About Robbie

I'm a 2013 MBA Candidate concentrating in Consulting and Marketing, and I'm also the Chief Communications Officer of the Consulting Club. Prior to joining the MBA program, I was a telecommunications engineer for 6 1/2 years, most recently at T-Mobile. Outside of school, I like to dabble in many different areas of technology and am an avid bowler (no beer belly yet, still working on it!).

The Consultant’s Dilemma

It’s not always easy to get people on your side as a consultant.  You come in willing to work your rear off, but there’s a high likelihood that you either encounter a tough client, don’t get your recommendations implemented, or both.

I mentioned in my previous post that in the early stages of my experience here at Sprint, I met with several people from managers to VPs in order to pitch my project purpose and approach.  I was always introduced 1) as an MBA student from Notre Dame and 2) as an aspiring consultant.  While 1) was already tough to bear (assumption: interns don’t know anything), 2) was even worse.  100% of the time I found it necessary to follow up the introduction with a background of the 6 ½ years that I’ve spent in telecom, after which I gained acceptance.  Why was I encountering this resistance?  One person I met with said that “they come in with their fancy degrees, but they don’t contribute anything.”  Another told me specifically not to mention the name of a high profile consulting firm when pitching to other executives.  So why the hostility?

I prodded co-workers further to understand why there is such friction, and now I have a foggy background on my consultants aren’t received well.  Earlier, when cash was flowing a bit more at Sprint, consulting teams from various high-profile firms would come in, make a few recommendations, and then leave.  The decks that the teams created, while nicely done and well-researched, spent most of their time collecting dust on executives’ desks.  They never got implemented.

What’s the answer?  Though I can’t adequately answer that question at the moment because I’m currently straddling the line between consultant and industry expert, I do have a starting point.  I believe the answer is twofold:

  1. Consulting is a people business.  It’s about selling YOU.  Whether it’s doing business, making friends, or even picking up that attractive person at the bar, selling YOU is about displaying your value to the other person.  Find what sort of things about you that the client values and show how you fit into your work.  For me and my Sprint co-workers, it was about the time I spent at both Alcatel and T-Mobile.  I got respected more after they knew that I was “one of them” rather than some know-it-all from academia.  Adequately communicating your value will help get you to point #2.
  2. Participation is the greatest contributor to getting buy-in.  Ivan Raisel talks about this point in The McKinsey Way and a number of consulting books talk about it.  However, I don’t think it is quite emphasized enough.  What’s the point of detailed financial models, deep customer analyses, and beautifully crafted Powerpoint decks if they don’t get implemented?  Strategies will likely fail if completed in a silo, and participation helps mitigate this problem.

While I certainly don’t believe that there is an easy way to be a great consultant, I do think that this is a great place to start.  It can be hard to provide creative and sustainable recommendations even if you have the brightest minds at your disposal.  That being said, even with all of perceived futility that I see above, Sprint continues to hire consultants to provide creative insight and take on various tasks that they are unable to do themselves.

Sprint – A Month In

 “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer

First, a little bit about myself – I’m a 2013 MBA candidate and a former telecommunications engineer from one of the telecom hotbeds of the world, Dallas, TX.  Outside of the four years I spent at my alma mater, Texas A&M, I had lived in the Dallas area my entire life prior to attending Notre Dame.  Thinking that I had learned enough the wireless industry, I went to get my MBA with the full intention of getting out of telecom, but unfortunately I am just too attracted to technology.  The telecommunications industry moves rapidly, so not only does it take a tremendous amount of operational talent to keep the technology working, it takes a tremendous amount of innovative talent to envision and pursue new opportunities.  The former is what I was doing for six years prior to the MBA; the latter is what brought me to Sprint.

Sprint is an interesting company – it hasn’t been profitable in quite a while, and its recent history is littered with mistakes and bad bets.  Indirectly, that’s actually how I got here.  Dan Hesse, who took over after a failed tenure from the previous CEO, is a Notre Dame graduate.  A few years ago a program was formed to attract MBA students from the schools that he went to in addition to a few select others (Cornell, Northwestern, Chicago, and Michigan are the other schools besides Notre Dame).  The program gives myself and the other two Notre Dame interns here a tremendous amount of visibility and opportunity.  While every intern experience is different, I was able to essentially choose the area in which I wanted to work and select the project myself.  I’ve found myself in the Product Marketing team, specifically on the consumer side.  I have a hard time defining what the team does, but it’s a group that will swing  from traditional marketing operations to product development in the span of a couple of meetings.  My boss explains what product marketing is a little bit better here.

This past week marked the end of my first month at Sprint.  I can’t talk too much about my project due to my non-disclosure agreement, but I can say that because I told everyone I wanted to be a consultant, it is very strategic in nature.  The idea for the project was formed a few months prior to my start date, but my arrival gave it the gravity and resources needed to get the ball rolling.  Perfect timing.

Rusty: You’d need at least a dozen guys doing a combination of cons.
Danny: Like what, do you think?
Rusty: Off the top of my head, I’d say you’re looking at a Boeski, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever.

— Ocean’s 11

The first week consisted of getting acclimated to the company but also forming the framework and timeline by which we were going to create our strategy.  Week two was spent recruiting members of various teams in the company to join in our collaborative effort.  Honestly, that part felt like I was starring in the telecom version of “Ocean’s 11” – my partner and I met with managers individually to describe and discuss the project idea and framework, hoping we could sell them on the importance of the effort and the need for one of their team members to take part.  A couple of the managers were pretty skeptical, but the need for our work was very relevant for their teams.  Fortunately, we did a good enough job to get 100% participation from every team we wanted.

The last two weeks have been spent forming our problem statement and creating an issue tree, much like I learned in the Problem Solving course taught by Professor Bartkus.  Unlike the generalists found in many consulting teams, my project team consists of industry and functional experts with many years of experience.  With this type of team, discussions are extremely detailed and passionate, leading to very large issue trees (and thus, research to be completed!).  It can be tough to direct all of these minds into a singular effort but not rope everyone in so much as to stunt their creativity.  Over the two weeks in this part of the project however, the group chemistry evolved into a well-oiled machine.  We ended up blowing a huge whole in our original problem statement and had to form a new one.

It is important to note here about the importance that quick wins make on project momentum.  The project team was excited about the findings of the two weeks of effort, but none of that means much unless the folks with higher pay grades buy in to what we’re doing.  My partner and I recently went discussing our project to various teams again, this time to levels above our previous meetings.  We’re getting buy-in very early from executive management, and bringing this news back to the team has added new vigor to the discussions.  People can see the fruits of their labor.

We still have more work to do in the weeks ahead, but I’m excited to see where this all leads!