Rise of Thunderbird’s Global Consulting Club

James Greene

James Greene

Guest Writer and Thunderbird Global Consulting Club President

Thunderbird’s Global Consulting Club has made noise since it was first created at the end of 2021. It has grown from its initial 3 people in the WhatsApp group chat to nearly 200 people. The GCC has also helped a number of people land jobs and internships in the challenging consulting world within the first year of its foundation. The GCC is also a great representation of the opportunities that Thunderbird offers to students that decide to act upon their passions and pay it forward. To better understand this, it’s important to show how a simple conversation can be the start of something big not only at Thunderbird but in business and life. 

My first semester here at Thunderbird started in the old Arizona Center on the 7th floor. While the new building was close to being completed, it was still under construction for session A of classes. I was fortunate enough to have had a cohort that was very inclusive and wanted to get to know everyone personally (Go Coyotes!!). Every day at lunchtime, we got drinks or food and learned about each other and what we all wanted to achieve. Just before Club Day, I randomly went to lunch with a classmate named Jacob Wagner. We started with small talk as he was an ex-special-forces-turned-monk sustainability guy which I thought was the most unique combination ever. We eventually made the connection that we were both highly interested in pursuing consulting upon graduation. At lunch, we talked about how I had wanted to go into consulting for quite some time but got stuck in sales and how he had worked with top consultants over the summer. We both agreed that we would join whatever consulting club the school had on Club Day. Later that day, we both attended Club Day in the Arizona Center kitchen only to find that there wasn’t a consulting club at Thunderbird. We both decided that we were going to change that, and in a big way as we both knew that consulting clubs happen to be the biggest and most active clubs at other top business schools. 

With the help of Student Success Director Adam Henry, we took the steps to make the club official in the eyes of Thunderbird/ASU. The process wasn’t too hard as it just took a couple of weeks to compile a constitution and then find a minimum of 3 people to act as leaders to get it approved. We wanted to make sure that we did this right so that it became a club that everyone knew about at Thunderbird. Something we were sure about was finding the right people for our leadership team as both Jacob and I were passionate about consulting and the great opportunities that it offered. Over the next couple of weeks, Jacob and I were able to enlighten our classmates further on the consulting world and the wonderful opportunities it provides. We were able to find 2 other classmates who really seemed to buy into our vision of creating the club at the school. When Anna Eades and Aditya Chaudhary came onto the leadership team, we had very little combined consulting experience between the 4 of us, but we were passionate about creating something that would benefit our classmates with endless possibilities. We were all committed and refused to be a club that just looked good on a resume, but actually wanted to provide value to both our classmates and the school.

Early on, we recognized that Thunderbird was really missing out on a great opportunity in the world of consulting. There are quite a few people who come to Thunderbird specifically for the opportunity of the Global Challenge Lab. The Global Challenge Lab is a consulting project that gives Thunderbird students hands-on experience in different parts of the world. With the GCL at par, consulting is embedded into the curriculum at Thunderbird and is the type of experience that most consulting firms truly seek in a candidate. Not only are Thunderbird students being exposed to the world of consulting in their 7-week projects, but they are also incorporating the cultural factors that come into play with so many multinational companies. This is something that many traditional consulting candidates lack and further sets Thunderbird students apart in the world of consulting. Our leadership team wanted to help students maximize this experience and have a fighting chance at being recruited into consulting. 

The GCC’s first event happened in November of 2021 and only had 9 people in attendance. Even with 9 people there, we were very excited as it meant the start of our journey to build something great at Thunderbird. Our first event was a brainstorming session in a small 4th-floor study room to see how we could provide the most value at the club. It genuinely motivated us as those in attendance had great ideas and further showed that there was a definite interest in having such a club. I will always remember those 9 people at that first meeting as it laid a solid foundation for everything that we had thought to do. 

Another thing that stuck out to us as we got the club rolling was the vast experience that all the professors had in the world of consulting. Thunderbird hosts world-renowned professors who have travelled across the globe for consulting and have worked at top firms. We genuinely wanted to exploit the knowledge and expertise of the faculty to move the club forward. Our priority was to get the word out about the consulting club and the opportunities it can offer. With the help of Professor Euvin Naidoo, we were able to put the club on the map in a big way. Professor Naidoo was gracious enough to accept the invitation to be our club’s kickoff speaker and explain to everyone “Why Consulting”. We were excited for him to join us in Thunderbird’s beautiful Global Forum to bring his passion and experience in the field to as many people as we could get. As a leadership team, we weren’t going to let anything stop us from making this the biggest club event the school had seen in a long time. We were so committed that the GCC leadership team pooled together to cater the food for the event due to budgetary issues as we knew how big we wanted the event to be. After an amazing event that hosted 90+ people, the GCC was on everyone’s radar and we wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible. 

There were jokes about how we wanted to utilize the same marketing strategy that the hit TV show “Game of Thrones” used with a bait and switch. For those not aware, the first season of Game of Thrones attracted an audience with sex and violence but then kept its audience in later seasons with the storyline. We wanted to attract people with free food, but then have them keep coming back with the content that we provided. We had grabbed everyone’s attention after our kick-off event and wanted to keep the momentum going, so we started hosting regular masterclasses and workshops to educate and prepare Thunderbird students on the world of consulting. The main purpose of the Global Consulting Club is to set Thunderbirds up for success when recruiting for consulting roles. Our workshops and masterclasses focused on networking strategies, the formatting of consulting resumes, case studies, email structuring, and everything else that is different from normal standard recruiting practices. While the CMC prepares students for recruitment at a broad level, we wanted to zero in on the best practices for the consulting world. 

One thing I have loved about starting the consulting club is explaining to people how ANYONE can be a consultant. I’ve had people tell me consulting isn’t for them as they are going into sustainability, tourism, or other sectors. That is when I further explain that consulting takes place in any field or expertise as long as there’s a market to be exploited- whether it is strategy, textiles, or even the non-profit sector. I know some consultants that specialize in such small niches, and I firmly believe that every single aspect of business or life could incorporate a consultant as long as you have something they desire, whether it is experience, knowledge, or even the right network. It is always fun explaining to someone how much money consultants can make as well. When I show people what consulting base salaries and signing bonuses are, they often ask me why nobody has told them that before. Now the hours can be long, but it’s a trade-off that many people are willing to accept for the pay, exposure to executives, and exit opportunities. I often tell people that besides the work and pay, the exit opportunities are the real treat of consulting. Consulting is the perfect place for those who are smart, like to work hard, and still might not know precisely what they want to do. Consulting gives you exposure to so many different business functions and industries in a short amount of time. Once you find something that excites you, I am sure there will be a line of potential companies waiting to hire you (if the client you were working with hasn’t already offered you a job!)

In the first year of the GCC, it has been humbling to see the club grow from having 9 people at our first event to almost 100 at some events. We’ve been able to expose Thunderbird students to top professionals from McKinsey and other firms as well as teach them critical skills for their professional development. We’ve been able to help students get jobs and internships at Deloitte, TCS, Infosys, and other consulting firms. Through our masterclasses and training, we’ve helped students achieve a new level of confidence with networking through cold calling and messaging on LinkedIn. Through these efforts, our members have been successful in setting up informational interviews to learn more about companies and the positions that are currently being hired for. Within the club, we are also trying to promote a culture of paying it forward. Upon creation, the leadership team knew that we probably wouldn’t reap all of the benefits that the club will offer in the future but knew that if we paid it forward, everything would come full circle. We hope to instill that mindset into all of the club members so that the Global Consulting Club can serve as a beacon of the best that Thunderbird has to offer. We’re grateful for the support and feedback that we’ve gotten from our club’s members on how to provide more value to everyone in the club. 

We have a long list of things that we would like to still achieve and do in the GCC before the majority of our leadership team graduates in May. This upcoming semester, we will be rolling out our first club project of helping alumni with their Australian multinational sports apparel company develop a sourcing and marketing strategy in a 2-part project designed to give the club members exposure to the processes and type of work that goes into the world of consulting. As a leadership team, we are trying to give our club members experiences that they can put on their resumes and talk about in future job interviews as landing a job upon graduation is the main reason most of us are at Thunderbird whether international or domestic students. While not everything we want to achieve will happen in our tenure at Thunderbird, we have compiled a list of ideas for future GCC leadership teams to work on to further improve the club as a whole. Hopefully one day, the GCC will have a case study competition team that will travel around and win case competitions to help fund the club as well as help their chances at receiving job offers from firms at the competition. It would be amazing to build up a strong pipeline with more key consulting firms to get as many Thunderbird students into the consulting world as possible. We’re hoping to develop more networking opportunities in the consulting world as well as partnerships with local firms to train the club through masterclasses and pro-bono work. We’re excited about the continued success and support of the Global Consulting Club and have big aspirations for the future. We hope to continue to build the club into one of the premier reasons that people from all over the world attend Thunderbird. 

At the end of the day, Thunderbird’s Global Consulting Club has been the highlight of my experience so far at Thunderbird. Through the club, I have made some incredible lifelong friends, further developed myself as a servant leader, and created something to be proud of. Thunderbird gave me the opportunity through the GCC to take my interests and passions and build something great. I would invite anyone who is extremely passionate about anything at Thunderbird to use the incredible platform and alumni base we have to channel that passion into something great from which future students can benefit. 

During my undergrad, my father would constantly tell me not to let school get in the way of my education. At first, I questioned him and thought that his statement did not make any sense, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. With the GCC, I have been able to expand my learnings in the classroom into real experiences that have further developed me professionally. With my development, I have also learned about the importance of paying it forward. At the end of the day, networking and relationships are not just about meeting people, but about the value that you provide others. Thunderbird alumni are a great representation of paying it forward as the majority I have had the opportunity to talk to have been nothing but helpful. I cannot wait to see what Thunderbird’s Global Consulting Club becomes in the years to come and hope to be able to give back however I can in the future. 

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