This article originally appeared on Fuqua’s Daytime MBA student blog and is shared here with permission.
by Sonali Argade, Daytime MBA ’23
As I enter my final term of school, I can’t help but sit back and reflect on how much I have evolved during the past two years at Fuqua. I entered my MBA with a unique background: I was a singer/songwriter and founder of a boutique record label.
On my first day of Orientation, I sat in an auditorium of 400 students speaking about their backgrounds in finance and accounting. I wondered how I would be able to translate my wildly divergent experience into a corporate context. My #1 key to my success at Fuqua has hands-down been the experiential learning programs, namely the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP).
My First Year with FCCP
FCCP enables teams of five graduate students to work with a client to develop solutions to a business problem during a 12-week period, almost like a mini-internship. There is a vast array of clients across multiple industries, from startups to Fortune 500 companies.
For my project, I was selected to partner with Deloitte to work for one of their clients, a non-profit company whose mission was to place more diverse candidates into internships within the media and entertainment industry. This match felt like it was created just for me, as it would allow me to combine my passion for DE&I with my background in entertainment, but in an entirely different context.
The opportunity to get my hands dirty working on a real-life business problem, and see the impact we were making in real-time, went far beyond classroom learning for me. On the first day of my summer internship after FCCP, my manager handed me an enormous folder filled with decks and data, and remarked, “you don’t seem phased at all!” It was in fact my FCCP experience that I was leaning on to give me the confidence to succeed.
My Second Year with FCCP
I was so grateful for what FCCP had taught me, and I wasn’t ready for my involvement to be over. Luckily, it didn’t have to be! I was selected to be an FCCP fellow, which meant the chance to source and evaluate new clients during the first semester of my second year, and serve as a mentor for a first-year FCCP team during my second semester.
The Client Diligence Process
If I thought being thrown into a new industry during my first year was a challenge, it had nothing on the client diligence process! Our team of fellows was tasked with interviewing about four prospective clients each. We needed to quickly understand the client’s industry, what the scope of their business problem was, and above all, whether it would make a positive learning environment for the first-year students. My prospective clients were across non-profit, tech, and energy industries, and it was an incredible learning opportunity to rapidly understand a new sector and assess a problem.
I was ultimately staffed as a fellow to five first-year students working with a food delivery app on a customer acquisition and retention strategy. In addition to once again learning about a new industry, this served as a unique chance to learn how to deliver value and guidance to my team, all while being a few steps removed from the process. During our fellow trainings that occur throughout the year to help equip us for this position, we refer to this as more of a “junior partner” role. While my first-year experience was very hands-on, serving as a fellow has given me management training, where I have been able to navigate client and student expectations, as well as shape team culture and processes. The learnings are vastly different, but equally useful.
Through FCCP, I developed so many hard and soft skills that will directly translate to any post-MBA role, consulting or otherwise. I gained experience synthesizing vast amounts of data, market sizing, conducting customer/user interviews, performing in-depth competitor analyses, improving efficiency and workflow, defining a project’s work scope, cultivating a team culture, and managing client and stakeholder relationships, just to name a few! FCCP also provides an excellent opportunity to try out a new industry without having to commit to a full-time role, and it makes an excellent talking point on a resume!
I truly cannot say enough about how transformative FCCP has been to my learning and growth at Fuqua. I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with and learn from my teams in both years, as well as the impressive FCCP faculty here at Duke.