Immersion Learning

A Fruitful Exercise in Quintessential Consulting Skills

by Sandeep Thalapaneni, MBA '13 (11/6/12)
Sandeep Thalapaneni, MBA '13

What does an MBA project on innovation implementation for a technology giant have in common with consulting on ‘Obamacare’ for the second largest pharmaceutical firm in the world? More than what one may expect. To be specific, one needs to excel in strategic thinking, collaboration, and communication – three components central to the Strategic Marketing Immersion (SMI), which prepared me to drive an engagement independently during my summer internship as a management consultant.

Of all the theories and simulations that can be taught and administered at business school, interviewing executive management and putting oneself in their shoes is the toughest, I think. And in many cases, these are the most critical skills that differentiate a good consultant from a great one. This is precisely what I was exposed to as a part of my Immersion Project with Microsoft in Johnson’s SMI this spring.

For a fresh MBA intern, interviewing eight Country Heads and CFOs one-on-one during the summer could seem like a daunting task, but it wasn't. Not only did I have the skills to do so, but also I offered a ‘can-do’ attitude and confidence to seize the initiative. Going into the Strategic Marketing Immersion with an open mind allowed me to capitalize on everything I learned during the semester. The main elements of the problem-solving process are second nature to me now, and credit goes to the analytical rigor I was exposed to while solving multiple cases during the immersion.

Another key benefit was learning how to adopt a cross-functional mind-set. Wearing multiple strategic thinking hats helped me assess solutions I’d proposed from the viewpoints of various stakeholders of my client, be it the Chief Compliance Office and Chief Financial Officer. I realized that this thinking is at the core of building a convincing argument that I can sell to C-level executives whose main concerns aren't always aligned.

If good luck is “opportunity meets preparation,” by the time I finished my internship and got the job offer, I realized I was thoroughly prepared to seize the day and make the most of the opportunity at hand.