Global Management Consulting: A Retrospect
Molly recently took part in the Global Management Consulting (GMC) two-week intensive Melbourne Uni subject in Berlin, Germany as a group of 20 students over the Winter break. This subject involves working as a team of four for an assigned company and providing consulting advice based on a particular problem.
Taking part in GMC has been by far the most challenging and stimulating university experience I have had to date (although I must say, QM isn’t far behind…those t-distributions are to die for). Suffice to say, the program is a jam-packed, intensive two weeks, and you’re faced with a constant battle between work and play – after all, you are in a foreign country. As attractive as data research on global competitor analysis sounds, so is exploring Germany’s national treasures (aka beer, sausages and beer).
Having never been to Europe before, the idea of not only exploring, but also working in Berlin was surreal. We were quick to discover the famous German efficiency as manifested in reliable public transport and direct conversation with the locals. Beyond the tourism, we were also exposed to the operations of a German business. The entire Berlin GMC cohort was fortunate to have been assigned big-brand international companies.
Despite working for a globally-recognised listed chemical company, my group felt incredibly spoilt with the copious amount of attention we received. Since it was the inaugural year for Berlin as a GMC destination, it was evident that our company was excited to have on board a team of student consultants ready to give a fresh perspective. The opportunities and exposure we received was invaluable, and we felt as if we were undeservedly treated like royalty.
“Ultimately, the very idea of having young students from an international university was an exciting and novel opportunity for both parties involved”.
On the first day, we had a two-hour meeting with executive members who outlined the company’s background and our business problem, followed by a welcome lunch. Our client’s office was situated in the heart of the cultural ambiance, with the Berlin Wall situated right across the road whereby each day we would walk across a bridge overlooking run-down buildings slaughtered by graffiti, only to then step straight into a corporate office. We were taken on a day trip involving a flight to Frankfurt for a mock presentation with an executive, followed by a buffet lunch, and tour of the company’s manufacturing site.
After our final presentation, the senior vice president took us out for an intimate dinner (by candlelight – I kid you not) to celebrate and express their gratitude. In our initial meeting, the executives told us, in true German frankness, that the attention we received was uncommon for everyday employees let alone a bunch of students with – let’s be honest – little, if any, experience in management consulting. Ultimately, the very idea of having young students from an international university was an exciting and novel opportunity for both parties involved.
Now I know many of you Commerce students shudder at the mention of the good ol’ OB team assignment (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, perhaps it was so bad that your memory has opted for the wipe out method…OB…?) I have heard many a tale of that person who seems to conveniently disappear weeks leading up to the assignment deadline, however I can assure you that the GMC team project is not like that (for starters, that one person literally cannot escape). Each student within the group is driven, hard-working and committed to bringing their A game, and hungry for growth and adventure.
“To step back and be proud of our final product despite the limited time and resources… was an incredibly rewarding feeling”.
Whilst no one in my team knew each other prior to commencing the team project, we certainly did afterwards. The academics behind GMC do a great job of ensuring that each team consists of a rich combination of students who can bounce off each other’s skills, knowledge and ideas. My group, for example, consisted of two locals and two internationals (from Singapore and China); three females and one male; and a range of majors between us being Accounting, Finance, Economics, Management and Marketing – we were a diverse mix with so much to offer as a team.
The fortnight soon became a juggle of planning, heated debate and putting words into action, where we soon learnt that communication, time-efficiency and a strategic five minute break were crucial in maintaining that fine line between sanity and delirious laughing at air (admittedly, this did happen a few times). Luckily for us, we always had the incentive to really focus during office hours, knowing that there would be some sort of way to celebrate a hard day’s work. We were inundated with a range of adventures, from touring the BMW motorcycle manufacturing plant, enjoying a sunset river cruise, to accidently stumbling across the fresh produce market on our way to the locally recommended bar around the corner. Tough, I know.
Over the course of the two weeks, we were able to discover each other’s – as well as our own – strengths, weaknesses, and working styles. To step back and be proud of our final product despite the limited time and resources (or perhaps because of the limited time and resources) was an incredibly rewarding feeling.
Despite all the hard-work and sleep-deprivation, the fortnight passed by in an instant and it’s hard to recall the initial unfamiliarity of faces from the pre-departure seminar as this was very quickly overcome by the feeling of becoming one big, slightly dysfunctional family. For me, getting to really know some of the international students and understanding their different perspectives and opinions was in itself an eye-opening experience that is perhaps hard to actively gain in any other context.
Unlike school trips, where I had grown accustomed to having every minute planned and supervised to the dot, the freedom and autonomy involved in GMC was almost too much at times (what do you mean we can do whatever we want every day after we finish work!? *reaches for asthma puffer*).
Forget those pink & blue sheets, forget Lecture Capture and forget cramming 12 weeks of content into that blissfully relaxing week known as SWOTVAC. In terms of subjects, what GMC offers is on a whole new level where rote-learning will get you nowhere and over-reliance on textbook knowledge may result in a rude shock. The concepts and knowledge you have built up through your BCom degree only serve as a basic foundation because what GMC really teaches you is how to build relationships, develop interpersonal skills, and adapt to the real world. It’s the development of these soft skills that truly separates GMC from all your typical classroom subjects. You will find yourself thrown into the deep end and treated by the client as if you were a real consultant. Their confidence and belief in your abilities is slightly unnerving but brings about a sense of liberation that motivates you to give it your all.
For those of you who are considering taking part of GMC – just do it! The unique experience coupled with invaluable exposure to the inner workings of an international firm is an opportunity that leaves you craving for more. Regardless of which destination you find yourself in, the feeling of being pushed out of your comfort zone makes for an unforgettable and incredibly rewarding fortnight that will no doubt be one of the highlights of your undergraduate degree.