Tag Archives: Consulting & Business Development Center

Why a career in consulting is for me

Megan Sevigny (BA 2015) reflects on her experience as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting & Business Development Center.

At the beginning of this summer I had a small panic attack, which I am told is fairly common among incoming college seniors: I was certain I was making all the wrong life choices, and that I would be floundering helplessly after graduation. Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to wallow in my panic because I almost immediately started as a summer student consultant with the Consulting & Business Development Center. Luckily for me, my internship was the perfect tranquilizer for my panic attack because it led me to realize that not only do I want to pursue a career in consulting after college graduation, but I am being well prepared to pursue that goal with confidence.

Megan Sevigny
Student consultant Megan Sevigny (BA 2015) with Justin Christensen from RE Powell after presenting her final recommendations to the company.

In June, I contracted with a convenience store chain, an athletic club, and a distillery all from the lower Yakima Valley and the Tri-Cities to perform consulting projects through the center. My clients could not have been more different, but this diversity was what made my work so exciting, educational, and enriching. I grew up in the Yakima Valley and it was especially meaningful to me to work so close to home and to see local business owners bringing their ideas and passion for what they do to the community.

I can’t even begin to explain everything I learned about financial statements, liquor manufacturing, survey design, and athletic club member personas this summer. My family and friends are just about done with me explaining to them the inner workings of convenience stores and no one wants to come grocery shopping with me anymore because I spend far too long examining different products and what branding techniques they use. I have also developed a habit of interrogating any small business owners I happen across, about their career stories, passions for what they do, and their current business inner workings.

However, all these side effects, while not the healthiest for my social life, have proven to me that consulting is absolutely the direction I want to head after graduation. Furthermore, working and learning in the real world have shown me many of my own strengths and weaknesses and have served as a guide for which areas I want to focus my attention in my final year at school. My time working with the center has been incredibly valuable to me in so many ways. I made wonderful connections, learned so much about myself and my capabilities, and found some amazing support through the center and the business owners I worked with. I am eager to continue to build on my education and experiences and to move forward towards a career in consulting.

A Consulting Program Grounded in Experiential Learning

Jacob Mager (BA 2015) reflects on his experience as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting & Business Development Center.

This summer I had an amazing opportunity to work for the Consulting and Business Development Center as part of their Summer Consulting Program. I worked with three diverse businesses in the Seattle area: Plum Bistro—a vegan restaurant, McKinnon Furniture—a custom furniture manufacturer/retailer, and the CIDBIA—a non-profit dedicated to improving the business environment in Chinatown-International District. What I loved best about working with each of my clients was the true passion and excitement each owner displayed for their business. I completed a wide variety of task ranging from designing a floor plan, to orchestrating an employee meeting, to creating a branding strategy. This Program, although not my first consulting experience, challenged me to grow and learn like never before. I picked up valuable skills needed to move into a professional consulting career, and have highlighted what I consider to be some of my most important takeaways below.

Student consultant Jacob Mager (BA 2015) with Gary Strand of McKinnon Furniture after presenting his final recommendations to the company.
Student consultant Jacob Mager (BA 2015) with Gary Strand of McKinnon Furniture after presenting his final recommendations to the company.

Communication – I wrote emails, made phone calls, and presented ideas to my clients, advisors and manager. I was pushed to communicate more frequently, and because of the professional setting, more articulately than ever before. Each time I spoke clients I was expected to convey what I had completed, my plan moving forward, and to provide solid reasoning for every decision I made. This was much different than anything I’d experienced in class before, and although challenging, led me to greatly improve my verbal and written communication skills.

Relationships – I discovered the power of building close personal relationships in a professional setting. Because clients trusted me with sensitive information and were open about their concerns and goals, I was able to more efficiently address their needs and tackle additional problem areas. Ultimately, these close relationships not only made for a more enjoyable working experience, but motivated me to significantly increase both the quality and quantity of my work.

Work Ethic – As a student, it was both inspiring and empowering to get an opportunity to impact real life businesses. In doing so, I was compelled to provide thorough, quality work, and to put in the long, sometimes stressful hours needed. By being required to deliver results under deadline, just like you would in a real consulting position, I learned that long hours aren’t as hard as they seem when you feel your work has real value.

After completing this Program, I gained valuable skills and strengthened my conviction to choose a career as a consultant. I loved the diversity of my work and the opportunity to constantly learn. Each day was filled with new challenges, and knowing that my work would have a real impact kept me highly motivated. I became a better communicator, strengthened my work ethic, and learned how to build personal relationships within a professional context. I’m extremely grateful to have had this opportunity and know that it will greatly benefit me as I move forward into a career.

Having a real impact

Gabriel Heckt (BBA 2016) reflects on his experience as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting & Business Development Center.

One of the most unique aspects of the Consulting & Business Development Center’s Summer Consulting Program, and one of the reasons I’m most grateful for having participated in it, is the amount of true creative freedom and independence that is given to  each summer consultant. When I was first reading the description for the position, which outlined a student simultaneously consulting with three small businesses and personally constructing recommendations that would really improve them, I was skeptical. Most short-term business opportunities for students that I had heard of up to that point seemed to involve repetitive grunt work without much room to manage oneself or have a real impact.

Student consultant Gabriel Heckt (BBA 2016) with client Tonyia Smith, owner of Silver Slice Bakery in Seattle.
Student consultant Gabriel Heckt (BBA 2016) with client Tonyia Smith, owner of Silver Slice Bakery in Seattle.

What I experienced this summer was widely different from that perception. As the first few days of orientation began to wrap up, I realized that each student consultant would be individually responsible for their businesses, and the strategies we would eventually present would be all our own. I had to build everything from the ground up: outlining my own projects, carrying out my own research, and forming my own recommendations. I received excellent training and ongoing support from the center and a professional consultant advisor, but ultimately the finished product that would be used by the companies would be my creation. Although this created considerable pressure to create effective recommendations that could be actually used by the companies, the reward of having a real, tangible impact on these small businesses was immense, and is another reason why this program really stands apart from others.

This summer I worked with a gluten-free bakery, a specialty hair care salon, and a clothing boutique, all with their own diverse backgrounds and challenges. I really enjoyed connecting with all of these businesses and getting to know the owners over the course of the program. Working with real people and their livelihoods required my best work to deliver solutions that really addressed the challenges outlined at the beginning. It was incredibly satisfying to hear these owners excited to put the strategies I had created into effect in order to help their businesses.

The wide range of challenges presented to me over the course of the summer pushed me to expand my knowledge of business and step outside my comfort zone. The fact that I had to simultaneously construct a public relations campaign, recreate a website, and streamline a business’s infrastructure meant I was constantly learning new skills, testing new strategies, and improving my time management by leaps and bounds.

The Summer Consulting Program was an amazing opportunity that I recommend every business student apply for. The combination of extensive responsibility, positive pressure to improve, and the tangible impact of my work really made it the most significant experience of my undergraduate business career thus far, and a key part of my journey to becoming a professional consultant.

“Is a career in consulting the right choice for me?”

Faith Katsman (BA 2015) reflects on her experience as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting & Business Development Center.

As fall recruiting quickly approaches for full-time consulting positions, I reflect on my time as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting and Business Development Center. When I initially applied for this program, I did not know what to expect. I was not sure what my scope of responsibilities would be, how much independent work I would be doing, if a manager would be telling me what to do every day, or what I would learn from the program. What I did know is that I was interested in a career in consulting, and this program could help me confirm or deny that interest.

Faith Katsman & Mike McKinney
Student consultant Faith Katsman (BA 2015) with Mike McKinney from McKinney Glass, Inc. after presenting her final recommendations to the Yakima-based company.

This summer, I worked with three very different clients in Yakima: a restaurant, an electrical contractor, and an auto-glass professional. Working with each client was a unique and invaluable experience. One aspect of the program that could not be duplicated in a classroom was directly interacting with the clients. Interacting with each client was not only fun for me, but also helped me grow personally and professionally. Hearing positive and constructive feedback from someone you are directly working with on a day-to-day basis was very rewarding.

Working with the restaurant was especially interesting to me because I am passionate about cooking. Opening or investing in a restaurant in the future would be something I may be interested in. I was able to assist the restaurant by designing a new marketing plan to create a more loyal customer base. This afforded me the opportunity to look at the internal operations at a restaurant and some of what it takes to be successful. The owners were extremely dedicated to making sure everything was perfect, which I admired greatly. Working with them inspired me to continue to follow my dreams.

Each day throughout this internship was a challenge. I was encouraged to reach outside my comfort zones and think outside the box. Since I was given a lot of autonomy and not micro-managed, I had to stay organized and utilize excellent time-management skills to get my work done promptly, much like the real world will be. As this program comes to an end, I know without a doubt consulting is the right career choice for me. Each day at work was exciting for me, and I am sad to see it end so quickly. This internship has given me a great foundation to continue my desire to enter a career in consulting.

Congratulations 2014 Rotary Club of Seattle scholarship recipients

For the last 17 years, members from the Rotary Club of Seattle have mentored students from the UW Foster School of Business in their work to grow companies in underserved communities or those owned by people of color and women.  Nearly 2,000 UW business students have benefited from the mentoring they’ve received.

RotaryScholarship2014
2014 Rotary Club of Seattle Scholarship recipients (left to right) Jonathan Matson, Kelly Butler and Simran Singh.

This Program, provided by the UW Consulting & Business Development Center, also awards scholarships to participating students, which is funded by the Rotary Club.  The UW Consulting Center congratulates the recipients of the 2014 Rotary Club of Seattle Scholarship.

Kelly Butler, Senior
Studying Business Administration

Ellen Chang, Senior
Studying Philosophy 

Jonathan Matson, Senior
Studying Operations & Supply Chain Management

Simran Singh, Junior
Studying Information Systems

This year, more than 25 Rotarians volunteered nearly 900 hours of mentorship to students and their business clients.  This resource is vital to the success of our students’ work as they provide consulting services to their clients.

“The program offers a unique opportunity to work through ambiguous problems and develop creative solutions.  The stakes are significantly higher when your work has a real impact on real business,” states Jonathan Matson, whose student team consulted a local acupuncture company.

Jonathan’s Rotary mentors helped his team create a marketing plan for their client.  “The added dimension of managing a client relationship is another aspect that doesn’t exist in most of the work we normally do as students. This made the program much more rewarding from a student perspective”

“This is what makes this program a great learning opportunity!” explains Ellen Chang.  “You never know what to expect. Yet with the help from our mentors and advisors, we came out feeling comfortable to deal with uncertainty and a versatile working environment.”

Scholarship recipients were selected by their ability to demonstrated exemplary performance in the areas of team leadership, multicultural/cross-cultural communication, and application of business strategies for their client.

“This program can be thought of as a quarter-long internship,” says Simran Singh.  “When I go into job interviews today, I use this experience to showcase my skills in leadership, critical thinking, and ability to work within a team.”

Kelly Butler’s team helped develop a branding strategy for a local grocery store. “The UW Consulting Center offers an experience unlike any other offered at the Foster School. Students are given the opportunity to witness the struggles of business in the real world and are taught to think on their feet, dealing with day-to-day uncertainty beyond any case study or homework assignment. This program takes the material that other courses have taught in a vacuum, and applies it to reality; real people, real money, real risk.”

Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum opens

Fred Canady and John F. Robinson
Fred Canady and John F. Robinson

On May 13 the Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum was unveiled at the UW Foster School of Business Center for Consulting and Business Development. The Hall of Fame, founded in 2004 by the National Minority Business Council and the Minority Business News USA, recognizes trailblazers who have built minority-owned businesses across the U.S. Since its inception, more than 50 people have been inducted.

In 2013 the Hall of Fame board approached the Foster School and Professor and Dean Emeritus William Bradford, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, with a request to collaborate on the exhibit. Fast forward to almost a year later, a partnership between the Hall of Fame and the Foster School has been established. The exhibit is housed on campus in Mackenzie Hall and was developed in partnership with the Center for Consulting and Business Development, which has been helping minority-owned businesses succeed for the past 19 years.

Provost Ana Mari Cauce
Provost Ana Mari Cauce

At the grand opening of the Hall of Fame, Foster School Dean Jim Jiambalvo said he was very pleased the Foster School and the Center for Consulting and Business Development were able to form this partnership with the Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum. UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce said the Hall of Fame, along with the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, the UW Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center and the Intellectual House, scheduled to open in March 2015, represents the UW is committed to building a diverse community open to everyone. Washington State Representative and Foster alumna Cindy Ryu (MBA 1983) said the Hall of Fame signaled there are opportunities for everyone. She also cited the Washington State Dream Act (REAL Hope Act) as one of the most important pieces of legislation to pass because it makes college possible for people who are not legal citizens and creates a more diverse learning environment at higher education institutions in Washington.

John F. Robinson, founding board chair of the Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum, said that for the past nine years they have always wanted to find a home for the Hall of Fame and he was pleased it was able to be here at the Foster School. Then Fred Canady, chair of the Hall of Fame, introduced the newest inductees. Two of the five 2014 inductees are from the Seattle area: Firoz Lalji, co-founder of Zones, an IT company, and the founders of Liberty Bank, which was started in the Central District of Seattle in 1967 by business leaders who wanted to make more banking services available to minorities. The other inductees are Charles Timothy Haffey, former VP of corporate purchasing for Pfizer; Don McKneely, founder, chairman and CEO for MBN USA and Business News Group and co-founder of Billion Dollar Roundtable; and Margaret Z. Richardson-Wiley, former executive director of National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Yonas Seifu
Yonas Seifu

The grand opening concluded with Foster MBA student Yonas Seifu. He shared how mentoring and seeing African Americans in the engineering field, the career path he pursued as a high school and college student, shaped his career. He ended the talk by referencing the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” And he said, “The Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum is now part of the Foster School of Business village.”

Helping businesses reach their potential: Business Certificate Program

Ryan Mathews, principal at Fulcrum Environmental Consulting based out of Spokane and Yakima, Washington, reflects on the value of the Business Certificate Program offered by the Consulting & Business Development Center.

At the heart of Fulcrum’s values are our people. Our staff is our key asset, and our people are one of the most important things our company can invest in. This is the message driven home by the instructors of the six-week Business Certificate Program here in Yakima. Instilling trust and developing our staff, and how we lead teams or promote teams from behind, is very critical to our business success.

Business Certificate Program

Fulcrum Environmental Consulting consists of nine staff based out of our Yakima office and seven in our Spokane location. Our objective as managers is not to pit one of our offices against the other; rather, we term our company as a team to encourage performance. It’s us as an organization that is successful as we service our clients, as we try to provide answers to a school district who is experiencing flooding issues, or to a client who is just embarking on a construction project and realizes that they have all the wrong materials. We are about solving problems, and we achieve success as a team. Our team is developed to go out and solve these problems together. So, as you look at your staff, this is one of main ideas I encourage you to take away from this course. Success is about building your team to solve your clients’ needs more effectively.

The Business Certificate Program has provided us with the fundamentals and methodologies to unlock our company’s potential. For instance, our Board of Directors met recently to discuss our service area’s needs. One of the services Fulcrum offers is testing paint for the presence of lead—a serious health issue, especially for small children whose cognitive development can be severely harmed by lead poisoning. A new technology has been developed to assist in detecting lead paint, and we knew that investing in this technology was vital. Knowing we would need to spend about $20,000 in equipment costs and another $20,000 in training expenses, we reviewed the fundamental tools in the decision making process the instructors of this program taught us. Tools such as anchoring and framing our biases, helped us position our arguments on whether we needed to purchase this technology based on what are competitors are doing and what we could lose if we did not invest in this market. We conducted a financial analysis on this technology purchase to ensure it was a viable and profitable decision for our company, comparing cost vs. lease perspectives and even discussed abandoning the service area. Following our decision, we began to examine the ways in which we could improve our marketing plan to reach our target market and differentiate ourselves from our competition.

The Business Certificate Program is not only for business owners. The program can provide the management skills your staff needs to achieve your company’s growing goals. I am the sixth person from Fulcrum to attend the UW Business Certificate Program, and access to this type of continuing education will be the key to our company’s success.

Learn more about the six-week Business Certificate Program courses offered in Seattle, Yakima, the Tri-Cities, Spokane and Everett year round in English and Spanish.

Living your academia: marketing/management 445 class for undergraduates

Senior Ivette Aguilera reflects on her experience in the Marketing/Management 445 Class and Student Consulting Program.

Ivette Aguilera with Bill Low
Ivette Aguilera, BA 2014, with Bill Low, her Rotary Business Mentor at the Rotary Club of Seattle luncheon.

Throughout my time in Foster, I have lived through so many incredible experiences, including two study abroad opportunities to China and India, where I was able to see and experience major business practices that were very different when compared to the United States. I have also interned with PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big Four accounting firms worldwide, and this coming summer will be my third summer internship with them.

Growing up, I first wanted to be a doctor.  I pictured myself analyzing patients, checking their symptoms, figuring out the root of their problems, and of course finding their cure. After watching shows like Grey’s Anatomy, House, and other medical television shows I realized that the concept of helping others was fantastic, but the idea of having physical contact with my patients was not so much—yet I still wanted to become a doctor and that is when consulting became a true interest of mine. My patients would not be human beings, but companies; I would not be checking for common colds or flus but for holes in company’s’ operation systems and pitch marketing plans to execute. I would be the doctor for businesses, Dr. Aguilera; which I believe has a nice ring to it.

Unfortunately, after multiple conversations with consultants, I soon realized that in order to be a great consultant you really need experience. It isn’t something you can’t pick up from a book; it is a learning process.  The Consulting and Business Development Center offers students the Marketing/Management 445 class that is specifically designed to help students develop the essential business skills by having them be consultants for a real life company. It is an opportunity to get real hands-on exposure and live your academia, instead of just reading about it.

Through this process I have learned how to interact with my client, how to manage a successful meeting, and I have gotten to know the resources of the University of Washington both on and off campus. One of our most valued resources being the Rotary Mentor assigned to each group. My team has the privilege of having Bill Low as our mentor, and I actually would like to take this opportunity to thank Bill for his mentorship. Just last week we were preparing a survey for our client’s customers.  Our team thought our survey had well thought out questions, but when we showed it to Bill he opened our eyes to see that the questions were way too broad.  In order to understand the client’s problems we had to develop much more specific survey questions. Let’s just say that from now on our team is thinking a lot more about the specific details for EVERY assignment.

As I said before, this coming summer I’ll be an intern with PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Advisory Line of Service. At the end of the summer my performance review will determine if I get a full time offer starting January 2015. However, thanks to the Marketing/Management 445 class, I feel much more confident and prepared with what I am doing. What I’m learning this quarter will definitely give me a head start on my work this summer.

This class continues to challenge me in ways that significantly improve my consulting skills set. It has given me a chance to network with professionals who have passed down their wisdom, and more importantly it has allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them along the way. So thank you to the professors, the Consulting and Business Development Center, the mentors, and the Rotary Club of Seattle for allowing us, (the students) to make mistakes yet continue to learn from them.

Rotary First Harvest: adapting to new bylaws

Guest post by Laura Peirano, 2012-2013 Board Fellow

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Board Fellows Program places Foster MBA and Evans School MPA students as non-voting board members of local nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit agencies participating in the program reach diverse communities with different passions and interests.

At the annual Net Impact conference in Portland in fall of 2011, I met Benjamin Rasmus who works for the nonprofit Rotary First Harvest (RFH). RFH locates surplus produce, coordinates the harvesting, packaging, and distribution of it in order to solve two problems: leftover crops that go to waste and hungry Americans in need of nutrition. I’m very passionate about nutritious food and the food system in America, so I asked Benjamin if RFH would want to partner with the UW Board Fellows Program. We had a group meeting and decided it was a great fit and I became the Board Fellow.

As a Board Fellow for Rotary First Harvest, I attended RFH’s strategic planning meeting in September along with many RFH Board of Directors meetings from May 2012 to May 2013. As part of the UW Foster School of Business Board Fellows 2012-2013 Nonprofit Board Leadership Seminar, I also attended twelve hours of class sessions during which I learned about nonprofit strategic planning, structural analysis, effective Board governance, and changing Board structures.

In order to get to know the way RFH works first hand, I volunteered at several work parties to help pack produce at Northwest Harvest and volunteered at the local food bank. The Northwest Harvest facility is clean, with an abundance of volunteers wearing hairnets and gloves, working tirelessly while chatting, laughing and getting to know each other. I was impressed by how easy it seemed to package food for 100,000 meals in four hours.

The University Food Bank receives produce from Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline, so a portion of the fruits and vegetables there go through RFH on the way. When I volunteered at the University Food Bank, I was able to witness the supply chain in action, as well as the people who are benefitting from this nonprofit’s amazing work. After sorting donated produce and organizing it in the food bank store, I helped check out customers and bag their groceries. It was rewarding to see people who would not have access to this food without the Food Bank picking out their food for the week. Rotary First Harvest plays its part by making sure more of the food available comes from wholesome fruits and vegetables.

There are hundreds of nonprofits in Washington State, and only thirty-six of them were selected to participate in the UW Board Fellows Program. Of all of these strong nonprofits, Rotary First Harvest has one of the highest functioning and successful Boards in the program, which made it difficult to find a topic with problems to solve. Since RFH recently updated its bylaws, I decided to focus on the transition from the old bylaws to the new bylaws and on ways that the transition could be more successful. My recommendations include evaluating the level of Board involvement, using metrics to evaluate Board success, and engaging the Advisory Board.

Rotary First Harvest Board of Directors is a successful, strategic and nimble Board that has identified and taken steps to correct the problems that have arisen. The fact that the bylaws are frequently reviewed and updated shows that the Board is continually looking for ways to improve. I presented my findings and recommendations in May 2013 to the Board of Directors. My recommendations suggest ways that the Board can continue to be successful and even exceed expectations. It was a great experience working with the board, learning how a board functions and how their strategic objectives shape the success of the nonprofit.

Business classes help every dog have their day!

Guest post by Anna Ridle, graduate of the Consulting & Business Development Center’s Seattle Business Certificate Program

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Seattle Business Certificate Program (BCP) wrapped up after six weeks of educational coursework early this summer with over sixty graduates. We have invited graduates from the BCP to reflect on their experience of the Program; this is the second in the series written by Anna Ridle, Director of Camp Canine Doggy Daycare, Inc. in Mukilteo, WA.

Camp Canine Doggy Daycare, Inc. opened our doors during the summer of 2006. Our owner, Dr. Susan Torgerson, had an open lot on her land next to her veterinary clinic. She saw the market potential for a dog daycare and started business! At the time, Dr. Sue’s vision was to build a daycare that could service about fifteen dogs per day.

I began working at Camp Canine in January 2008 as a fun, part-time job while I completed my programming degree. In April 2009, I was promoted to a management position. I graduated in June 2010, and currently serve as the Director for Camp Canine. During the past two years, we’ve expanded the business to offer additional services, such as boarding, grooming, merchandise, and training classes. This year we are averaging 54 dogs per day, nearly 4 times greater than what Dr. Sue originally envisioned.

Because my educational background is not in business, I began searching for programs to help me navigate the increasing demands of a growing company. The UW Consulting & Business Development Center’s Business Certificate Program fit my needs perfectly. For six weeks, the Program offered a three-hour long crash course on different business related topics. We covered marketing, selling, common legal issues, leadership, financial health, and had a discussion panel composed of entrepreneur CEOs.

I have been able to directly apply concepts from each class to my job. I am especially thankful for Professor Leta Beard, who taught a workshop on how to market and brand your company. Not only did I gain valuable information from her marketing class, but she met with me after class and lent me resources to further my marketing education so that I could build a comprehensive marketing plan. Thanks to this Program I’ve been able to streamline processes and procedures, which has allowed me more interaction time with our staff, clients and the doggies!