by Fiona Teerlink, Guest Writer
I started my education at Thunderbird in August 2013 as an MS in Global Management student. Now, I am about to start my fifth trimester – the final trimester before I graduate from the MBA program. During my time at Thunderbird, I was fortunate enough to participate in a TEM Lab, consulting for the regional government of Piura, Peru, and during the consulting practicum, working with the African Development Bank. My involvement in various other on-campus activities, including my role as President of the Thunderbird Student Government and Co-Captain of the Foundations Team in Fall 2014, also helped me to prepare for some of the things I have done this summer.
In February 2015, I applied – online (!) – for a position with the Boston Consulting Group. In March, luck seemed to be on my side when I received a call from them, while I was in Amsterdam interviewing with a competitor, asking me to join their first round of interviews. From that moment everything moved very quickly. I did my second round of case interviews in Los Angeles and received my offer to join as a Visiting Associate (VA) for the summer just 20 minutes after my last interview. Amsterdam is where I am now and where I will be until I fly back to Arizona on August 22nd.
When I began my assignment on June 1st, I started together with several other Associates and Visiting Associates. Interestingly, all associates are from The Netherlands and have always lived here and all VAs are also Dutch and studying in the USA. My VA peers came from Yale, Columbia, and Princeton. Internships (called VA-ships) seem to become the more popular way of recruiting, while summer internships are still more common in the USA than they are here. The Amsterdam office is still quite international, mainly with everyone’s experiences combined, but perhaps less so than other offices. Our clients are absolutely global!
So far, this summer has been a fantastic experience. It has been especially interesting to see the world of consulting from inside such a big player. There’s the long hours, traveling to client sites, intense conversations, ridiculous number of people who are smarter than you and who have even cooler experiences (it doesn’t matter who you are, this will be the case) – everything I expected. What surprised me the most is the level of responsibility that you get from the first moment you join a case (client projects are called cases here; other firms might call them engagements or studies etc.). You definitely will not be sitting behind a desk all day just trying to find information. Instead, you will get ample opportunity to make an impact in both case team meetings and client meetings and these are exactly the experiences that put you outside your comfort zone and allow you to learn. I have learned something new every single day I have been here (including a lot about Excel…) but, overall, I would say I learned most about myself. Consulting really does mean juggling your professional and personal life and in doing so I learned three quite relevant things about myself, as my principal said: 1. I am very impatient; 2. I hate losing; and 3. I’m an insecure overachiever. Might sound a bit intense, but this knowledge has been tremendously helpful in prioritizing, balancing, and achieving those things that are most important to me.
Although I don’t know of any direct relationship between BCG and Thunderbird, I believe that anyone interested in this career should give the application a go (the case interviews are actually a lot of fun too) – this is an incredibly diverse place and interesting backgrounds are not only appreciated, they are sought after!
In terms of my own plans for the future, I hope to convert this internship into a full-time offer for after I graduate in December and then I also hope to be able to transfer it to a different location. So, at the moment, I’ve got a lot of juggling going on, as I’m sure everyone who is wrapping up a summer internship does. Every morning when I wake up, all I know is that I have no idea what kinds of awesome things I’ll be doing that day, so I’m excited to see where my last two weeks will take me!