We had the chance to catch up with one of our most frequent MBASchooled Contributors Maureen Keegan (Darden, ’17) who recently wrapped up her summer internship at Accenture. Maureen was kind enough to share some thoughtful insights from her summer internship.
MBASchooled: How did you end up at Accenture?
Maureen: Although I had been targeting consulting firms in Boston for summer internship, I spent my summer with Accenture Strategy in their Chicago office. Unlike many of the other consulting firms, Accenture tends to concentrate its summer interns in New York and Chicago for the most part. Having grown up outside of New York, I decided to give Chicago a try for the summer. One of the main reasons that I chose Accenture was because of the people that I had met through the recruiting process. Everyone was extremely smart but also down to earth and I thought I would be able to learn a lot from them. The internship was 10 weeks including 1 week of training where all off the Accenture Strategy interns were together in Chicago for classroom training sessions and social activities. I was staffed on a Communications, Media & Technology client in Seattle, Washington working with the Core Strategy team. I received an offer to return full-time to Accenture’s Boston office.
MBASchooled: What surprised you about your internship?
Maureen: I was really surprised about how much responsibility I was given and how quickly it was given to me. Within an hour of meeting my team on my first day, I was doing research for a presentation that the Managing Director (MD) who I was working for gave to other leadership on the account less than a week later. My manager gave me very little direction yet still expected me to be able to deliver high quality results which was a little terrifying, but also empowering when I was able to reach the bar that she had set for me.
MBASchooled: What’s the most important lesson you learned from this summer?
Maureen: The most important lesson I learned this summer was to never take the 5:30 pm American Airlines flight from Seattle to O’Hare because it was ALWAYS delayed (even when other flights between the same airports weren’t). But in all seriousness, one of my biggest takeaways from the summer was the importance of being comfortable showing others drafts of my work, asking them for feedback on it, and incorporating that feedback. There were a couple reasons I thought this was really beneficial. First, especially early on, if I was doing something that wasn’t exactly right, I was able to course correct early. Second, I was able to learn what different people were expecting of me. Lastly, I was able to get a lot better by learning from others, because I was surrounded by so many talented people, most of whom had been doing this work a lot longer. It was pretty cool to see my progression throughout the summer, from my first slides where I just contributed the content and someone else formatted the slide to the end of the summer where I was generating content, doing all of the formatting, and getting positive feedback on my early drafts.
MBASchooled: What was the hardest/most challenging aspect of your internship?
Maureen: I had the opportunity to manage the two undergraduate interns on my team, which was rewarding but also challenging. In my life before Darden, a lot of my job consisted of event planning, so I had plenty of experiencing coming up with plans and having people execute on them, but those were always two distinct steps. As I found out very quickly, it’s entirely different to be given a task, and simultaneously understand it and come up with a plan for execution that others can act on. I learned a lot about how to do that by watching my colleagues, and also by asking for feedback from the people that I was managing about what was working and what I could do better.
A group of Accenture Chicago Consultants
MBASchooled: Consulting internships are short. How was it getting up to speed in such a short amount of time? What helped?
Maureen: I was lucky that my first task when I joined my project team was to assess our client’s strategy for the next 5 years, which gave me a way to get up to speed while also contributing to the team. Once that project ended, it was really important to not be afraid to ask questions, as well as to learn who the right people were to ask certain types of questions to. There were also other internal to the firm resources as well as external industry resources that were helpful for getting an understanding of what was going on beyond just the work that my team was doing on our client. Before I started for the summer, I had the opportunity to rank the different functional areas and industries that I was interested in working in and had experience in. I was placed into industry that I had some familiarity with and was very interested in, which made getting up to speed easier and more enjoyable.
MBASchooled: They say that consulting is not a job, but rather, a lifestyle. How did you manage the lifestyle adjustment (i.e. travel, hours, etc?)
Maureen: That’s definitely true, and it’s even more of a lifestyle shift when you’re living in a new city for the summer, like I was. I was also traveling from Chicago to Seattle, so travel days were really long. For me, it was important to get into a routine as quickly as I could, which meant trying to always take the same flights, knowing what I was going to do for lunch when I landed on Monday, unpacking as soon as I got to the hotel on Monday nights and when I got home on Thursdays, and making a point to work out while I was on the road.
Something that my coworkers suggested, which I only started to try out at the end of my summer was doing errands at the client site (think dry cleaning, hair cuts, etc.) so when you’re in your home city, you can spend time relaxing and doing what you want to, rather than what you have to do. As far as hours are concerned, I think the FY at Darden prepared me really well. The schedule I worked was pretty similar to the schedule I kept most of my FY; I got to the office around 8, would take a break for lunch, would leave around 6:30, workout/get dinner and then jump back online if I had to. For the most part, I was putting in the most time Monday – Thursday and then Fridays were a little bit lighter because of intern trainings and activities. Experiences definitely differed across projects and clients.
Darden Accenture Summer Consultant Class
MBASchooled: Any last tidbits of advice?
Maureen: Before you start your summer internship, think about what you want to get out of it and do your best to make that happen. For me, there were a couple of things that I wanted to learn about the job 1) Did I like the actual work of consulting; 2) Could I handle the lifestyle; and 3) Could I do the work in a city I had never lived in before. It was also important to me to have an experience where I grew professionally, though I was open about exactly what that looked like. After my summer, to the first questions I can confidently answer yes, yes, and no, which means that after graduation I will be pursuing a career in consulting and I’ll be doing it from Boston, where I was before Darden. I also know that I grew a lot professionally; I’ve become much more confident and willing to speak up as well as better able to work under pressure. Even had I not decided to pursue a career in consulting, I know these skills would have been valuable in whatever career path I chose.