When asked about what consulting is, many people often don’t have an answer. In contrast to fields in accounting, finance, marketing, and management, there aren’t repetitive tasks that consultants have to complete. Workstreams differ from project to project, as do the applicable skills necessary for the creation and implementation of a successful deliverable. Even the industries that projects are centered in vary widely, ranging across all conceivable arenas, from agriculture to manufacturing to retail to financial services and more. Why, then, do people seek out consultants?
The reason primarily stems from the transferability of skills that you learn when tasked with a consulting project. Through the information systems and operations management practicum this semester, we are given a choice between a myriad of different projects including data analytics using Excel and Python for consumer marketing and operations improvement, and disruptive technology research and implementation strategies. As I went through the semester, it became clear that a combination of technical and non-technical skills were necessary to communicate data-driven solutions to our clients. This course gives you plenty of opportunities to supplement where you are lacking. With the support of Professor Vishal Sachdev bringing in industry speakers to conduct workshops, like one about the Minto Principle (a framework for formatting and presenting reports), followed by a impromptu presentation competition, and another from the Illinois Leadership Center about leadership to enhance our team’s collaborative atmosphere and highlight our strengths among other sessions, non-technical skills receive developmental support. To increase your technical skills, the course allots for students to take certifications in skills relevant to their project, allowing us to better our approach to projects in consideration of industry standards.
Next to being equipped with applicable and real-world skills in this course, another highly effective lesson that was learned was the ability to match these skills to the solutions that clients request. Given that many students do not often have proximity to client-facing roles in a professional setting still early on in their careers, the practicum personally allowed me to experience a business process improvement project that was unlike the marketing strategy and product ideation for external clients that other avenues for consulting experience at the college level typically offer. Interacting with our client contact week-on-week allowed us to consistently structure our research and recommendations in order to specifically hone in on and mitigate the main issues that the clients faced.
While I am personally going into consulting as a full-time career, it goes without mention that the skills taught and experience given in this course are invaluable to anyone embarking into professional roles. In reflection, I have personally gained much, but my final remarks go in large part to my project team. Since this course is a selective practicum and projects selected by interest, each individual is motivated to perform their best. The course was designed by Professor Vishal to be demanding in scope, but it was made much easier to get through by my great team members, who I am confident will remain friends with for a long time to come.