Consulting Skills to Life Skills: Lessons From a Class Project


By Marisa Farella

As a full-time Kellstadt MBA student with graduation around the corner, I’ve been exploring, with my fellow students, the various career routes that follow our big day. One route my program has led me to explore is consulting – at Deloitte, Accenture and The Cambridge Group, to name a few. The world of consulting is daunting but with the support and direction of the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, it doesn’t feel so impenetrable.

Recently, I had the good fortune of taking Associate Professor Jaclyn Jensen’s Consulting Skills course. This course provides students the opportunity to partner with real clients with real-world needs to deliver real-world solutions for the duration of the quarter. My group was honored to consult a small, female and Latina-owned sustainable architecture firm with their recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes that the company was looking to grow. This was just the type of exposure and familiarization with consulting that I was seeking within my program. The lessons my group and I took away from this hands-on experience spanned beyond our virtual classroom. Here are a few of those lessons.

Establish Clear Communication with Your Team and Client

The Kellstadt MBA program blends a generous amount of group project work into the curriculum, and communication plays a vital role in the success and outcome of any group project. Luckily, having developed strong relationships with my cohort colleagues, I was familiar with the different personalities and learning styles of my group members. This made for what we thought would be a seamless project experience.

But a few weeks into our project, our communication with our client hit a bump as we realized expectations around roles and responsibilities were a bit unclear.

It took facing this challenge for us to understand the importance of clearly communicating expectations, processes, agendas and more. To help us bounce back, we began having weekly touch bases and recaps with each other as we progressed through the project. Those regular points of communication were helpful tools that ultimately contributed to our success at the end.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Throughout the weeks working with our client, Professor Jensen was there to give us redirection and guidance. When we faced our challenging situation with our client, she communicated with us the reality of consulting projects: they don’t always go as planned.

Professor Jensen took on the role similar to that of a career advisor. This is a role you find in consulting firms and one that helps analysts and consultants continue to thrive.
When I felt like I wanted to quit, she reminded me that I have the tools, knowledge and resources to get back up, apply what I know and deliver success.

 Be Ready to Pivot as Needed

Our team members worked tirelessly to produce a solution for our client. We tried our best to go above and beyond to reach her expectations. When the time finally came to present her our materials and solution, she was speechless. Our client was a powerful, greatly accomplished woman who had a poker face like no other. What was she thinking? She hates it. We failed. No MBA degree for me! (These were all the fearful thoughts that went through my mind.)

When our client began to speak, we all held our breath. She said she was incredibly taken back by our deliverables and that we hit it out of the park. She explained that what we presented not only met her expectations but exceeded them.

Those fearful thoughts in my mind shifted from fear to fulfillment. This is why consultants do what they do. This why I’m in graduate school. This is why I chose the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

Overall, I learned that succeeding in a class like this requires you to be adaptable. It’s crucial that a team of students listen to a client’s feedback and apply the necessary and appropriate changes that need to be made to ensure the client’s satisfaction.

This project ended up turning into an opportunity I had not yet faced within my program. Without it, I may not have learned as much I have about myself as a professional, a student, a team member or most importantly, a consultant. It was in this course, with the help of Professor Jensen, that I strengthened my professional resilience. Add that to the list of characteristics us Blue Demons have.

Thank you to our client for your patience and understanding during the learning moments we had as a group, and thank you to Professor Jensen for the constant support and limitless lessons during this course. After all is said and done, this experience has definitely strengthened my desire and interest to pursue a career in consultancy.

Marisa FaellaMarisa Farella is a current MBA candidate and graduate assistant at Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. She graduated from DePaul University in 2018 with her BA in public relations and advertising, making her a proud soon-to-be Double Demon. In addition to her studies, Marisa has taken her love for writing and creativity a step further. She is the self-published author of her debut collection, “Truth or Dare: Poetry,” which is available on Amazon. 


Posted on

May 20, 2021