Updated: Jul 7, 2021
The very first Undergraduate Consulting Conference took place at the Schulich School of Business in 2014. Room N109 filled up with a crowd of mostly Schulich students, a handful of corporate representatives and a small SCC executive team pacing nervously as they lead the club into uncharted territory.
Almost four years later, UCC has grown into one of the most anticipated events of the year. The 2017 Undergraduate Consulting Conference took place over two days, switching locations between Schulich and the stunning St. James Cathedral in downtown Toronto. Delegates from 7 schools across the province learned from keynote speakers from TD and IBM, panelists from Accenture, McKinsey, Monitor Deloitte and BCG, and workshops hosted by IBM, McKinsey, Monitor Deloitte, Doblin, P&G and RBI.
UCC 2017 provided us with countless insights into the future of the consulting industry. Here are 5 of the most impactful lessons we learned from this year’s conference:
1) Reinvent yourself.
In a world where information is ubiquitous, it can be challenging for consultants to provide value to clients. According to our keynote speaker Connie Bonello (IBM), the days of by-the-book “Android consultants” and experienced-based “grey hair consultants” are over. It’s no longer enough to simply provide clients with problem-solving frameworks or recount what others in the industry are doing. The new wave of consulting recruits need to be “brain surgeons” - they have to be comfortable approaching each individual problem in a unique way. This requires high levels of resourcefulness and intellectual creativity, as well as the confidence to tackle “first-of-a-kind” cases from new, emerging industries.
2) Innovate at every step of the business.
If you’ve ever worked on an assignment that requires starting a new business (N*TA), you know it’s hard to think of ideas that haven’t already been proposed. Our former SCC Co-President Zain Roohi and his colleagues from Monitor Deloitte and Doblin taught us that “innovation” doesn’t just mean coming up with new products and services - instead, innovation can be applied at every stage of a business. Doblin’s “Ten Types of Innovation” are broken into three main categories: configuration, which deals with the business model and structure, offering, which includes the actual products and services, and experience, which addresses how companies interact with their end consumers. By changing components of any one of these three categories, Monitor and Doblin consultants are able to transform traditional businesses into fresh, new ideas.
3) Build life skills.
You may have noticed that there is very little “consulting-specific” coursework at Schulich. However, that does not mean that these four years can’t prepare you for a career in consulting. Learning about the different functions of a business will help you adjust to the variety of projects consultants face. Additionally, our panelists explained that the life skills built during your undergrad can set you up for success in the professional world. For example, strong time-management skills can help you stay on top of your work as a consultant. On the other hand, consultants often have to complete large amounts of work in small periods of time, which is reminiscent of what most students do with exam studying.
4) Be confident in your opinions.
When you first start out as a consultant, it’s easy to be pressured into not voicing your opinions because you feel everyone else on the project has more experience than you. However, it is important to remember that most consulting experiences are so unique that every team member starts out with virtually no prior industry knowledge. Our panelists pointed out that the biggest success factor on a consulting assignment is often not your experience level, but how deep you’re willing to dig in and research the specific industry. If you’ve done enough research, your opinion on a case is just as valid as the next consultant’s.
5) Take care of yourself.
Between the constant stream of client meetings, new projects and deadlines, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. Our keynote Connie Bonello stressed the importance of daily physical activity, eating healthy and taking breaks when needed. Consultants need to constantly provide innovative solutions to complex problems, so being in a healthy state of mind is good for both your work and lifestyle.
A lot has changed in the four years since the inaugural Undergraduate Consulting Conference. Our entire team at SCC would like to thank all our members, delegates, sponsors and alumni for helping make UCC 2017 a resounding success. With your continued support and the efforts of future SCC executives, we’re hopeful that the event will continue to grow year after year.