Secrets, Grit and Execution
by Patrick Grumley, MBA ’17 (6/9/17)
How the SGE immersion prepared me for my internship as a strategy consultant
I have a secret, and I’m worried that if I tell you, this interaction may not go so well. I’m in the middle of a 1st round interview with a top consulting firm. It’s a market entry case. I lay out my framework to the interviewer — “I would like to evaluate three buckets: The market, our client’s ability to compete in that market, and the financial implications of their expected market share.” I feel like my interviewer must know my secret.
To the uninitiated, consulting interviews are primarily administered via “the case interview.” I’ll spare you details, but essentially the interviewer will throw any type of business problem at you, and you’re expected to solve it. In preparation for interviews, I practiced over 60 cases. I felt very ready for interviews — I could put a framework around any problem, distill the issues down to their key components, and solve the case. The interview ends and, at least for now, my secret is still safe. My secret: I had never actually done any of the tasks I would often recommend during my case interviews.
My first exposure to cracking the case in practice and not just on paper was during the Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) Immersion. My Immersion team’s client was a large engineering firm, and they were evaluating whether or not to enter a given market segment as a potential growth opportunity. Our task was to advise them whether or not to enter and to provide a recommended mode of entry.
My team of four included two consultants, an energy entrepreneur, and a food science Master’s student. During our first couple of meetings, the other consultant and I did what we knew best — mapped out an outline of how we would attack this problem. While he and I were more or less aligned, the other team members were not so keen on our way of thinking. Without getting into the gritty details, our team struggled to agree on much throughout the semester. However, every member really wanted to make our project succeed and deliver above-expectation analysis and conclusions to our client. While in our group meetings, we would argue over our analysis, next steps, and workflow, but we would always update our client with a uniform and professional presentation. In consulting, you need three primary skills: analytical horsepower, the ability to thrive on a team, and client communication. The SGE Immersion tested all three of these on a weekly basis.
Recruiting for a consulting internship is a lot like a boxing match — it involves a series of grueling rounds, it requires intense preparation, you always leave an interview at least a little bit dazed, and when it’s all over, all you want to do is lie down. Thanks in large part to the SGE Immersion, I was still standing at the end of recruiting and at the end of my summer when I received an offer to return.