Tag Archives: Barbara Oberc

On presentations, boardrooms and cultural differences

We were asked to repeat our presentation to the board at headquarters on a Tuesday morning.

What happened that day still blows my mind. We arrived exactly 15 minutes early, so as to have plenty of time to chat before our presentation. Assuming our 10-minute presentation + discussion should take no longer than half an hour, we expected to be on our merry way back to the city for our second lecture by 11am…

Instead, we were ushered into a holding area and kept waiting… for 45 minutes. I am not kidding.  “The board is still in their weekly meeting.” Sure. We were fuming.

This was not the first time we were kept waiting. This was also not the first time we were made to feel like our time wasn’t very important because, let’s face it, we are only ‘students’ with (what they assume) ‘nothing better to do’.

I decided to take a stand and make it clear that this kind of treatment was unacceptable if we were to continue an equal and respectful relationship. When one of the secretaries (who, bless her, had no fault in this) decided to check up on us to see if we needed anything, I had to let someone have it.

With the fires of Mordor snaking at my nostrils from within, I explained, in a level yet firm tone, that we had already sacrificed an important lecture in order to repeat a presentation (as a favour to them, no less) at their headquarters in the middle of nowhere on a weekday morning. Making us wait the better part of an hour for (what was later confirmed) no good reason whatsoever was, simply, rude and disrespectful. Finally, if they did not see us within the next five minutes, we would be leaving because, yes, we actually had other commitments (lectures to attend).

This whole time my fellow English teammates said nothing, a non-reaction I did not quite understand until my housemate Henry later explained that the Brits rarely say what they mean and that my reaction must have been more than enough on its own. And hey, it worked, because (lo and behold) 30 seconds and countless apologies later we were welcomed into the boardroom, nailed our presentation and were out of there in fifteen minutes. Like a boss.

Boom. That’s all I have to say on presentations, boardrooms and cultural differences for the time being. I will write again soon, until then I hope your have an awesome time! Wishing all the very best in 2012!!!

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From the Classroom to Consultancy #8

Shadowing some of the organization’s activities and services this Monday has been, hands down, the absolute highlight of my week. Who would have thought it?

Our team split up into three groups, and I went to check out a tea dance. It’s basically a Victorian English-style afternoon involving tea and dancing (ie. Waltzing and cucumber sandwiches, that kind of thing).


I was very glad to have gone, mainly on account of a rather interesting factor concerning the event:

the average attendee was in their mid-eighties.

There were several older gentlemen present for us to interview. We were able to gather many valuable and interesting responses (boy they had some stories to tell!), but it was talking to one particular 94-year-old lady that gave me a much appreciated new-found sense of optimism and possibility. In between rounds of dancing her little butt off, this nonagenarian talked about her love for conversation, education, keeping the mind active and the brain curious.

”You’re never too old to learn something new”, she stressed.

The woman earned her university degree in history at the age of 70! Now that’s something to think about, isn’t it.

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From the Classroom to Consultancy #9

This week we got the opportunity to hash out some concrete plans for the coming months – with our actual client (and not just in class)!

Since our research is almost done, we’ve started to generate some solutions to attract more male volunteers and service users to the organization. For example, by reviving an old community day center, we can promote the organization’s new activities and services. That should kill a whole bunch of birds with one stone. And it should make for a pretty exciting undertaking, too!

Later on we were also invited to a volunteer party (as quasi volunteers ourselves). We chatted over mulled wine with some of the 75 attending. They didn’t disappoint on the mulled wine front – despite it being only 1:30pm on a weekday afternoon. Surprisingly, there were quite a few high-spirited retirees who matched us students in knocking them back – only to have our cups magically refilled. What a party!

A choir of ladies sang and a seriously gifted magician followed in the party repertoire, altogether making for a wonderful early afternoon get-together. A couple of sweet ladies recognized me from the tea dance and I felt assured and happy that we had, nevertheless, bonded with everybody there.

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From the Classroom to Consultancy #7

Catch-up with the previous episode here.

Our team nailed our client proposal presentation!

Both our module leader and our client were very pleased with both the delivery and content, except for one ‘slight’ comment to be made about the latter.

We had to outline our project plan, including our research methods and the feasibility of our solution. When it all came down to it, we had actually put too much on our plate! It’s a good thing our module leader pointed it out, because not only were we way over our heads in work, but also we now no longer need to wonder if we’re doing enough.

We’re In Over Our Heads!

We need to figure out two things:

1. How to narrow things down (tough because all the areas we have researched seem equally important!)

Sometimes it makes sense to do less and do it well, rather than take on more and run out of time.

2. Create a detailed schedule of what will be done – when, and by whom.

This will probably have to be done before we attempt anything else. That way each team member will be assigned a specific role in the group, ensuring we are better organized and our time is spent more efficiently and productively from now on.

Getting Started

We’ve talked to our clients,and now it’s time to kick-start our market research. Within days we will be joining in some form of activity, event, or service offered by the organisation. We will shadow the activities and briefly interview the participants in order to gain some insight. We will essentially try to uncover why there are less males than females among the existing service users for our clients and whether the users, especially the men, have any suggestions on how to address this situation.

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on my individual project plan (worth 10% of our overall grade) that’s due by the end of the month.

Do I vow to finish it ahead of time and not pull another all-nighter?

Not really, no, because let’s face it: Procrastination is part of being a student, right?

Barbara Oberc is a StudentEvents.com Campus Ambassador at the University of Newcastle in the UK! Each week she’s updating us on her progress through her epic final year management consultancy project!

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From the Classroom to Consultancy #6

By Barbara Oberc, StudentEvents.com Campus Ambassador at Newcastle University in the UK.

Locating the clients’ headquarters in the nearby, yet unfamiliar town was a little bit of a challenge this dark and windy late Monday afternoon. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon the elusive offices just in time for our meeting, but that feeling of reassurance grew increasingly irrelevant within the twenty minutes or so we were made to wait for the clients to show up.

Waiting Room with Three Chairs

I guess I’m still trying to ‘just accept’ the fact that clients cannot be relied upon to respond to e-mails or phonecalls, to be reliable, accommodating or helpful, to keep all appointments, and most definitely (and quite obviously) to be wary of our deadlines and be accordingly cooperative.

And while I understand all this, appreciate they are extremely busy, and admire the work this nonprofit organisation is doing, and that this work is their priority….

Just knowing that this project is worth a quarter of my entire degree makes the situation a bit frustrating. Continue reading

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From the Classroom to Consultancy #5

Let’s begin with the Good.

I was able to amend my train ticket, ensuring that I won’t miss my upcoming presentation. I’m happy to report that our team has been getting along very well. But while clicking with the team is essential, it’s establishing a good relationship with the client that is the most crucial. This is where I’ll be moving on to the Bad…

We don’t have a ‘bad’ relationship – we just don’t have one at all! It’s been 2 weeks since we were appointed as the client’s management consultancy team, and so far our (one-sided) correspondence has consisted of:Communcation Problem

  • An unanswered first e-mail
  • An unanswered chase e-mail
  • Put on hold when calling them directly
  • Getting through and then told that they’re unavailable and will get back to us by the end of the next day
  • Them not getting back to us by the end of the next day.

Let’s just say that the lesson learned this week is:

If you’re not getting paid, you’re not a priority. Continue reading

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From the Classroom to Consultancy #4

Barbara Oberc, StudentEvents’ Campus Ambassador at the University of Newcastle, is currently doing her final year project as a management consultant at a real firm!

This week, the results are in… did Barbara get her first choice company to work with over the next year? Read on to find out.

I received an e-mail bright and early on Monday morning that told me that I had… Continue reading

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From the Classroom to Consultancy #2

Like most introductory lectures delivered at the beginning of a semester to a group of students ranging from the naively eager to those blatantly doubting whether they’re in the right place, the introductory session to the module of Management Consultancy did not fail in serving its main purpose: to scare the living daylights out of us.

Basically, there is going to be a lot of work.

Besides working for a real-life company (“you will have to produce results!”), the assessment of the module will consist of four assignments; a 2500-word project plan, an 8000-word client report, a 20-minute client presentation, and a 7000-word reflective report (to be done individually).

But wait, that’s not all. Some of the work will not be assessed but must be done anyway, and that includes a 10-minute client proposal presentation, a 10-minute client progress presentation, a formative peer review, a summative peer review, and a personal reflective diary. At least this blog will help with the latter.

But the main issue at this point in time is:

What project (or company) will I be assigned to?

The lecture gave a basic presentation of the seven possible clients, all of which we will get to know better next Monday at a brief meet-and-greet.

So I definitely need to look sharp, have some copies of my CV to hand out and be informed about the clients so as to know what I’m talking about and what to ask. If I make a good impression, they may request for me to be on their team of consultants!

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Being expected to complete a total of 222 hours of fieldwork, I’m concerned about where certain clients are based. If I can get there by metro, it’s all good, but a lot of those located farther away require getting there by train or car. And as most students can understand, spending precious time and money is something I will desperately try to avoid.

So I, too, will get to express my preferences to the module leader regarding what company I’d like to work for. However, it was made clear that our choices may not be taken into consideration at all. Because this, as well as not being able to choose your team members, is all part of

“simulating a real-life work situation…”

Post by Barbara Oberc, Campus Ambassador for University of Newcastle, UK

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