The fourth annual Michigan Undergraduate Consulting Conference (MUCC) took place this Friday at the Ross School of Business. More than 360 undergraduate students and 11 consulting firms were in attendance. The conference served as a tool for students to learn about and explore the field of consulting and was an opportunity to connect with top consulting firms through informational and interactive events.
Nexecon Consulting Group, a student-run, not-for-profit consulting group on campus established in 2008 that provides consulting services to clients ranging from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies, organized MUCC.
The conference began with a morning welcome and an opening keynote. MUCC’s president, Business junior Gregory Cervenak, introduced the conference with a brief overview of the conference’s agenda, history and significance. The first keystone speaker, Ross alum Barry Neal of Roland Berger, a strategy consulting firm, opened the conference by providing insight into this year’s theme “Stamina: Mindset for Sustainable Strategy.”
Neal discussed the importance of sustainability as it related to acquired agility.
“Sustainable for the long term,” Neal said. “Agility is a hard thing for large corporations to achieve.”
He also explained RB’s strategy and process to help clients create agility they can establish as a sustainable advantage. RB assists companies in designing, executing and adapting their organizations to develop and expand in sustainable ways.
The attendees rotated among four workshops hosted by The Keystone Group, McKinsey & Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Boston Consulting Group. These consulting firms ran sessions including a range of activities and presentations through which students learned sustainable strategies to overcome business challenges. Students participated in simulated consulting cases and received specific advice for choosing a consulting career path. The event also offered extra time for networking.
Several alums currently employed by global consulting firm McKinsey & Company led the industry leaders’ workshop. McKinsey’s workshop began with a five-minute warm-up involving 20 pieces of spaghetti, scotch tape and one marshmallow. The McKinsey leaders challenged the attendees to work in small groups to build the tallest spaghetti tower possible that could support a marshmallow on the top.
LSA sophomore Dahlia Katz attended the event. She said it was interesting to see so much creativity in the building process, teamwork and end results of the spaghetti tower activity.
“When you first get a task like spaghetti and marshmallows you’re like ‘how on earth is this going to work?’ and at the end seeing everybody has something so different from the same materials … just shows creativity,” Katz said.
Katz explained there was a lot of wasted spaghetti at the end, especially in the groups who succeeded in building some of the tallest towers. She realized the importance of working in a sustainable way by always being cognizant of waste and other environmental contributions.
“In our world, resources aren’t always finite and you should always be working to use every resource possible,” Katz said. “Technology is constantly changing and (with) the way our world is moving forward, we have to be sustainable with our resources if we want to continue with the rapid pace of growth and technology we have.”
Next, there was a career panel of consultants from six different companies: Accenture, Huron, BCG, Bain & Company, Deloitte and Ernst & Young. The six panelists talked about their career paths, shared personal reflections and provided advice.
According to Katz, the age similarity between the attendees and the panelists who were recent University graduates was comforting and mitigated stress about the future.
“The best part is they’re really only a few years older than us, so it definitely feels like they were in our shoes a couple of years ago,” Katz said. Later, an afternoon keynote was delivered by University alum Ralph Johnson, McKinsey’s ombudsman for North America. The conference ended with a networking session.
Additionally, attendees competed in an optional case competition hosted by KPMG throughout the day. Thirty-three teams submitted slides for the competition. Ten finalists were chosen to present their decks.
Business sophomore Michelle Nee, MUCC 2019’s vice president of corporate relations, said the case competition provided her with practice and experience that ultimately led her to discover her intended career path in consulting.
“I think listening to speakers is awesome, the workshops are pretty interactive, but having the access to the case competition was really a good way to get some hands-on experience like building a slide deck and actually solving a problem and thinking about how you can brainstorm for a new idea,” Nee said. At the beginning of his welcoming address, Cervenak asked the attendees to raise their hands if they were currently in a consulting group, and then to do the same if they were not. More attendees were not part currently part of a consulting group, which helped Cervenak emphasize MUCC’s goal to democratize consulting across the entire university.
“Traditionally, we’ve heard from students (and) we’ve heard from recruiters that it’s sometimes challenging to have a broad reach of their recruiting efforts across the university,” Cervenak said. “MUCC serves the void that currently exists there.”
Business sophomore Alisha Agarwal, MUCC’s vice president of content, explained consulting often gets associated with business when it is actually relevant across all industries and fields of study.
“What’s great about MUCC is that you get to combine, first of all, 11 of the world’s most amazing firms, bring them here all together in the same place and then connect them not only with Ross students that otherwise have the opportunity to talk with these firms, but with people across the university,” Agarwal said.
Agarwal said attendees beyond Ross included but were not limited to economics, political science and computer science majors in LSA, as well as Engineering students.
Last winter, Engineering sophomore Aashay Mehta joined Nexecon to get involved with consulting and attended MUCC two years in a row.
“As part of the Engineering school, I’ve kind of had that quantitative background and I just wanted a way to apply that to business problems and strategy solving and I thought joining a consulting club would be the ideal way to go about doing that,” Mehta said. “I thought Nexecon was the best fit for me because it attacks a wide variety of problems across many industries from small companies, small local companies to large Fortune 500 companies.”
Cervenak said bringing people from all different academic units to MUCC enabled attendees to best equip themselves for both recruitment and careers in consulting.
“What I really encourage people to do is treat today like it’s their first day of the job,” Cervenak said. “We want them to meet people. We want them to network with people. We want them to learn. We want them to fail. And we want them from all of that to really become a stronger consultant with a toolbox of skills that will make them really, really successful in the field.”