Broadening Horizons: Undergrads try their hands at consulting

May 18, 2017

Rohan Gupta, Milena Nino, and Michael Druckman

 

This spring, three junior ChemBE majors tested their consulting chops through a series of student consulting club case competitions, placing first in one contest and second in another.

The competitions are designed to give students—both undergraduate and graduate—real-world consulting experience as well as networking opportunities in the business world. Each team receives a challenge from a real company, and has 72 hours to devise a solution and create a 10- to 12-minute presentation to convince the company reps that their strategy is the way to go.

“You have to be pretty creative to win these, to stand out from the other teams,” says Michael Druckman ’18, a Livingston, NJ native minoring in entrepreneurship and management.

Johns Hopkins students run both the Hopkins Graduate Student Consulting Club, whose goal is to introduce students and staff to careers in management consulting, and the Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Consulting Club, which specializes in providing networking and career development opportunities for students interested in consulting. Both host case competitions, as well as other events, to expose students to life as a consultant and connect them with working professionals.

One of the challenges the ChemBE team—Team Homewood—took on was posed by the international firm Deloitte. Imagine the client is a federal agency that wants to initiate entrepreneurial growth in developing countries funded through American donors, Deloitte said. The team’s challenge was to create a secure app enabling donors to direct funds to recipients, a marketing plan to make both parties aware of the opportunity, and a creative, feasible implementation plan. Their presentation placed first.

Team members found themselves drawing on analytical skills honed in their ChemBE courses. “You have to use decision-making skills; you have to rely on making assumptions just like when you’re doing problem sets,” says Milena Nino ’18, from Whitehall, PA.

“The competitions call on both quantitative skills and soft skills like work ethic,” agrees Rohan Gupta ’18, of Auburn, AL, who is also minoring in entrepreneurship and management. “All three times we worked tirelessly for three days, and engineers definitely do this.”

Once the company delivers its challenge, team members must rapidly organize themselves to conduct research, develop a strategy, and plan a convincing presentation—all while continuing their regular schedule of classes, meetings, exams, and homework. Through hands-on business experience, the process gives students practice with skills they will need post-graduation, like creativity, communication, leadership, oral presentation, and teamwork.

It also gives them a window into some of the many options open to them with an engineering degree under their belt. ” Engineering students can have any job they want,” Druckman says. “The classes you take don’t define what job you can have.”

“It’s expanded my career options,” Nino agrees. “It’s given me more confidence, to come up with the presentation and think on the spot and work in high-pressure situations.”

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