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Wharton MBA on holistic case coaching approach

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

Yes, the program was very enjoyable and effective for reasons I have disclosed below in no particular order of importance:

• My coaches, Kevin and Michael, were very friendly, helpful and willing to step outside the program to provide additional help and suggestions. There was noticeable continuity between Kevin and Michael – it felt like I was talking to the same person each time, but with a different purpose – Michael was the hunter looking for ways to make me improve while Kevin did more consolidation to help me build on what I knew. This was an effective teaming and I have only seen this approach work maybe once before, but it can be incredibly effective when done right. Firmsconsulting has found the right formula.

• The program was very flexible and helped me learn the basics. That was a big surprise – I did not expect this. I had interviewed during my Wharton MBA internships and was declined by both BCG and McKinsey. I had about 50 cases under my belt, studied all the online material and used many other programs which I found online. It was only in this program that I learned how brainstorming, estimations, mathematical logic, issue trees, decision trees and hypotheses work together. The technique of not using generic/known frameworks is very effective.

• I always felt that FC was interested in my personal development. On three occasions Michael suggested we have catch-up calls outside of the 12 hours I had booked. I thought this was very generous off their time and the calls were very useful. We discussed a wide range of topics and I had an opportunity to test my understanding of the session.

• FC’s knowledge of Wharton and the MBA program was astonishing – to the point of knowing the training material and lecture agendas of some professors. After speaking to Michael, I adjusted my courses and felt the suggestions they made reinforced my understanding of consulting skills. This was an unexpected benefit of the program.

Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?

The program exceeded my expectations and I had high expectations. Several colleagues at Wharton and another at Kellogg had been through the program and spoke highly of it – I went in with high expectations. The program exceeded my expectations for the following reasons in no particular order:

• I received offers from Bain and BCG.

• My communication and analyses skills improved substantially after the program. I found it easier to communicate in class. Michael taught me the trend-driven hypotheses method which allowed me to debate with class members by stating my assumptions upfront and then attacking my class members on their assumptions. This made it easier for me to communicate and easier for them to understand me. It also gave me a mechanism to not be as reserved and shy in class. I had no problems challenging my colleagues whom, to me, seemed to have better backgrounds in business.

• My confidence rose substantially as well, and several professors commented on this and my friends also noticed. The FC program is designed to be harder, according to Michael, so that anything you face afterward looks easy in comparison. I found Michael to be a very crafty teacher who would design sessions to lead you into a trap which exposed the main gaps I had. This was a very efficient way of using our time. We never wasted effort on completing generic cases and we never used case books. Not even a little.

• Michael is always talking about values and until I joined FC, I never thought about values. It has profoundly altered my perception of business ethics. Michael says two things which stick with me: “If you cannot clearly outline the cost of having your values, then you have none.” He also gave me a great definition of ethics: “Criminal behaviour is when you upset a court judge. Unethical behavior is when you upset your mother. If you want to see how ethical you really are, go home for dinner every Sunday and tell your mom what you did.”

What was the most important learning’s from the program?

There are three significant learning’s from the program:

• Cases interview techniques are very easy to learn if you have the right tools and techniques. I would say it is also very enjoyable. In my previous attempts I was very frustrated since I was making no progress but practising with many ex-consultants and colleagues.

• I had a very low-level and technical understanding of cases and management consulting. Michael opened a far deeper understanding by going into lots of details about some of his past projects. This helped me elevate my fit responses in the final round.

• Communication, communication, communication. My family is in real estate and we say location, location, location. FC basically drills in the fundamentals of communication from day one. It is really surprising how little I focused on this before, but how much improved as I adjusted my hand movements, seating, dressing, choice of words etc. I once asked Michael how I should dress for the Bain mixer which required smart casual attire. He said, “Three words for you, Brooks Brothers Summer.” He is very sharp at getting just the right advice out very quickly.

Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?

The program provided many advantages against other training and my own preparation. I will list the main things that impacted me personally:

• Talking to ex-partners is far more effective than talking to less experienced consultants. I found all FC coaches to have a rich knowledge of the application process and how my application and cover letter would be reviewed. This knowledge went as far as giving me detailed advice on the way I should conduct my final round interviews in Boston, as they knew the partners conducting that interview.

• At first I found the resume review process to be unnecessary since I had gone through the Wharton career center process. I found FC’s approach to be very unusual and was impressed with the rigor brought to the resume editing. There was a red marks in each round of editing. My resume was reviewed 7 times and edited in each stage and the final version was more concise, achievement-oriented and precise. I received feedback from all firms on the quality of my resume.

• FC uses a nice way to develop frameworks for cases and also teach you why frameworks are needed and how to communicate them. The session on brainstorming was really useful to me and allowed me to see how concepts like 80/20, prioritizing, issue trees and hypotheses all fit together. This ability to develop frameworks with little context was the most useful skill I developed.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

There is no one moment that stands out. I think the overall FC experience is very memorable. The discussions on values and ethics still remain with me. This was unusual because I had never considered how important this would be to a consulting firm.

Michael made me understand that values are the main differentiation of great firms and not the consultant’s intellect alone. When I explained this to the senior partner in my final round interviewer, I could see him really appreciate this understanding I had of BCG. I would not have been able to get this insight without FC.

What would you like changed in the program?

The program is excellent and I feel should be continued. I do have a small suggestion to improve things. Practicing with non-FC candidates is really difficult since they do not understand how to do cases or why I analyse things in the way I was taught. It is painful to have to teach friends who have been indoctrinated in other poor methods they learned online.

I struggled through this and only managed because I knew some Wharton FC alums – they were rarely available so this did not help me a lot. It would be a really good idea to set up a process for clients to connect and practice. I understand FC’s views on client confidentiality, but I think this can be easily done.

The podcasts are an amazing resource. I think these should be made available on iTunes so we can more easily find them and use them. I would hope FC will continue adding to them.

Do you believe your coach was effective?

Michael was an exceptional coach because he really worried about my development. On several occasions he cancelled lessons, after we had begun, when he felt I was not ready. He was always polite and understanding and took time to explain concepts with which I was not familiar. I always remember the Kim Kardashian vs. Jeremy Lin productivity cases and waste reduction brainstorming cases. They really made me think about productivity and how difficult it is to analyse things we assume to know, when we really know nothing about it.

Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?

I believe all the sessions were tailored for me because we started the sessions by reviewing development areas and then built sessions to test these areas for me. I was initially weak at brainstorming and hypotheses development, and we focused on this at first, and then we did many analyses and graph cases in the latter half of the sessions. I felt the cases were chosen to reflect the work done by different offices where I would apply, and this helped me with the interviews.

What are your thoughts on using former McKinsey/BCG worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?

Amazing and it goes to show the quality of the FC program. It is truly first-rate. I worked with Kevin and you would think he would provide generic advice and just try to get through the time given his seniority. That never happened. We covered the points I wanted discussed and he took the time to discuss my profile in great detail. That level of attention from Kevin, Michael and the rest of FC is really unusual in an industry which I felt just sold 3rd-rate material with poor advice. I am sure we all have experiences of being made grand promises online and receiving terrible service. FC makes no promises but really goes the extra-mile.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for a great job Michael and the FC team. I wish you the best in the next few years and hope we maintain our strong relationship.

We have published the most useful client feedback. Our commitment to confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the identity of our clients and other confidential information, and we may alter details to prevent such disclosure. Some client feedback may be lightly edited for grammar, spelling or prose, though we never alter or remove any information. Clients in our consultants coaching program are forbidden from sharing sensitive client data with us.

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