Consulting Projects: Creating Growth Opportunities and Sustainable Impacts

by Aubree Halusic

The MBA-SBP grabbed my attention immediately when I heard that a large focus of the program would entail real-life consulting experience. Personally, I always thought being a consultant would be the most amazing and rewarding job for two reasons: 1) you get to travel in most scenarios and 2) you spend time applying your knowledge to help a business achieve their goals. With that being said, consulting is tedious and complex, and I had never stepped foot in a consulting role before the start of the MBA-SBP – but I’ve grown to enjoy it so much that it’s a large part of what I want to do in my future career.

Here’s a glimpse of what consulting has been like.

Working with Local Clients: The summer was a busy time for me – adjusting to online classes, learning how to dedicate enough time to each class while creating my own personal time, and keeping up with the intensity of the program all became very overwhelming. However, the first client project with The Frick Pittsburgh, a local non-profit that inspires art, history and nature, changed my viewpoint and brought a brand-new horizon to the learning curve. I have always embodied a deep passion for working with a non-profit because of the missions and visions that align personally with my values, so needless to say I was thrilled to have a local non-profit as our first client.

As the consulting team, our job was to deliver sustainable initiatives and opportunities for success within the realm of the project. So, what was that like? Well, it was unique and uncomfortable at first. I knew nothing about energy and water savings, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, biodegradable materials, sustainable projects such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and all the standards that come along within sustainability – and yes, this all sounded intimidating to me too! However, consulting is all about learning your client’s needs, collaborating with your colleagues, and finding the best possible solutions to deliver the end result. And, for me, this was happening during all of my other graduate classes. It is fair to say that most of my free time became a large dedication to research, non-stop meetings, early mornings and late nights which all led to the outputs for our clients.

Teamwork and Individual Growth: Consulting projects in this program combine both individual and collaborative work – both of which I have grown to admire.

Individually, I have expanded my knowledge about things I never thought I would know, found myself dedicating more time to the program than I ever thought possible, and having fun while doing all of this. For the summer, fall, and now spring projects, I have been paired with the most incredible individuals that not only bring fresh ideas to the table but are always pushing me to the best of my abilities. The projects start with initial meetings about the scope of work, meeting times, and future deliverables. Once this is initiated, it becomes grind time from then on! The individual work consists of background, benchmarking, and industry research from the start. The teamwork then brings all of those individual ideas together and the end result is an extensive report and presentation devised from strategic and sustainable initiatives to help clients succeed within the scope of work.

What I’ve Learned and Worked On: Currently, I have completed two of the three consulting projects with my fellow cohort members. Here is a glimpse into my experiences, important learnings, and project findings for the summer and fall semesters:

  • Summer Project: During the summer project, my individual part focused mostly on sustainable energy initiatives in which I knew absolutely nothing about at first. Through research and connections in the energy sector, I was able to conduct a financial analysis and projection of solar panels and roof arrays for The Frick Pittsburgh’s main building. These findings were more than a small adjustment but provided future environmental savings and cost mitigations to the organization. Our group initiatives were formulated into a three-pronged approach including reusable dinnerware, a sustainable education aspect, and renewable energy.

    Takeaways: This project made it clear that my passion for working with others and taking on a new challenge shined through – and I enjoyed every part of the project, even the rigorous dynamic at times.
  • Fall Project: When the fall semester arrived, I had a much greater awareness of sustainable business practices within energy, but our new project focus for the company was on supply chain. As a marketing major with minors in finance and economics, I knew very little about supply chains and the processes occurring within them. So again, this avenue was a bit uncomfortable at first. Through the same initial meetings and research, my team and I were able to apply sustainable supply chain concepts to our scope of work. These included value-added metrics for success while reducing environmental, social and economic risk and integrating industry leading supply chain practices.

    Takeaways: I now have an entirely new appreciation for supply chain processes which begin with the extraction of raw materials from the Earth, moving to the final product stages, and then eventually those products are discarded after the end of their useful life. I am confident in the many ways supply chains can be successful financially and environmentally through processes such as upcycling, cradle-to-cradle (C2C) design, and other practices learned throughout these projects and program.

What Now? … As I shared at the start, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of consulting. As I’ve had actual consulting project experience, I’ve learned new ways of thinking and opened up new career possibilities. It may take some time to get there, but I am eager to put my best foot forward and get to work. These projects brought me a realization of my likes and dislikes and therefore, has helped me in my job search. Presently, my interests have piqued within the supply chain, green building, energy, and sustainable agriculture sectors in which I aspire to continue learning about. Management consultant Peter Drucker explains that “The best way to predict the future is to create it” – and my determination to be a part of that creation through sustainable business practices is here to stay.