Real Work in the Real World: Graduate Business Students Share Their International Consultancy Experiences
Posted February 11, 2020 by Hannah DeBevoise
- Coordinator, Social Media and Digital Content - AACSB International
At the University of Edinburgh Business School, the master’s in international business and emerging markets develops students’ understanding of emerging markets, and how globalization benefits businesses of all sizes in all locations. As a part of the degree, learners are required to participate in an emerging markets consultancy project, where they assist real companies with their goals to expand into new markets. Ana Bianco and Jayakar Aditi share their experiences working in a hands-on learning environment during their studies.
1. What did you find most appealing about the University of Edinburgh Business School’s emerging markets consultancy projects?
Aditi: The consultancy projects, a two-semester assignment, are compulsory modules for the completion of the MSc in International Business and Emerging Markets program. Although these modules were not up for selection by the students, rather mandatory, they were, in fact, what attracted me the most toward this degree at the University of Edinburgh Business School. The allure of working with real-life companies and tackling real-life problems to present real-life solutions was unlike any project I’d previously had.
Bianco: The project was a mandatory component and one of the main reasons why I was interested in pursuing this degree. The fact that we got to engage with real businesses and projects gave us a practical experience of doing business in emerging markets.
During my undergraduate studies, as well as my MBA
, I had the opportunity to learn and study extensive theoretical concepts and, at the most, was able to apply them to case studies or hypothetical situations. Whereas the consultancy projects provided me with a platform to not only apply theory to practice but to do so with actual interaction with corporations and their employees. Moreover, as students, it was exciting to be able to see a live organization benefit from the solutions we provided.
2. What organization did you work with during the project?
Bianco: During the first semester we worked with a Colombian computer software company that wanted to enter a developed market, specifically the United Kingdom.
During the second semester my group worked with a Scottish company that manufactures health monitoring products for livestock. The company wanted to internationalize to China.
Aditi: During the consultancy project in semester one, we were expected to aid firms from emerging markets with their business in developed countries. This could either be an entry strategy for a company to enter a developed market or solutions to current problems faced by firms already in a developed market. The company my team and I worked with was Colcafé of Colombia. They were a big name in the Colombian market but were struggling with their sales in the U.K. Our objective was to provide Colcafé with strategies that would lead to higher sales volumes and market share in the U.K.
In the subsequent semester, students worked with small and medium enterprises from the U.K. and aided them in either entering or optimizing their business in emerging markets. My team worked with Dawnfresh, a popular seafood provider in the U.K. Dawnfresh was looking to expand their business to India and was in need of an entry strategy based on extensive market analysis.
3. As a student working with a real company, what skills did your business education give you that enabled you to help the company?
Aditi: The students were provided with all-round support by the university while interacting with clients. The student development team worked with students on their soft skills, while the course material provided us with a strong theoretical foundation. The companies were introduced to us in advance, which helped us understand the organization we were working with and collect crucial information from secondary sources. During the course, students were provided with support from the university teaching assistants, who guided us every step of the way and held regular meetings with us to monitor our progress. Professors also made sure that students were able to maintain regular contact with the clients, ensuring a smooth process. During the consultancy projects in the second semester, students had the opportunity to visit client sites and procure as much information as they needed from the firm and their employees.
Bianco: The theoretical courses gave us an understanding of the emerging market business environment. I believe this helped us in better understanding our clients’ needs and the challenges they face when operating in emerging markets.
4. What new knowledge or skills did you acquire while working with the consultancy projects?
Bianco: Understanding the main goal of the project and the client’s priorities was crucial for our success. Always having this in mind simplified our work and allowed us to add more value to the company. For instance, for our project with the Scottish organization that manufactures health technology for livestock, the company was really concerned about the regulatory aspects of doing business in China, so we paid special attention to this point. Also, since we had Chinese teammates, we took advantage of their language knowledge and their connections to access more relevant information. Moreover, given the complexity and variety of industries we worked with, we learned that an understanding of the industry was also important. Some were very niche products or services; therefore, the data or information was limited. In this case we were challenged to make broad assumptions in order to deliver our conclusions to the clients.
Aditi: Interacting with real clients has really bolstered my confidence. The projects provided me with experience that I can now apply to my career. Moreover, working with clients from different countries has enabled me to be more culturally sensitive and empathetic toward people coming from different backgrounds. We needed to be extra adaptable and flexible while working with our Colombian clients, given the different time zones we would operate in. Working with a company located on another continent has also fine-tuned my technological and virtual interaction skills. Both the projects have also helped me gain and further develop analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills, among others.
4. How did working with the emerging markets consultancy project enhance your view of business as a global industry?
Aditi: Globalization has had a great impact on the way businesses function and grow. This concept has always fascinated me, which led me to do my master’s in international business. However, globalization has affected different firms and different industries differently. A “one size fits all” approach seldom works in the business world. Companies require curated solutions and strategies based on their position in the market as well as external factors such as competitors, market characteristics, and others. Moreover, transferring a company’s operations across borders does not always constitute a truly international business model. An in-depth understanding of the target market is also essential. Working with two unique firms from different markets, with different objectives, goals, and barriers to reaching their potential, has helped me understand the diversity in globalization further.
The projects really helped us experience the true essence of international business. International business has allowed us to be more connected, but only at higher costs. Not only must businesses operating internationally have a clear vision, but they must also gain a good understanding of the market they want to pursue in order to be successful.
5. How did your experience as a student consultant impact your career goals, and if you are already employed, how did it benefit your career search/current role?
Bianco: Even though I did not continue a career in consulting, my experience as a consultant helped me understand business in a practical way. One of the main takeaways is that having a clear target market is more important than having a clear strategy of how to approach international business from the beginning. One must acknowledge that international business is challenging. Knowing where you want to go is important; however, knowing how to get there and what your priorities are may change during the course of business.
Aditi: I have always wanted to work with a consulting firm, and therefore was really looking forward to getting some real-world experience. I started a job with Accenture as a consulting analyst in January, and having gone through the two projects, I feel much more confident in my abilities and skills. I hope to be able to apply everything I have learned during my MSc, especially the consultancy projects.
|Ana Binaco is an alumni from the University of Edinburgh Business School MSc. In International Business and Emerging Markets 2016-17 class. She is from Panama and apart from her home country and Scotland she has lived in the USA and recently moved to Vienna, Austria, where she works as a controller for the EMEA region in an insurance company.
Aditi Jayakar is an alumnus of the MSc. In International Business and Emerging Markets 2018-19 class. She is from Mumbai, India. She is a pharmacist and hold an MBA. She moved to the U.K. in 2018 for her second masters at the University of Edinburgh. On completion of her MSc., Jayakar has joined Accenture through their graduate program as a Consulting Development Analyst.