Over winter quarter, I had the opportunity to participate in a six week long consulting program with the Consulting and Business Development Center. I worked in a team with four other bright student consultants, an encouraging project manager, and three professional advisors who never failed to provide great advice and recommendations. Over the six week program, we developed advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), and partnership recommendations to aid a local Chiropractic business in weathering the economic downturn of Seattle and increasing their patient numbers. I am certain that I will not be the first nor last to say that I whole-heartedly enjoyed this experience. This was the first time I had the opportunity to use my business acumen to solve a real business’s challenges. Before this program, I had heard a lot about consulting from other students and professionals in the industry, but being able to experience an engagement provides an immense learning opportunity that is unparalleled. I had always been a strong believer in learning by doing and this program solidified the importance of participating in experiential learning opportunities for me. I found that what I learned from this program is not something that can be taught in the classroom. Knowledge about marketing, advertising, SEO, etc. can all be taught in classes. How to be a self-starter to create your own work, use effective and cautious communication around clients, and continuously refine and synthesize work are skills that can only be gained through experiencing a consulting engagement. I find these skills especially valuable because in today’s world, information is becoming increasingly accessible on the internet and anyone can learn anything they want to. Therefore, the key differentiators in the professional world lie in the characteristics and soft skills one has, making them crucial to develop.
Not only did I get the chance to work on my soft skills in this program but I gained a better understanding of what the consulting industry entails. I have found that there is a big difference between understanding what a consultant does in theory versus understanding what a consultant does in practice. For example, before this program, I had heard from professionals that consultants have to be comfortable with ambiguity. Whenever I would hear this I would just nod my head and think ‘that makes sense’ while not thinking too much about it. Although when we were first presented with our client’s challenge of creating an effective marketing strategy and shifting to target a new specific customer segment, I remember feeling a little overwhelmed because there are so many ways we could go about it. We spent the first couple weeks and meetings with the client trying to understand the clients pain points and narrowing down our research into a project scope. I am usually the kind of person that likes to plan how I am going to get my work done in advance but with a project like this you can’t do that because you have no idea what specific work you will do or how long it will take. The feeling was new to me and I finally truly understood what it meant to be comfortable with ambiguity. This feeling is another example of a lesson that I only could have learned through an experiential learning opportunity. I was also super lucky to have an amazing team, project manager, and advisors who were all willing to share their ideas and knowledge so we could collaboratively come up with a scope that would not only solve our clients challenges but do so within the timeframe we were given.
As the program progressed, the more I learned about the clients’ challenges and researched strategies on how to address them. Towards the end, my team compiled the research into tangible recommendations for the client. I had originally thought I would be intimated to present to our client in the final presentation but that was not the case. We had put hours of research into the project and had been updating the client on our work in weekly meetings so nothing we presented was a surprise. If anything, the final presentation was my favorite part because we got to put all the puzzle pieces together that would provide the solutions to their challenges in one culminating presentation. In my previous experiences, I have only strategized for fictitious businesses but the opportunity to strategize for a real business made the work so much more meaningful. I truly felt so lucky with the team and client I got to work with for this project.
Everyone that was a part of the team including the project manager and advisors put in their best work to produce effective and implementable recommendations for our client. Our client was already one of the top rated chiropractic businesses in Seattle but wanted our help because they believed they could do better. They were super responsive and enthusiastic about our ideas and overall a joy to work with. I could not have asked for a better experience for my first real consulting engagement. This program reinforced my passion for consulting as it allowed me to use my expertise to make a meaningful impact on a real business. I was so sad when it came to an end but I will definitely be seeking more engagement and experiential learning opportunities and I recommend anyone that wants to take their education to the next level to do so as well!
– Katie Braden, Freshman, 2024