Fridays from the Frontline: 3 Ways Fuqua Prepared Me for a Career in Consulting
In this week’s Fridays from the Frontline, Duke Fuqua Daytime MBA student Austin Ray shares how the program prepared him for a career in consulting.
3 Ways Fuqua Prepared Me for a Career in Consulting
By Austin Ray, Duke Fuqua Daytime MBA ’21
I came to business school with many goals for my personal and professional development, but my career goal was singular: I was going to get a job in consulting. I knew I wanted to solve tough problems for big companies, and I chose Duke because the numbers speak for themselves: the majority of consulting hires are at elite firms like McKinsey, BCG, Deloitte, and Bain. With the help of the Duke MBA Consulting Club (DMCC) and our Career Management Center (CMC), I achieved my goal and interned at Bain in their New York office.
Each day of my internship last summer, I was reminded how Fuqua got me there, and how Fuqua prepared me to succeed. But three things in particular helped make my summer a success: Team Fuqua, my Consequential Leadership (C-Lead) team, and one of the more underrated courses in our core curriculum.
1. Team Fuqua
When I first heard “Team Fuqua” as a prospective student, I thought it was a marketing ploy. But throughout my first year, I was consistently surprised by the ways Team Fuqua manifested itself. From classmates volunteering to tutor me in accounting on weekends, to one peer volunteering to cook dinner for everyone in the Black & LatinX MBA Organization in the wake of George Floyd’s death—the way that this community cared for one another made this group of friends immediately feel like family.
What I didn’t anticipate was how Team Fuqua would follow me off campus. On day one of my internship, a Fuqua alum reached out to me to make sure I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed. A Fuqua grad from 2019 also worked in the New York office and took me under his wing to let me ask stupid questions—like where I could find certain data sources and how to format my PowerPoint slides correctly. Throughout the summer, the Fuqua community reminded me that I wasn’t embarking on this new venture alone—I had a team of support with me, every step of the way.
2. C-Lead Teams
Working well in new teams is fundamental to success in consulting, and my experience with my first-year C-Lead team at Fuqua gave me a solid foundation. We all came from different regions of the world, with different goals for business school and for our own personal development. Gathering so many diverse perspectives into a small team room has the potential for numerous points of conflict—but my team never dealt with that. We bonded quickly and worked well together thanks to setting up processes early that emphasized honest communication and mutual respect. When we disagreed, it was over a task, not over personal feelings. We celebrated each other’s successes, and mourned each other’s hardships.
During my summer internship at Bain, I was placed on a team of what I considered to be consulting veterans. I was intimidated by their expertise, their rapport with one another, and the speed with which they were able to synthesize information and hone in on the core issue we were solving for. Although I had major imposter syndrome, I was comforted by an early realization: what I was going through felt very similar to my first days with my C-Lead team! Because I had sat in this same discomfort before, I was able to have faith that the imposter syndrome would subside, and that I’d be able to contribute to the team and to our project. The things my C-Lead team had done to bond quickly were easily replicated during my internship. And the skills I practiced with my C-Lead team, like learning how to bring in perspectives from quieter teammates or learning to be OK with being wrong, were critical to my ability to jump into this new team dynamic over the summer and hit the ground running.
Management Communication, or “ManComm” as we like to refer to it colloquially, is a core course on public speaking and executive presentations. The course is unique amongst other core courses for two reasons: it lasts two terms (a full semester) rather than the usual one term of other classes, and you take the class with only a portion of your section rather than the full group. This break from routine is intentional, in that it gives you more time to actually practice public speaking, and you get to do it in a smaller, safer environment.
After 12 weeks, I left ManComm feeling like I had a solid toolkit for building a public presentation, and figured I’d eventually lean on some of the skills if I ever needed to. Fast forward to an internship in consulting, and I was relying on ManComm fundamentals every day. I was constantly presenting to my supervisor, the partners on the case, or other senior leaders. Without ManComm, I would have entered every conversation with additional anxiety, but thanks to the toolkit I developed, I had the confidence to present effectively.
I had heard that an internship in consulting would be hard work, but like any self-aggrandizing MBA I figured it probably wouldn’t be that tough. It turns out I was wrong. But although an internship in consulting really is hard, having the Fuqua experience beforehand makes it a little easier. The support from Team Fuqua and the skills developed while at Duke lay a solid foundation for success, and I’m so grateful to have Team Fuqua by my side—now and for the rest my career.