As second years in our final semester of the Wisconsin MBA, Marketing Analytics and Insights students are required to take the Marketing Consulting Practicum. This is a four-unit course where we pair off with another class member to work on a semester-long project and essentially serve as consultants to companies such as Microsoft, SC Johnson, and American Family Insurance. This semester, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a consultant to PsiAN, a non-profit that is dedicated to advocating for psychotherapies of depth, insight, and relationship.
One of the benefits I’ve found from taking this class is being able to gain first-hand experience executing research. As most Nielsenites leave Wisconsin, they usually end up landing positions on the client side, where research execution tends to be outsourced to suppliers. While researchers on the client side do manage projects from start to finish, suppliers typically handle most of the heavy lifting when it comes to actually fielding surveys, scrubbing data, developing cross-tabs, etc. This opportunity with PsiAN has allowed my team member, Ty Vaughn, and I to get our hands dirty and do the actual work that our partners in the industry normally take care of. I now feel like I can better understand what “good” research is supposed to look like and I’m certain this experience will help me manage those supplier partnerships down the line.
Aside from advancing hard skills such as programming surveys in Qualtrics and analyzing data in SPSS, we’ve also had opportunities to sharpen soft skills. On a weekly basis, we communicate project updates to our client through weekly video conferences and sometimes need to express project delays. Delivering bad news is not the easiest of tasks, so I feel fortunate to be able to get this practice in during this designed learning experience. Ty and I have also become responsible for managing the vendor for this project. This has provided us with tons of experience in communicating and coordinating work with an outside team, as well as negotiating rates for their services.
While there is still a ton of work to be done before we finish the project, I’d say it’s pretty clear to me and the rest of my classmates that the Consulting Practicum has proven to be one of the most invaluable courses that the Wisconsin MBA offers. Generally speaking, classes that provide this consulting aspect provide some of the most practical learning experiences for students. It’s important to go to lecture and learn about new methodologies and business strategies, but without practicing on real-world projects, that information learned in class is not enough to set you apart from other candidates. The consulting practicum serves as a training ground, where students apply what they’ve learned, sharpen project management skills, and end up feeling more confident and prepared for their first positions out of grad school.