and that’s good because they know a lot more than you do about what it takes to deliver excellent project work. Rest assured, however, that you will still have a lot of autonomy and get to work on projects that impact the firm in a significant way. We absolutely had a big hand in some influential projects this summer.
What surprised you about management consulting at Credera compared to what you heard about consulting in general?
Holt: The main draw of consulting is the opportunity to be exposed to many different industries in a very short period of time. At most consulting firms, those in management consulting roles get to work in many different industries, but often work on very similar projects in every engagement. What surprised me about management consulting at Credera is that you not only get to work in a variety of industries, but you get to work on drastically different kinds of projects. I’ve learned that in management consulting at Credera you have the opportunity to go from working on a pure strategy engagement one month to working on a custom software implementation the next. The opportunity to be exposed to so many different things quickly was such a big factor in me wanting to work here.
Ryan: You see all these internet jokes about how management consulting is essentially all about building a pretty slide deck, presenting it, and then collecting your check. I think that may be true in some places, but I’ve been really impressed by how much Credera focuses on carrying out the solutions that they recommend.
So much of the work that management consultants do at Credera involves execution, and the fact that Credera is willing to “get into the weeds” and actually do the work to help clients improve their businesses, instead of just leaving them with some cool slides, has really surprised me and made me feel like we contribute real value to our clients.
What advice would you give to other students considering management consulting?
Holt: One of the biggest misconceptions that students may have is that they need to come from a specific set of majors or previous experiences to be successful in management consulting. The ability to deeply understand problems, formulate a hypothesis, and present a clear recommendation is more important to be a good consultant than your major or previous experience.
Management consulting requires you to work quickly through some very difficult problems, and the client you are working with will have high expectations for your work. Because of this, you are bound to make mistakes when you first start out, no matter how hard you work or how intelligent you are. If you are humble and willing to learn from your mistakes, then you will grow as a consultant and as a person.
Ryan: My favorite part about management consulting is the variety and constant challenge. If you’re the type of person who is constantly looking for new concepts to learn about, new fields to dive into, and new obstacles to try and overcome, consider management consulting.
The one thing you won’t ever be is bored. Every day is different than the day before, you are constantly reprioritizing based on fast-moving client needs and deadlines, and you are forced to leave your comfort zone constantly to try and find solutions to vague problems you may have never encountered before.
On the same thread, be prepared to rise to the occasion! Because management consulting is such a fast-moving industry, you will have to stay on your toes to keep up. This industry is full of go-getters by nature, and you will be surrounded by a lot of very intelligent and hard-working individuals who will expect you to produce the same quality of work and effort that they do. If you are the kind of person who enjoys working excellently purely for the sake of producing excellent work, then management consulting may be a good fit for you.
Find Your Fit
Interested in joining Credera’s Management Consulting practice as an intern or upon graduation? Check out our website to apply! Job applications open on September 1st and close on September 25th.