Consulting has been stereotyped as being a highly professional field with long working hours and serious work-life balance issues. But what is the reality? Ten classmates and I uncovered the truth during our recent 2020 Consulting Career Trek, during which we visited four firms that conduct consulting services in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area: Facebook, EY, Optum, and Guidehouse. Each firm places a different emphasis on consulting, and a distinct approach and style in conducting services.
Upon entering Facebook, we were welcomed by Carey alumnus Will Castleberry (MBA ’95), vice president for U.S. state and local policy. Another Carey Business School alumnus led us on a tour of the open-concept workspace which emphasizes the interaction and communication among coworkers. The session started with a fun tutorial on the Oculus headset, one of the most exciting technology pieces developed by Facebook. Luckily, I had the chance to try it on during the session and was greatly amazed by how close the virtual space is to reality. After a brief self-introduction session, Laura Napoliello, a manager of public policy at Facebook with an emphasis on small business development, explained how Facebook has helped millions of small businesses with substantial sales support through social media. She travels to small towns to train small businesses on using social media tools.
It is inspiring to see how Facebook has been a revolutionary leader in building a connected network for college students as it was initially founded, and now a marketplace for small businesses to drive growth. But what surprisingly captured our eyes was the little cozy wine bar in the workspace! Imagine having a sip of wine while debugging late night in the office – what a revolutionary idea for making the workplace a livable place! As a leading technology firm, Facebook has really put the effort into transforming the workplace into a fun interacting space for all to enjoy and realize their dreams.
Ernst & Young presented a rather different work style in consulting. Charmaine Curtis welcomed us with a warm introduction, followed by a Q&A session when we had an opportunity to talk to three great panelists from Transaction Advisory Services (TAS). David Rader (MSF ’19), a Carey alumnus and a manager at TAS, spoke to us about the importance of being honest with clients about their situations instead of flattering on their achievements. Travis Lay, a manager at TAS, provided us with a detailed view of how each line of service is structured. Not only do we get a better understanding of what each line of services does, but we also see how EY professionals conduct their service following the rules and standards that are coherent with the company’s values – honesty, enthusiasm, and integrity to build a better working world by doing the right thing.
During the second day of the trek, the emphasis was placed on consulting in health care. At Optum, we learned first-hand from Michelle Yu, a consultant on the legacy advisory team, of how Optum works with payer and provider to provide the best-consulting strategy for each. As part of the United Healthcare Group (UHG), ranks the 6th of Fortune 500 in 2019, Optum pursues after the mission of UHG – help people live healthier lives and help to make the system work better for everyone – through strategic consulting with direct access to vast clinical database that covers a wide range of people.
While most of us had the concern of entering the field without a health care background, Jesse M. Scharff, the strategy practice manager at Optum Advisory Services, shared an interesting anecdote on how he had delivered a project on which they had no prior knowledge but still received approval from the expert. Through Optum, a driving force in building the trends of future health care, we have learned how passion and dedication in health care consulting could drive better health care solutions not only for a specific segment of people but for everyone.
We concluded our trek with the visit to Guidehouse, which recently acquired legacy Navigant as part of its consulting service line in compliance business process outsourcing and revenue cycle consulting. Our visit started with a brief presentation led by Crystal Ki (MPH/MBA’17), a Carey alumna and managing consultant at Guidehouse. She presented an overview of the firm and followed by a Q&A session, from which we learned that being true to yourself, being willing to learn, and being comfortable with changes are the keys to pursue a lasting career in consulting.
This consulting trek brought us a comprehensive view to understand the consulting world. Each trek visit lets us see consulting in a different light, which is needed in every industry to have a strategic approach in driving the best result. Two days of immersive experience to four companies have given us not only a fresh view of consulting that destroys the stereotype, but also a guide on how to position ourselves when pursuing our dream career in consulting.