The Practice Classroom

By Maxine Winston, Wharton Undergrad 2014

This fall, I took a course at Wharton called Management 251: Consulting with Growth Companies with Professor Eric Siegel. The class sounded like a perfect fit for me as a Junior interested in pursuing a career in consulting and entrepreneurship; the three-month long course focuses on a consulting project for a company looking to grow that students take on in conjunction with the Wharton Small Business Development Center. We had a lecture once a week in which we discussed real and theoretical consulting cases, funding options, client relations and case preparation. Outside of class, we worked on our projects, which ranged heavily in terms of client goals and industry.

My client was the founder of a mobile application with slow growth in a fiercely competitive, quickly moving market. As a consulting group, my team and I were asked to create a marketing strategy for our client’s mobile application. We spent most of our free time over the first few weeks on the project in GSRs (group study rooms) drawing models on the whiteboard and researching competitors. At some point in the process, we realized that we couldn’t simply come up with a marketing strategy like the ones we had seen in Intro to Marketing lectures or project revenue streams like we had in our Corporate Finance problem sets.

In order to help our client, we had to apply the knowledge that we had obtained from our courses to create a clear and cohesive strategy specific to our client’s needs because our project was ultimately to help him to achieve his goals. The more time we spent talking with our client (and as we better understood his product, his background and his goals), the more we realized that there was no generic formula for a small business to achieve success.

Additionally, the more we talked with him, the more we realized that our project was a lot bigger than picking up additional skills or earning another grade on our transcripts. Our work could contribute to the success or failure of our client’s new business. What was important wasn’t our deliverable per se; it was our ability to aid in the company’s growth and future success. In order to do that, we had to take a step back and really look at which aspects of our work would add the most value to our client’s company and would allow him to achieve both his short-term and long-term goals. From there, we could utilize the core skills we had learned in our classes to provide concrete recommendations for our client.

Through my experience in the course, I learned an incredible amount about how to apply my classroom knowledge in a professional setting. While my group and I had anticipated that we would be doing a lot of work similar to what we had done in our classes, our experience taught us how to integrate that knowledge cross-subject and with real-world situations. Additionally, I learned a lot about my own strengths through the course and reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a career in consulting.

 

maxine winstonBio: Maxine Winston (Wharton 2014) is from Boston, MA and is studying Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Hispanic Studies at Penn. She is the president of Big Brothers Big Sisters at Penn and serves as a tour guide, a sister in Sigma Kappa sorority and a Wharton Ambassador. She is passionate about philanthropy and enjoys cooking.