Building Community with NextGen Consulting

There’s a new consulting club at Berkeley! What makes this club different from other consulting groups? Their mantra says it’s “inclusivity” and “transparency” – something that seemed to resonate with its impressive 70+ student membership pool, recruited in just its initial launch this semester! They’re calling it “NextGen Consulting,” and they’re striving to question the status quo of on campus business culture. To learn more about NextGen, we have with us Daniel Sheperd, the Executive Vice President and one of the seven founding members.

Let’s start with why your team decided to create NextGen Consulting?

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Daniel Shepard. Haas Undergraduate. NGC Founder. Life Changer.

D. Shepard – We created NextGen because we saw a gap between student needs and current consulting club culture at Berkeley. Although there are a ton of consulting clubs, we saw that overall there is a lack of access for those who are interested in the industry, but currently have no experience. The design of the current system seeks the “best of the best” candidates, which results in familiar faces in club leadership and hundreds of capable applicants out of the picture. This rejection can have career implications too–if people aren’t able to get into business clubs as a student, it is nearly impossible for them to land an interview in the real world. This culture also reinforces the common “Snake” narrative on campus, which has its own deep, ulterior effects on Haas students. We’ve found a way to deliver the consulting experience to everyone, because we know that there is a lot more impact possible than what is currently out there.

 

 When starting this new organization, was it challenging competing for clients or members against more entrenched business clubs?

D. Shepard – It’s difficult to measure whether or not other clubs are having an impact on our ability to land clients. And while we do have “traditional” clients like the clubs you mentioned, we focus more on our own NextGen projects, where we reverse the traditional process and proactively reach out to companies after we decide to work on a problem they already have. Thinking about the overall student candidate pool, there doesn’t seem to be a need to compete since there is so much demand out there. This semester was our soft launch and we only expected about 20 people–but then we turned around and had 80 applicants! We’ll find out next semester during our hard launch whether or not there is some measurable competition between us and other business clubs.

So the demand is there, is NexGen using it to focus more on building client relationships or student development?

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NextGen founders seen building community one meeting at a time!

D. Shepard – While we do take pride in the NextGen process and the work we do; we feel that there is a much more important mission in developing our members to be ready for the business world. We help them by giving everyone Analyst-level training, and the opportunity to work on a NextGen project. Beyond that, we have a rotation of professional development events like Excel training, networking/resume workshops, and career panels. Also, we try to open these events up to non-members (if they are willing to pay a fee), so that everyone can have access to this experience.

How else does NextGen differ from other consulting groups?  Like through culture for example?

D. Shepard – That is a dense topic! The one thing I’ll say about other consulting clubs is that, objectively, there is a current perception of exclusivity and pretentiousness that has given business and Haas a bad reputation (e.g. Snakes). This environment has resulted in the inherent (and understandable) partiality to familiar faces in the recruiting process, and a lack of willingness to change when things are already going so well. As founders we recognized this problem, and made inclusivity and transparency  the core values of what we believe in as an organization. Again, thinking about the current business club culture—it doesn’t have to be this way!

Is there anything you want people to know about NextGen?

D. Shepard – We’d just like to emphasize that we are not here to throw salt at anyone. Knowing that quite literally all Cal students are very capable individuals, we simply disagree with how business is currently being done on campus. Part of our long-term mission is to eliminate the negative view of business on campus while making it more positive and accessible for everyone. We are working with (not against) other clubs to hopefully make this vision a reality!

Thanks a lot for your time today Daniel and for sharing your team’s perspective on inclusivity and transparency! NextGen is sure to set a great example to future students for how an organization can exude several of the Haas pillars while also giving back to the student community!

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Networking With Brian Kropf

Network! Network! Network! You hear it all the time, whether you’re recruiting for professional opportunities, applying to social organizations, or even just sitting in class reading the latest blog post, everyone is advocating the importance of networking. Well today we’re not going to go through a list of reasons to do it and how you’ll benefit, instead we have for you Brian Kropf, a current student at the Haas School of Business who networked his way into a management consulting internship.

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Brian Kropf. Third year undergraduate at Berkeley Haas. U.S. Army Veteran. Networking Superstar.

Let’s start with the most important question, who is Brian Kropf?

Brian – I spent six years as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division while concurrently co-founding a nationally distributed print magazine and media company that covered the beverage industry. Both of those efforts spanned from 2006 to 2015. When those journeys came to an end, I transitioned my focus to leveraging the relationships I built while running my own business to find digital marketing consulting work as well as focusing on my education with the goal of getting into Haas. I continue to consult on digital marketing for beverage companies in the Bay Area and have recently been extended an offer for PwC’s San Francisco office in their Advisory practice. My goals for the future are uncertain and in the meantime I’m taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.

Sounds like an interesting guy, so before we get into specifics can you broadly define what networking means to you personally?

Brian – Networking should be approached as just looking to have a conversation, and that’s how I’d define it. I feel it should come from a place of sincerity and where the person you’re networking with sees you as your authentic self. While the goal of landing an internship or full-time job is great, just focus on that first conversation and leave them with the impression that you’re unique and that they should want to know more about you. A relationship built on one of these conversations is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important to let the relationship develop naturally instead of forcing it into what you want it to be to support your desired end result.

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PwC Headquarters Located In New York, New York.

Thanks for that perspective Brian, well let’s not keep the people waiting, specifically how did you network your way into a management consulting internship?

Brian – As I may have eluded to with my first answer, it all started with a simple conversation. I was at a career fair hosted by the Student Veterans of America National Conference in Anaheim over winter break. I wasn’t necessarily looking for an internship but I was interested in stopping by some booths and having conversations with employers to see what they had going on. PwC had both a recruiter and a partner at their booth, though I wasn’t aware of their specific roles at the time. I ended up talking with the partner and told him about myself and my background and he was genuinely interested in learning more. We ended up talking about my business experience, my military service, North Carolina, and a few random other things. That simple conversation was the catalyst for a summer internship offer from PwC.

Did you still have to formally apply and write a cover letter? Or was the process more organic?

Brian – It was incredibly organic. I don’t think it’s because I’m a veteran but because of the rapport I was able to develop with the representatives at PwC. A few hours after meeting them, I was sent a LinkedIn request, which I followed up with an email thanking them for their time. From there, the conversation continued and the partner turned into more of a mentor and a champion on my behalf. He spent quite a bit of energy with me making suggestions on how to improve my resume, connecting me with veteran resources within the firm, having me chat with the lead recruiter, and then putting in a partner referral. As I said earlier, I wasn’t necessarily looking for an internship at the time and because of this, I was in no way prepared to do a case interview for the simple fact that I had never done one and I wasn’t anticipating doing one any time soon. Once again, resources were provided to help prepare me after I candidly told them I wasn’t prepared. The case interview came and went and I’m happy to say I’m one-for-one on case interviews. A few days later I had the final round interview in NYC and a couple hours later I was extended an offer for PwC’s Advisory practice at their San Francisco office. I reached out to the partner who had been helping me to tell him about the offer and he told me that when we first spoke, he could tell that I was someone that he should pay attention to … and I’m glad that he did.

There was an official application I submitted a week or so after meeting them as it is a requirement for all applicants, but the entire process couldn’t have been more organic. The process was three weeks exactly from start to finish. I didn’t submit a cover letter.

It sounds fairly straightforward in that framework, but I think some students still have a hard time with networking given that the stakes can be life changing, what would you recommend for students who struggle but want to get better?

Brian – I’d recommend putting yourself out there and just talking to people. Go out of your way to make small talk in situations that have nothing to do with business, recruiting, or networking. I can be a bit awkward speaking in front of people or when being interviewed, but I enjoy making small talk with people and just being a friendly person. I’ll do this just about anywhere and I can usually find things in common to discuss and effortlessly carry on a conversation. Being able to carry on these conversations at a career fair instead of just trying to add your resume to their stack, getting their card, and responding like a robot will help you get noticed. Also, make sure you’re able to succinctly tell your story when they ask, “tell me about yourself?” This is your opportunity to make your first impression and make them want to learn more.

That’s powerful stuff, so today Berkeley sophomores will find out if they’ve been accepted to the Haas School of Business, what advice would you offer to the new class? 

Brian – First of all, congratulations to those who have been accepted! Know that it is very difficult to get through Haas on your own, so put yourself out there and make friends that you can study in groups with. Also, raise your hand immediately whenever the professor asks for a class rep. I’ve found it to be worthwhile in a number of ways.

Thanks a lot for your time today Brian! I’m sure your perspective and networking experience will help lot of students prepare for the next recruiting year! And congratulations again to the Haas class of 2019!

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Student Profile: Giving Back With Corey Lowe

Today we have for you Corey Lowe! Corey is a newly minted junior at the Haas School of Business and a Regents’ & Chancellor’s Scholar at UC Berkeley. He is aspiring to build a career in marketing within the tech industry and hopes to one day become a Professor to help guide future students.

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Featured today is Berkeley Haas junior Corey Lowe.

He is a member of the social media team for UC Berkeley, helping to promote the university through Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. He participates in Imagical, a consulting group sponsored by HBSA, with hopes of winning the National Student Advertising Competition this year. He is also an MBA and Alumni Committee Associate for HBSA.

So tell us about your background and your path to Berkeley Haas.

C. Lowe – If you would’ve told me two years ago that I’d be a student at Berkeley Haas I wouldn’t have believed you. At the time I was working as a Sales Associate at Target and taking classes when I met a person named Juluo Decastro. He told me what he wanted to do in school and I was like “wow this guy seems like he’s on a great path.” I joined the same extracurriculars as him, such as Economics Club, and subsequently quit Target to become more involved in school. I was also fortunate enough to meet a professor at Chabot College who really believed in my potential and encouraged me to pursue opportunities that seemed out of reach. I didn’t want to let him down so I must have put 50 hours into my application. Having this experience is what sparked my interest in volunteering and paying things forward to other students though mentoring.

So tell us more about the kind of volunteering you are doing?

C. Lowe – This semester I’ve spent about 70 hours mentoring other students, both continuing students at Berkeley looking to get into Haas, and prospective students through the Starting Point Mentorship Program. I’m currently a board member for the Chabot Las-Positas Measure B Committee which ensures $500M in bond money is used equitably for capital improvement. Among other things I’ve volunteered for Cal Hacks, picked up 700 individual pieces of litter through the Berkeley Project, and did my part in the fight against hunger through an organization called RePlate. But my main commitment has been mentoring, since I like interacting with my mentees one on one and developing a close friendship.

It sounds like you’re really interested in giving back, would you say that public service is a personal commitment of yours?

C. Lowe – I would! I didn’t quite understand the power of giving back when I was in high school, but I discovered the significance of community service when I was tutoring a girl named Joanna. Joanna was a fourth grader, an English as a Second Language student, and extremely energetic. Every time we read together, she would get up randomly and walk over to a table where there were spirit week items. She would put on gigantic blue glasses and a small hat and say “look at my teeny hat!” I was only supposed to tutor her for one semester, until winter break, but when that time came, I knew I couldn’t leave her. Her father had been deported. I tutored her until eventually, the non-profit that was running the program at her school closed its operations. Today I still have her paper purple mitten ornament she made me for Christmas, on the back it says “Corey, you are the funniest of all the reading partners.”

Thats a powerful story Corey and I think a lot of students want to ‘make the world a better place’ but developing relevant skills is important too, has volunteering helped you build any business related skills?

C. Lowe – Definitely, I spoke to about 100 perspective Haas students through a lot of the events I participated in, including an event that I set up at my own community college.

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Corey Lowe. Mentor. Communicator. Champion.

Creating this platform gave me the opportunity to help 30 prospective students interested in business. Those events have helped me improve my public speaking and storytelling skills as I had the chance to speak in front of tons of people at events and share my story. Communicating with people is a largely underestimated skill, but if you do it well, it can take you to a ton of opportunities.

With the next class of business students eagerly awaiting their admission letters, what advice would you offer to those not yet convinced of the impact that public service has on the community?

C. Lowe – I’m sure that since these students are at Berkeley or want to be at Berkeley, they must have done community service before. Now, doing it is important, but also reflect back on what you did, how you felt about it and then why you did it. I chose business because I think it’s one of the greatest vehicles that you can use to make a positive impact on society. I hope that the next class of business students understand this, and want to do good both for themselves and their community. Like our ethics professor Alan Ross says, “Do the right thing and everyone can do well… And be ethical dammit.”

Well thanks a lot for your time Corey, good luck with finals and enjoy the winter break!  

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 How to be more competitive at Berkeley!

grouppeople1If you’re a new transfer, a baby face freshman, or are only recently becoming involved in the Berkeley recruiting process, then chances are you might still be learning how to deal with the competitive nature of everything at Cal.  If you’re at Haas, you’ve likely seen anywhere from 10 to 100+ people apply for a single open position on a committee, decal, scholarships, or really anything that was worthwhile.

Now some prospective students out there might be wondering “But wait, if you’re at Haas doesn’t that make you BAMF certified?” While I do keep my BAMF card on my person at all times, it doesn’t carry as much weight when everyone else has one too. So in a world where everyone around you is the cream of the crop, how do you stand out as an individual? Well you could hire a professional that would charge you $300 an hour, just for them to tell you “be unique” or “just be yourself.” Being yourself is universally accepted as some of the best advice you’ll ever receive, but then the challenge becomes how do you convey “yourself” as someone who is both a unique individual and someone who is worthy of a second resume glance.

That’s a lot of questions to tackle before you have to get back to your midterm studying. But before we get started its important to note that while these tips may not solve all your problems, they will at least give you some insight into what the competition is doing and how you can better market yourself in the future.

1.Tell a powerful story

Something that I learned at pre-core this summer that seemed to be pretty obvious, but never really sunk in as something that I should actively prepare for was having a powerful story to back up a claimed interest or resume bullet point. For example, if someone asked you why you were interested in finance you would probably want to have something more than just “I like money” you might get a chuckle if they’ve seen Idiocrasy, but even then you’d be taking a risk. At the same time, you don’t want to open with a cliché like “Ive been interested in business ever since I started my first lemonade stand at 10 years old” even if it’s true, it’s just not a very powerful story. What you should be doing is utilizing the STAR method! Situation: What was the problem? Task: What had to get done? Action: What did you do? Result: What happened? Preparing your answer ahead of time and delivering it with this method will allow you to tell your story in the most structured and organized fashion!

2.Develop your personal brand

If you’ve ever talked to Tai Tran then chances are you know how important your personal brand is, for those of you who have been skipping his coffee chats, your personal brand is essentially the cloud version of your elevator pitch. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, puts it like this “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” So when you and others think about you as a business professional what kinds of things come to mind? A quick example would be “Mike Sauce? He’s a third year business major, Marine Corps veteran, and an all-around good guy” but as awesome as that guy sounds, your personal brand is going to need more substance than simply claiming to be a good person. Earlier this month I was at a Deloitte info session where one of the recruiters put it simply as “It’s not enough to just say you’re punctual, you have to actually be punctual” meaning that if you want punctuality to be a part of your personal brand then you need to exemplify that it actually does matter to you.

3.Individualize

You might find this surprising, but a single resume will not be able to capture all of the different qualities that recruiters are looking for, and neither will it capture all of the relevant skills that you could contribute to a specific role. At the very least you need to target your resume and Personal Brand to a specific industry, if not for the specific role. This way only your most relevant and significant experience will be brought to the table. Now some of our younger readers might be asking “But I only had a part time job in high school, how do I use that to target a specific industry?” Well Laszlo Bock, a senior advisor at Google wants to help YOU, and he’s offered this formula to help you improve: Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]. The goal is to put your impacts at the front so that even if recruiters skim through your resume they can still see your biggest contributions. At the same time, you want to relate it to the job description or any other information about the job as closely as you can!

There are of course hundreds of other tips we could go over and even the ones here are just a brief overview, but you get what you pay for. If you’re still interested in learning about how to become more competitive, then I would strongly recommend going to the career center. The services and events they hold would literally cost you hundreds of dollars in the private sector, and unlike the private coaches and businesses who do what they do to make money, the people at Cal’s Career Center are extremely friendly and genuinely want to help you succeed.

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