Consulting Clinic Challenges MSF Students
On Friday, October 13, Doug Martin (MSF’15) stood in front of the incoming cohort of Georgetown McDonough’s Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program, charged with imparting advice to the new class. Four years ago, he was in the same shoes as those 85 students — anxious to develop both quantitative and qualitative skills, to grow as a leader, and to undergo experiences that would shape his career path. Even though he graduated from the MSF program in 2015, Martin remains tied to Georgetown McDonough through the summer consulting clinic that he helped build.
Now heading into its third iteration, the seven-week MSF consulting clinic enables students to gain practical consulting experience while maintaining their full-time jobs. The clinic is part of Georgetown McDonough’s larger MSF consulting track, the goal of which is to give students exposure to consulting as a career, build a network within the field, and sharpen their skills to develop new perspectives and showcase mastery of finance. It occurs between the first and second year of the MSF program.
“The summer consulting clinic serves as a pivotal experience within the consulting track,” said Allan Eberhart, Professor of Finance and founding director of the MSF program. “The format has been so successful that we’re considering adding clinics in different industry areas in the future.”
For the past two years, clinic participants have worked with Deloitte, a relationship largely driven by Martin, who currently is a consultant at the firm. Martin works closely with Bill Spinard, who serves as an executive in residence for the MSF program and who manages the clinic, and Tom Stowell, the director of the MSF Career Management Center. Due to a robust interest in consulting from the MSF students, Spinard and Stowell contacted Martin with the idea for a hands-on experience.
At the beginning of the clinic, students are assigned a case, checking in regularly with Spinard and Martin throughout the process. Last summer, one case required the students to review two tech companies and assess the pros and cons of a potential acquisition of these organizations by the partner firm. The students completed a valuation of the companies and presented their recommendation for a fair purchase price. They also assessed the potential synergies and challenges of merging corporate cultures and functions.
Thus far, all the cases revolve around whether a large consulting firm, such as Deloitte, should make a strategic acquisition. Acquisition targets have included analytics services and digital marketing firms. Students have several weeks to work through the case, and the clinic culminates with a presentation to Martin and his Deloitte colleagues, where students report their findings, answer questions from the consultants, and get feedback on their delivery, analysis, and approach to the case.
“The most challenging aspect was probably pulling together and rehearsing our final presentation,” said Stu Van Dusen (MSF’18). “Though the distance between our team members didn’t cause any problems in discussing or progressing analysis, it did make it difficult to coordinate a live presentation. I think we all appreciated that this obstacle was reflective of reality and another good learning experience.”
Through the experience, Van Dusen learned that a career in consulting is marked by ever-changing variables.
“One of my biggest takeaways from the experience was the challenge of finding reliable information in the real world versus an academic context,” he said. “When you’re engaged in a real-world project, the information is not provided to you and it isn’t static, so even your most basic assumptions are always in flux. That forced us to take a deeper analysis of the numbers we were working with, which is where a lot of learning happened.”
His favorite part of the clinic, however, was building deeper connections with his fellow MSF classmates.
“Even though the members of our team were based all over the world, we were still able to coordinate well on a complex project in a short period of time. Everyone brings a different background to the program, and it was rewarding to hear those perspectives influence the direction of the project,” Van Dusen said.
As for Martin, he and his colleagues greatly enjoy participating in the clinic. He sees it as an opportunity to build a stronger relationship between Deloitte and the MSF program, further engage Georgetown alumni, and create a robust recruiting pool for the firm. The clinic has created significant interest from both MSF students and Deloitte consultants, and Martin is already looking toward summer 2018. “There’s definitely appetite and real momentum behind it,” Martin said.
Stowell also has enjoyed seeing the clinic come to fruition. “It has been wonderful to see the growth and skill progression of consulting clinic participants as they tackle challenging business cases on behalf of our partner firms,” he said. “I have been so impressed with the dedication of our students and the receptiveness of our consulting firm partners to this program. This is truly a transformative and collaborative program and only gets better each year.”