Lessons learned in a 3,000 mile drive

Picture for Blog

Megan with summer clients Shae, Greg, and Jayden Frichette of Frichette Winery.

Megan Whitman, Foster School of Business, BA Class of 2016 reflects on her summer as a Consulting & Business Development Center summer student consultant.

In May, immediately after being hired as a student consultant in the Consulting & Business Development Center’s Summer Consulting Program, my first duty as a new employee was to attend a Foster alumni event in the Tri-Cities, hosted the Center. It was my first time going over to Eastern Washington in many years.It was the first time I met the team I worked alongside this summer. That first trip marked the beginning of an incredible journey. Ten weeks and seven trips to the Tri-Cities later I have traveled approximately 3,000 miles and learned so much along the way.

When my fellow intern and I would make one of our numerous trips to the Tri-Cities, we would invariably manage to make a wrong turn and end up on an entirely new route each time despite the fact that one of us would always have our phone out with the directions pulled up. Although our debacles with the GPS were most likely the fault of user error rather than the actual device, our challenges gave me a new level of respect and admiration for the small businesses I worked with this summer.

Running a business does not come with step-by-step directions.  It does not come with a GPS. At best, there are road signs that lead you towards your destination, but without specific directions, it is hard to know which signs you are supposed to be looking for and whether or not they will connect to the places you want to reach down the road. As a student consultant I learned to be the GPS for the small business owner, not the driver. I learned how to offer insight on where focus should be directed, to provide analysis on the traffic and other potential roadblocks, and to develop strategies to support the driver in deciding which route is the best fit for them. Over the course of the summer I was able to play this role and produce a set of deliverables for each client that will truly have a tangible impact on their business.

So I would say that the 3,000 miles were worth it — sure, it was exhausting (but that wears off with a large cup of coffee), and now I am just left with a much stronger foundation of business knowledge, a close bond with the intelligent and talented individuals with whom I shared an office space, and the confidence that I am well prepared to be successful no matter my destination.