Josh: Before I joined TPG, I didn’t know which tools were common in the consulting space. I did know about Powerpoint and Excel, but I didn’t know about Visio and the VBA code people use. That would have been very useful information. At a broader level, I’d say I wasn’t used to big-picture thinking. When you’re in school, you always think about the problem itself within specific confines— you’re given a problem and your job is to figure out the answer. When you’re on projects, however, you learn to step back and think about why you’re actually doing what you’re doing and if this is actually providing value for your client?
Adam: Some of the terms and sayings commonly used in consulting were a little difficult in the beginning. After meetings, I’d write down a number of terms I heard used and didn’t know, and then I’d either ask someone what they meant or look it up myself. I was able to get some help from the team I worked with, but Google was also very helpful. I found blog posts and lists of terms and phrases early on, and it helped clarify a lot going forward. As time passed, I’d catch people saying the things I had read about and I was able to pinpoint exactly what they were referring to. That reading gave me a head start, so I wasn’t just the intern listening silently to what everyone was saying. I was able to not only understand but also move forward from just understanding to providing my own input to the team.
Josh: The biggest skill for me would be big-picture thinking as discussed previously. That’s something you don’t really learn in class and I’m excited to be taking that back to school with me. I think it will be useful in helping me realize where things will affect my career, and how I can best use the concepts I’m learning at school. I’d also say communication, in terms of sending emails, talking to clients, any presentations I give or even anyone I need to interact with professionally on campus.
Adam: I developed key technical skills here— specifically data analysis and process mapping. As a chemical engineer, I had used process mapping before but only for chemical processes. I transitioned from chemicals to business processes and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. But I did learn about decision-making and things other than “Is this chemical at 300 degrees celsius? If not, it gets sent somewhere.” Current State Business Process Mapping is more about how an employee actually does their job, as opposed to the standardized expectation. It was really cool to see how an entire organization interacted and to see how the supply chain, for example, moves a SKU throughout their warehouse.
Additionally, I’d agree with Josh on the presentation and professional communication skills. I found those were tested quite frequently. In the beginning, Josh and I would check in with each other about emails and such, to confirm it was professional. It’s very cool to see how far we’ve come, and I know this will be very helpful moving forward, with professors, classes or future jobs.
Josh: When I came to The Poirier Group, I had experience in other professional contexts, but that was mostly in Kenya. I wanted to feel self-confident coming out of the internship, and know that my skills from school could be transferred into the workplace. So I think my biggest win is having that self-confidence.
In terms of things I actually created, I’d say the EPM or Enterprise Process Map— an end-to-end view of what a client’s processes look like. We had to have every single thing mapped out— it was such a huge piece of work and seeing it come together was a huge win. On a more personal note, I got to lead workshop sessions with clients which were fun. It was a daunting task to start with, but as I did more of them, I got more used to it. I would not have seen myself doing that a couple of years ago.
Adam: As Josh noted, client interactions were some of my biggest achievements. When I was mapping processes as discussed previously, I had to get information directly from the client and the only way to get that information was by asking them the right questions. I was able to develop my question-asking skills, which do not sound very important but are key to fully comprehending what the client is saying. All the interviews I’ve had with clients, some of whom were very eager to help while others were more hesitant, really helped develop these key question-asking skills. As a result, I find that I’m able to provide the best quality work.
Another win: I was working on a small team during the initiation study with a client. It was a huge learning period, and I was working really hard. But in the end, it was a lot of fun and we were able to provide the client with a product. That product turned into an 18-month long engagement with the client that I’ve been working on ever since. It’s really great to see that the work that we put in upfront has just set us up to have such a successful project moving forward, and being one of the original people that worked on the project is pretty cool in my opinion.
Josh: Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions! I was given this advice when I first joined too and I think it’s so paramount. I did this in the beginning, but if someone asks you to do something, you usually just go ahead and do it. Sometimes you may do it well, but it may not hit all the points they were looking for. So asking questions just helps a lot and ties back to big picture thinking— when you ask why, you gain a deeper understanding of the task. Sometimes the thing they ask you for may not be the full thing they need, and asking for clarification could help you figure that out and tie all the pieces together in your head.
I would also say Google! Google everything. Sometimes you struggle with the smallest things and just Googling it or getting a second opinion or seeing how someone else did it helps a lot.
Adam: I’d say: be a sponge! Like Josh said, ask as many questions as you can and write everything down. You might never look at it again, but that extra repetition will really just help cement those learnings in your head. Google was awesome as well.
Finally, know what you’re getting into if you’re going to apply. Working as a consultant is a lot of fun— you get to work with clients, you get to visit different places and check out different areas of work. It’s very exciting, but it’s also a lot of work. You might be working long hours occasionally or travelling more than half the week. That said, it’s very rewarding in that if you do your work properly, all your hard work does pay off. It’s great to see the client really happy with the things you’re able to provide for them with your work.
Josh: I think I’ll be able to see how a lot of the topics and concepts we’re taught are actually applied. In school, they’re more academic and want you to explore every aspect of a topic. But in the real world, there are only so many subsets you can apply. There are a lot of gray areas too, where methods may not fit perfectly. So I think I’ll be able to identify some of those practical topics and make those connections in school. Also, I think I will be more confident in what I do— especially with presentations and taking initiative with a lot of different things.
Adam: I’d say my organization and time management at school will be better moving forward. At school, you get the luxury of being your own boss, and you don’t really have anyone to be accountable to except yourself. So, if something’s due at midnight, you can just do it late, but as long as you finish it before midnight, it’s fine. When you’re reliant on such a large team and you have to get things done by a certain date, it can’t just be done by midnight. It has to be done by, say, 3 PM on the Thursday before. You become a lot better at managing your time. Applying that to school will help me tremendously, as will the professionalism I mentioned earlier, or being able to speak in a more professional tone to my teammates. Previously, I was probably speaking too casually and not getting as much work done. There’s nothing wrong with being friends with the people you work with, of course, but there probably was a lot of wasted time I can now avoid because I know what it’s like to have, not more work, but a more structured work schedule.
Josh: To be honest, I just saw the posting on the job posting site we have for our program at school. That said, I was always looking for a smaller company because I wanted to gain a lot of hands-on experience. You don’t get that at a lot of the larger corporate companies, and I was right. The experience I got here— there’s no way I would have gotten it anywhere else.
Adam: I actually heard about this from one of my friends. He had applied to The Poirier Group and he explained what the internship was about, and said it sounded really cool. I looked up the company and couldn’t agree more. So I sent my application in. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him, but fortunately, it did work out for me. I’ve never looked back since. Ever since I found out about this job, I’ve just been very, very grateful for the opportunity and it’s been a great learning lesson.
Josh: I would say football, or rather, “soccer”. I’m also part of the Consulting Club at school, but I don’t think that counts as a hobby.
Adam: Recently, over the course of the pandemic, I’ve grown serious about mental health and I’ve taken steps to improve mine. I’ve been meditating almost every day. Sometimes, you do get busy and you forget to, but I had a two-month period where I meditated every day. So I do try to do that consistently, and that’s a practice I picked up over the pandemic that I plan on doing for the rest of my life. I’m pretty passionate about it and I’ll talk to you all day about it if you want.