Get the Offer: Navigating an Uncertain Job Market like a Boss with Julian Parra

Career help is waiting for you.

Despite being so young, Julian Parra has a life’s worth of experience learning about how to discover your passion, navigate the job market, and land your dream job. 

Screen Shot 2021-04-30 at 8.44.58 AMBorn and raised in Hawthorne, New Jersey, Julian attended Babson College in 2016, where he quickly became interested in career development, when he became a career ambassador for the college’s Center for Career Development (CCD). As a career ambassador, Julian met with hundreds of undergraduate students a semester to help them with anything and everything career related. Julian’s experience working at CCD helped to shape his own career path as well, as he learned an incredible amount from mentoring others as well as interacting with the career advisors within the office. 

Julian’s first internship was with Ernst and Young, where he interned within the tax and audit department. Through this experience, Julian learned that he was more interested in finance than accounting, yet he used this newfound knowledge to pivot, taking more finance classes the semester after. In doing so, however, Julian found that he compared himself to the other finance students in his classes, who were more passionate than he was. That same semester, Julian was also living in Babson’s computer science and coding community, which got him interested in working within business and tech. 

The next summer, Julian had the opportunity to be a part of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, a program that helps minorities connect with fortune 500 companies. Through this program, Julian was able to connect with IBM and got offered an internship working for their enterprise performance management team. After his internship, Julian was offered a full time position and gladly accepted. 

Screen Shot 2021-04-30 at 9.06.55 AMDuring quarantine last year, Julian found himself with a bit of free time between graduation and starting his full-time job. This time got him to reflect on the skills and knowledge that he learned both at CCD and through his job search. During quarantine is also when the popular social media and content creation app TikTok began to flourish. Julian has always been interested in content creation, having started a YouTube channel and Instagram account in which he provided professional advice and motivational content before. What captured Julian’s attention about the algorithm being used by TikTok is that anyone can have a piece of content go viral as long as they optimize watch time and shares, among many other tactics. Soon, Julian’s TikTok account @youknowitjulian, offering professional advice to young adults, was formed within a perfect storm. 

Julian quickly started noticing his videos and TikTok content going viral, confirming his hypothesis that there was a real need for an end-to-end resource for navigating the job market that was digestible and provided advice on a high level. Julian recently formalized this content into a course that takes individuals through every phase of the job search process, from realizing their passion to salary negotiation. Julian took inspiration from his own experiences as well as his TikTok and Instagram audiences when developing the program. 

Julian notes that young professionals, current college students, or even those who recently graduated and are interested in landing their first job or internship are perfect candidates for the course. Julian also sees those who are feeling lost, especially in terms of how to navigate the uncertain job market, or those whose employment status has been affected by COVID-19, really benefiting from his program. 

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When making this course, Julian emphasized his desire to be value-first in the course, highlighting only the useful facts, as well as making the content interactive. For example, Julian hosts a resume walkthrough, getting specific with what should go in each section and how this information should be formatted to maximize efficiency and readability. Julian does the same with both cover letters and your LinkedIn profile. Additionally, taking a popular segment from his TikTok channel, Julian has an interview role playing segment where students can get practice answering tough job interview questions. 

In paying for the course, job seekers also gain access to resume, cover letter, and email response templates- really everything you need to network and nail an interview. Through the program, members even get access to an exclusive professional community, which Julian is also an active participant of, to debrief any content from the course or answer any questions members might have. 

When asked about what his favorite aspects of the program are, Julian responded that it was hard to pick just one, but, if he had to, it would be the personal branding section. Julian views personal branding as being an important step to establishing your own personal identity that sets you apart from others in the job market. It is also an opportunity to be creative.

“You just need one person to look at your content to give you the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Julian. 

When asked why should someone take this course and what Julian hopes his students will walk away with? Julian noted that he hopes his program will help job seekers view the employment process as not being as overwhelming and as intimidating as it often does. Julian hopes that those who take his course are able to navigate the market with ease and have an open space to have their questions answered. The overarching goals is to inspire confidence and better clarity on where seekers see their career trajectory going.

Whether it be related to their career, goals, or life aspirations, the world is any job seeker’s oyster and Julian’s program is the sand that generates the pearl!


Where to Find Julian:

Career Course (Enroll today!)

Website

Instagram


 

Luna Zhang on Knits, Crochets, and a Month of Creation

A business brain with a passion for fashion.

It all started with some crochet needles, a sewing machine, and a dream.

Two months ago Luna Zhang was determined to fully realize her passion for sustainable fashion when she applied for a grant from Babson College, where she currently attends. Despite not having any previous experience, Luna was up for the challenge and, with the grant, was able to purchase a sewing machine and take on the one and a half month-long feat of learning how to make clothing garments. 

It has always been a dream of Luna’s to learn how to make clothing and when the opportunity presented itself for her to explore this dream, she knew that she had to jump on it. Along the way, Luna learned as much about herself as the tailoring process- realizing the importance of incorporating her political stances within the pieces as well as how far true grit and determination can get you. 

One aspect of fashion that is especially important to Luna is sustainability. Having been a devoted thrifter over the years, Luna wanted to incorporate sustainability into making her clothes for this project by repurposing the yarn from thrifted blankets as well as parts of clothes from thrift stores. Luna also wanted to emphasize gender neutrality in the pieces that she made, a direction that she views fashion should be going into. During Luna’s final exhibition she even had both women and men wear her pieces, emphasizing the desire for her clothing to be inclusive for everyone. 

The inspiration behind her knits have undeniably been color, which married well with the timing of her spring exhibition. Luna was also moved by different textures and the opportunity to incorporate these in the same piece, especially enjoying combining thick and thin yarns to create a 3-D effect. Additionally, Luna credits some muses throughout her process, such as ʟɪɴᴅsᴀʏ ᴠʀᴄᴋᴏᴠɴɪᴋ – a super talented design student in NYC- being her biggest inspiration along with YouTuber Emma Chamberlain

            

Throughout her journey, Luna notes the many challenges that she had to overcome in order to finish her project within such a tight timeline of one and a half months. Reflecting back, Luna mentions that she wishes she had three to four months, however, is grateful for the restrictive amount of time, given that it really focused her on completing the task at hand. In the beginning, Luna said that she spent countless hours making a number of mistakes and fighting with her sewing machine, which she definitely underestimated the difficulty of using. Luna mentions that she and her sewing machine fostered an intimate bond, especially when she hit a jam. Looking back, however, Luna finds that the imperfections in her clothes are a reflection of the beauty of the mistakes that she has made along the way. Luna used the process of trial and error along with countless hours of YouTube video tutorials in getting to her final result.

At one point during the process, Luna admits that she wasn’t even sure if her project would fail or succeed. Luna had zero idea of the interworkings of design and fashion and had to completely shift her business brain to a design brain overnight. 

“Business students get put into a box sometimes in what they can do. I had imposter syndrome and self-doubt along the way that I had to battle. I worked with great design students at my Converse internship and never thought that I could do what they were doing,” Luna mentions in our interview. This ties into her biggest learning point:

You are your biggest supporter and enemy, so be kind to yourself and don’t hold yourself back from things you want to try because at the end of the day we make mistakes and you should do it if it’s your passion. 

Throughout this project, Luna proved to herself that she is capable of achieving her dreams and is more than just a business student- she can achieve whatever she puts her mind to. 

           

Although Luna admits that seeing it all come together at the end was the most rewarding part of her journey, she isn’t stopping with the unveiling of her exhibition. Luna is currently taking future commissions of her work (DM her!) and will be donating the proceeds to the Asian American community, a cause that is especially close to her heart.

I am the happy owner of a Luna original crochet halter top, a piece with a story and meaning so much bigger than I could have ever imagined. 

 

Company to Watch: Amina Muaddi

I’ll take one in every color!

There is so much to take away from the fashion success story of Amina Muaddi– 33 year old entrepreneur and fashion label under the same name- making it a perfect addition to my Company to Watch series. The accessory designer grew up between Jordan, Romania and Italy, and cites her mother as fostering her love of fashion at a young age. In a recent Vogue article, Muaddi mentions her mother in setting the ground work for her interest in the fashion world, “I would try on [my mother’s] shoes even when I could barely walk in them. She always took care of herself and took such care in the way she dressed, so she was my introduction to this world and led to my passions.”

After studying at the European Institute of Design in Milan, Muaddi worked as a stylist for L’Uomo Vogue and GQ US, yet quickly found her passion was in design and the craftsmanship of accessories. This motivated her to dedicate a lot of time learning about the intense shoe manufacturing process in Riviera del Brenta, Italy’s famous shoe-making district. In observing the lack of technical knowledge her peers had in regards to shoe design, during a course she attended in college, Muaddi regarded this hands-on learning in the factory as extremely important. This experience quickly paid off when she created her own brand and produced her eclectic, complex heels, which are composed of 40 to 50 pieces each and deemed an incredibly comfortable shoe despite their height! 

It was early on in her career that Muaddi partnered with a friend to start her first shoe brand called Oscar Tiye. Despite having promising beginnings, the brand wasn’t a success and soon closed up shop. However, Muaddi was persistent and launched her second label in 2018 under her own name. Since the launch, Muaddi has had the opportunity to collaborate with French couturier Alexandre Vauthier on the launch of his shoe line as well as design the footwear for Rihanna’s LVMH-owned FENTY line, which launched in July 2020 and from which Muaddi won the Collaborator of the Year award at the FN Achievement Awards

Muaddi is unique to the industry in myriad of ways. Firstly, in her brand’s style. Her shoes, which were deemed as “pandemic proof” in the fashion editorial world, are about as sophisticated and eccentric as it gets- somehow expertly balancing the two. Muaddi’s shoe designs are instantly recognizable and a cult favorite with celebrities and influencers a like- Kim Kardashian West, Bella Hadid, and Irina Shayk to name drop. The shoes have edgy, yet tasteful signature styles, such as a square bottom heel, rhinestone embellishments, and a square toe. There is no question who the creator is when you spot the shoes, you just know it has to be Muaddi. Bottom line, they are eye-catching and splashy, making them perfect for capture on Instagram… if you have a cool $1,300. 

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Her business model also isn’t defined by standard fashion norms. When Muaddi first started her Amina Muaddi brand, she knew that she wanted to launch a see now, buy now product through wholesale, which has kept interest very high. She didn’t want to appear in fashion week months ahead of the pieces’s sale date, despite being advised against it, noting in Vogue Arabia “my customer never gets bored of my product before it even hit the stores”. Muaddi also only designs two collections a year, which can only be found in high end, third-party retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Mytheresa, and Ssense. Beautiful shoes with a secretive and anticipated release = fashion gold. 

Yet, it’s her vulnerability in sharing how failure, patience, and persistence are part of the process that make her truly one of a kind. Although we like to think that she was, Muaddi was no overnight success. “[I]t took me 8 years to get to where I am today. And I failed before with my first brand, so I’m not scared of that,” Muaddi notes in a sit down with Business of Fashion. Muaddi has stuck to her gut instincts all along and its gotten her so far. Persistence has paid off. 

I know I am on my tippy toes waiting to see what else this fashion maven has up her sleeve next, no not because I have a pair of Amin Mauddi’s myself… not just yet. 

CEO Sit Down: Misha Lau and Rebecca Jiang on Unspoken Words

Helping to make unspoken words, spoken again.

Currently, Seniors at Babson College, Misha Lau and Rebecca Jiang are Southern Californians of Asian American descent, ready to take on the world of gaming. 

Misha and Rebecca are two dynamic women that, combined, have a wealth of professional knowledge and life experiences that have set them up for business success. Misha works in marketing at a tech start-up and enjoys cooking and learning how to play the ukelele, while Rebecca is looking to pursue a career in the hospitality industry and hikes and thrifts in her free time. 

The idea for their card game Unspoken Words was dreamt up during a gap semester from college the two took in the Fall of 2020. To maximize their gap semester, Misha and Rebecca decided that they wanted to start a business and gain real-world experience of what the process of starting a company is really like. The two went back and forth on what idea that they wanted to pursue, yet always came back to a common theme- both women being Asian American and descendants of immigrant parents. The duo recognized some challenges that came along with being raised in their culture, the biggest one being how distant they often felt from their parents. Misha and Rebecca wanted to open the discussion around difficult familial conversations and needed an ice breaker, hence… 

Unspoken Words was born. 

Unspoken Words is a card game that is meant to facilitate conversation in a low-stakes environment, meant for players to have fun and grow closer. We’re Not Really Strangers, served as an inspiration to the founders, who liked the concept of a game focused on creating connections and changing one’s perspective. 

Screen_Shot_2021-03-16_at_1.03.52_PM-removebg-previewTo play the game, a player chooses a card and reads the question provided out loud, with everyone participating being encouraged to respond. A question falls under one of the five categories within the game that is dedicated to the immigrant experience, being: Culture & Immigration, Relationship, Childhood, Reflection, Identity. There are also 20 action cards incorporated into the deck that add a fun element of action to the game. Some of Misha and Rebecca’s favorite cards from the game include: 

“What did you do for a living before you immigrated?”

“What was it like growing up as the youngest, middle, or oldest child?”

Misha and Rebecca have poured their heart and soul into the game, fine-tuning the card prompts by playing the game with their own families. In doing so, the two have learned so much about their families that they didn’t know before, which has helped to form closer familial bonds. 

Rebecca, whose family is from mainland China, learned that her mother lived through the Tangshan earthquake in 1976. Rebecca’s mother lived in a neighboring town from where the earthquake hit the hardest and victims of the quake were being sent for medical treatment. Similarly, Misha learned that her father grew up relatively poor and, in order to pay for college, worked multiple part-time jobs and slept in his car just to get by.

Unspoken Words symbolizes the unspoken words that exist within relationships.

For Misha and Rebecca, this came in the form of “I am proud of you and I love you”. Throughout this game, however, the two realized that those unspoken words were tangible and put into action rather than said out loud. 

For Misha and Rebecca, the process of creating this game has been more about the cathartic journey than the destination, some of the most rewarding aspects of starting their business being speaking to individuals within the board game industry as well as their prospective customers. The individuals that they have met within their industry have been so willing to share advice with them and connect them to others in their network. 

“We really came into this experience wanting to learn and we have learned more than we ever thought that we would”, says Rebecca. 

While Misha mentions the fact that she got to talk with a counselor who deals specifically with immigrant families and usually uses vague question cards for families to help them work through issues that they might be facing and is extremely excited about the game and its ability to help her therapy practice. Similarly, in speaking with over 30 children of immigrants, who have struggled with similar relationship challenges to Rebecca and Misha, the founders have felt encouraged to make their game into a reality. 

When asked about what Misha and Rebecca hope their players will take away from the game, the two responded that they want those who play their game to learn at least one thing new about their family they didn’t know before. They also hope that the game sparks future conversations and that those who play will feel more comfortable to ask questions. The two mentioned the fact that it took a lot of courage for them to play the game with their parents, yet it allowed for incredible vulnerability and has established the groundwork for more open conversations.

What about the future excites the She-EOs?

The launch of their Kickstarter in May, an exciting milestone that the two have thought about since the very beginning. Misha and Rebecca are also so excited for the day that they receive their prototype and are able to play their game with the signature Unspoken Words cards. 

Can’t wait to get my cards in the mail very soon the two of you! *wink, wink*


Contact Misha and Rebecca:

Instagram

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Julia Dean and Kristin Watson on the GTB Mentorship Program and the Power of Mentorship

Why mentorship matters.

Kristin Watson and Julia Dean had only been friends a short while before teaming up last summer to change the lives of students and recent graduates during the peak of the COVID pandemic.

After graduating in December of 2019 with a degree in Graphic Communications from Clemson University, Kristin found herself navigating the challenging job search process in early 2020. The resource that Kristin found extremely beneficial at the time was a strong mentor, pushing and leading her through the process. It was this mentor who ultimately helped her land a job at the Trade Desk. Having a mentor namely helped Kristin learn the ins and outs of the industry which ultimately shifted her focus from wanting to work in the agency side of advertising to ad tech. 

On the other hand, Julia was locked-in with a position at Deloitte Consulting as a Human Capital Analyst, one she’d secured before graduating from Babson College in 2019. Still, Julia felt compelled to help those struggling with employment during COVID after seeing so many students and young adults on LinkedIn who had lost their jobs, internships, or were simply looking for work. 

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The Adobe conference where Julia and Kristin first met

Kristin and Julia met at an Adobe conference in 2018 and, being adamant about maintaining their network, stayed in touch. during quarantine, the two put their heads and past/ professional experiences together to come up with an idea: connecting mentors and mentees to ease current job woes.  Given that her mentor was her main cheerleader, Kristin remembered how integral a mentor was to her job search process. Similarly, Julia recalled her providing mentorship as a resource for others, whether it was advising them on applying for the Fulbright Program, breaking into consulting or general career advice. It was a match made in heaven. 

Their plan was to match students with mentors who were working in their field of interest so they could provide insights, advice, case prep, and even review resumes. The two began by informally naming the program “Let’s Get This Bread” and blasting out an interest form on LinkedIn. The name was splashy, the logo engaging, and the overall messaging resonated with the targeted age group, who were looking for a genuine and unintimidating approach to career help. What happened next wasn’t what either of them were expecting. The two estimated they might garner the interest of less than 30 young professionals , yet ended up engaging over 70 mentees (including myself!) and a little over 50 mentors.

Let’s Get This Bread Launch Video

After manually pairing the mentors and mentees, Kristin and Julia let all the participants structure their mentorship in the way that they wanted, enabling the pairings to choose the pace and frequency of meetings that were best for them. Six weeks later, the two sent an email to participants asking how the program went so they could evaluate how to define success for the program in the future. 

The founders then launched a second version of their program with a new cohort of mentors and mentees after collecting feedback from the first group of participants. Through focus groups and feedback forms, Kristin and Julia realized they had a small but mighty group of members who really valued the platform the two were able to build for them. Asking for a mentor is incredibly daunting and it is difficult to find someone willing and able to speak with you on a consistent basis. This form of structured peer mentoring was more approachable to those who needed help and encouragement during the quarantine. 

So, what ultimately makes a good mentee? Honesty, both founders said:

“You need to be honest about what you need help with; that’s how you will best use your time with your mentor.”

And for a mentor? It would have to be honesty and approachability. “There is nothing harder than having a mentor relationship that doesn’t feel like a safe place to be raw and candid,” says Kristin. 

Kristin and Julia cite the time they started the program as being pivotal to the success of the rebranded “GTB Mentorship Program”. “A lot of people wanted to help out and a lot needed that help,” mentions Julia, who sees entrepreneurship as being instrumental to solving community-focused needs. The founders also note that the program was incredibly helpful to participants because mentors were only 1 to 3 years older than those they were mentoring, mimicking a peer-on-peer help model. 

Julia and Kristin mentioned many positive stories that resulted from the program and I’d like to cite mine as being one of them! When I came across the program and its catchy title, I knew I had to be a part of something that was uplifting, encouraging, and helpful during the challenging time I was going through. Having lost multiple job opportunities due to the COVID pandemic, I was desperately seeking help to break into the consulting industry. I felt helpless and confused and thought it couldn’t hurt to seek some outside guidance. My mentor Sean turned out to be one of the most instrumental people throughout my job search process, case prepping with me, editing my resume, providing continual guidance, and inspiring me to create this very blog – thanks Kristin and Julia! 

When I asked them why they thought they were the best people to run the GTB Mentorship Program, Kristin and Julia jointly replied that they didn’t consider themselves to be the right people to start the program. They explained it was their passion and commitment to following through on their idea that made them become the right people. 

Although GTB shut down after its second cohort, I feel confident that there will be so many more amazing programs and businesses created by these intelligent women. What does that mean for the rest of us? If the future is anything like Kristin and Julia’s entrepreneurial past, help is on the way!

Company to Watch: Saks Potts

Fur, glitz, and glam.

And we’re back for another episode of Company to Watch! Last year, I reviewed the inspiring accessory retailer Ubuntu Life and this year I am bringing back the blog series more regularly, taking a deep dive into companies that are shaking up the retail industry, Saks Potts being one of them.

Screen Shot 2021-02-17 at 9.44.07 PMThis Danish clothing company was started by Copenhagen natives Catherine Saks and Barbara Potts in 2014, who felt motivated to create beautiful and fun statement coats for Copenhagen’s cold winters. Despite having no fashion training, Saks and Potts have built an incredibly successful brand off of the notion that a coat is a statement piece that deserves statement treatment, adding pops color to Copenhagen’s muted palette with their splashy and candy colored coats- most notably in orange, blue, and green. “A coat is the first thing you see when you meet someone. It’s such an important statement of your personality,” Saks mentions in an interview with Harvey Nichols. But fun coats are where Saks Potts begin, not where they end.

Although, Saks Pots had humble beginnings, handing out their coats to women they admired outside Hôtel Costes during Paris Fashion Week, the fashion house continued to stay relevant by incorporating everything from glittery twin sets to swimsuits among their signature colorful fur trimmed coats. The collections are inspired by empowered and fierce women, like Princess Diana and Dolly Parton, who balance fun and feminine nature with serious boldness and power- a message that has clearly resonated with women. The company has won three Elle Style Awards, being Unavoidable of the Year in 2015, Brand of the Year award in 2018, and Show of the Year in 2019. It’s no wonder that Catherine and Barbara named the company after themselves, they are on to something quite special here. 

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Much of the company’s success, however, is a testament to the entrepreneurial nature of the two founders, who have displayed their business chops by having learned the ins and outs of the Copenhagen fur trade and attaining an 80-100% sell through rate in all of their collections, as cited by Business of Fashion. Saks Potts has also done a recent collaboration with vintage car dealer L’Art de l’Automobile, which has allowed the company to gain a greater exposure to different markets. A slew of celebrities who love and wear the brand, such as Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Selena Gomez, and Rihanna, have also helped to skyrocket the retailer to stardom. 

I can’t help but think that the innate splashiness of some of the pieces Saks Potts creates has something to do with their virality. The pieces are catchy, focused, and instantly recognizable as being from Saks Potts, a testament to true brand unity. The founders have recognized that their clothes have this “see it, want it, have to have it” effect on consumers, which may be changing their business model in the future. Over the course of the pandemic, the company spoke about deciding between dropping clothes every three to four times a year or doing more consistent drops that they feel confident in during the year instead. “When we see something on a catwalk or at a presentation or on some girl on Instagram, we just really want to buy it in the moment. So I think right now is an especially good time to adopt the see-now-buy-now model,” Saks mentions in an interview with Vogue back in August.

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As Danish fashion continues to infiltrate the American fashion scene, I anticipate seeing furry cuffs and candy colored coats walking the streets of New York and LA in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll invest in some Saks Potts candy too down the road. Who am I kidding, I’m obsessed! #bossbabe CEOs for the win.

Consulting Case Prep with Johnny Bui (Part II)

Want to learn quick and effective problem solving? Casing is the way to go.

Part II, here we go! If you are looking to go into consulting, case prepping, or just you’re here out of sheer curiosity as to what case prepping is, you’re in the right place! Johnny Bui and I have done our fair share of case prepping before becoming full-time consultants and we are here to give you all of the tips and tricks that we have picked up along our journeys. If you thought our case prep advice was helpful in Part I, get ready for more helpful insights right now!


General advice you would give to others on case prep?

Johnny:

If you don’t enjoy doing cases, this probably isn’t for you! I practiced live 10 cases a week for 3 months and loved every minute of it but I only did it because I enjoyed the challenge and relationship building part of it. Keep that in mind! Practice hard and practice often with as many different people as possible, consistently, so you learn different styles of communication, successful habits, and perspective. Even if you’ve never done a case before, you need to practice live ASAP. You don’t have to be great to start but you need to start to be great!

  • Here are some suggestions of how to do so:
    • Make a post on LinkedIn requesting for case partners and really demonstrate your competence in cases on the post so they would be compelled to work with you
    • If your career services on campus offers case prep, take advantage of that!
    • Join consulting clubs on campus to get even more experience
    • Do one market sizing case a day

So many people on LinkedIn want to give back after going through consulting case interviews: do a LinkedIn search for consulting content and scroll through to see what people have to offer. Usually it’s their consulting case books that they used! Feel free to reach out to me (Johnny Bui) as well. I have a ton. Also, reach out to alumni working in consulting for advice and resources!

Ursula:

When you first start out, it might be helpful to watch someone else who is proficient at “casing” first. From these videos, you can get a very good understanding of the strict methodology that you must follow in order to arrive at your conclusions. It also helps to learn from proficient casers, as you are able to pick up on the nuances they incorporate to execute a case well. 

Our Recommended Key Resources:

  • YouTube
  • Your college’s career services
  • LinkedIn community of people looking for case partners to break into consulting
  • Case and Point by Marc Consantino and Case Interview Secrets by Victor Cheng

What process did you use in order to get better at cases?

Johnny:

I made a post looking for case partners that did very well on Linkedin and proceeded to make a GroupMe with almost everyone that expressed interest. I set up 10 case sessions a week over the course of 3 months and consistently showed up to each session even if I got ripped apart in previous sessions. I also kept a spreadsheet with every case I had done detailing my lessons learned, what worked, what didn’t work, and areas of improvement

Ursula: 

Johnny did such an amazing job gathering together resources and like minded individuals who were interested in pursuing a career in consulting. I was fortunate enough to be apart of this group, which helped me to find partners to case with. Make sure to create a group or join one in order to be apart of a supportive and engaged community, it will make the process all the better! Also, it’s really a numbers game. The more cases you do, the better you will become, so keep at it!

Do you have a favorite case and, if so, could you share the prompt?

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Ursula:

Cases are definitely not hard to come by- tons of cases a google or a page turn in your consulting book away- however, I have found these ones from Deloitte to be particularly helpful to work on, as they are tailored specifically to what you are interested in practicing. 

Personally, what was the most challenging part about case prepping?

Johnny: 

The most challenging part is starting your first live case with someone. You might feel like trash and that you’d rather practice more before you (inevitably) embarrass yourself but it is the first step to greatness. The second most important part is creating accountability for yourself. You need to schedule weekly cases and show up. Finally, once you are in the motion of practicing cases consistently, it’s understanding how companies in different industries generate revenue, how their business models work, asking the right questions, and following the right clues. What’s great about consulting is that every day is different. This translates into cases. 

Ursula:

Couldn’t agree more with Johnny on these! I would also say… the shorthand math. I definitely had to brush up on my multiplication tables. I also did my research on the best methods in doing this. Just make sure to take a deep breath and count your zeros!

Was there ever a point at which you felt like you were comfortable doing cases and, if so, what did that look like for you?

Johnny:

Once I eventually mastered the basics, I knew that so long as I followed them, I would be in a good place if I trusted my business intuition upon understanding the prompt. After identifying the type of case and understanding what they want me to do – I could generally rely on my experiences with this type of case and this type of industry to guide me. But there would always be something different about the case. You have to learn to pay attention to detail and count every hair to see if one is out of place. Details can be tedious to sift through but you’ll learn to think fast and perceive when something is wrong. 

Ursula:

There is a point in time where you have this strange feeling intuitively. There is a very powerful feeling that comes along with knowing that whatever comes your way, you have a process, a procedure, and you can rely on yourself to come to a reasonable conclusion. It’s a really proud moment too. You will know when you have done enough cases. It will just feel right. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you probably should keep prepping! 

Things that you wish you would have done differently in regards to case prep?

Johnny:

I wish I started sooner and did not allow my fear of underperforming hinder my confidence to take consulting seriously. I was self-conscious about what my performance would say about what I knew about business and delayed taking case prepping seriously.

Ursula:

Agreeing with Johnny- just start. You will be amazed how incrementally better you get with each case. Always ask for feedback at the end and keep a running list of what you did well and what you can improve upon. It’s easy to let your ego get in the way, but one of the biggest lessons that I learned from the whole process is to be comfortable with failing, so fail fast and hard, and to not let a poor math calculation or wrong answer change the way you see yourself in regards to your intelligence. 

 

Consulting Case Prep with Johnny Bui (Part I)

Want to learn quick problem solving? Casing is the way to go.

Like many of you reading this article, Johnny Bui and I have done our fair share of consulting case prep. We have read Case and Point by Marc Consantino, have kept an archive of cases in a folder on our desktop, and have a spreadsheet of case notes that we swear by. We know where you are coming from and we are here to help. 

So, here is a little bit about Johnny and I, two consultants, who have recently entered into the field. 

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Johnny is a recent graduate from Babson College and a current Analyst in the consulting division at Kalypso, a professional services firm. Johnny’s other accolades include being a real estate agent in Boston, Massachusetts and a recently published book author. His goals outside of college now include becoming an expert in personal finance, getting into real estate investing, and competing on American Ninja Warrior. 

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My name is Ursula and I am also a recent Babson College graduate. I am currently an Associate Consultant in Strategy and Technology at Konrad Group in New York City. I am a passionate blogger and enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell, playing with my neighbor’s puppy Ruth, and singing in the shower. 

 

Ok! Now, let’s get into the good stuff! Answering the most pressing consulting prep questions!


What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned from doing consulting case prep?

Johnny:

A consulting case isn’t a complete replication of what an actual client project looks like. The case is fixed, meaning there is a predetermined answer and a zone of acceptable answers for the candidate. The reason why I say it’s not a complete replication is because the answers you seek can be given to you immediately, and the interviewer wants to give them to you – you just have to ask the right questions. Because this isn’t like an actual project, I’ve learned to take advantage of the format of casing and it simply comes down to mastering the basics.

That’s the lesson: master the basics.

There are strategies that I’ve leveraged to get me as close as possible into that margin of error. For instance:

  • Learn to take good notes, fast. Circle areas of the recap that raise red flags so you can then ask clarifying questions about it. (they’re there for a reason!)
  • Always recap the case and ask if you missed anything.
  • The sweet spot for clarifying questions are 3, depending on how much information they give you. Don’t ask questions if you don’t need to.
    • A good question to ask if you can’t think of anything is always about the goal or timeline of the client
  • Put together your structure and try to make the titles of your buckets as tailored to the case as possible.
  • When stuck, always recap *out loud* what you have learned to this point in the case. More often than not, saying it out loud will reveal where the case is going and what you should do next.
  • If you’re really proactive, keep a key insights section blocked off on your paper so you can record relevant information shared with you.
  • Practice doing quick math (division, multiplication, addition, subtraction) and learn tricks! This will cut down time in your interview and impress the interviewer. 
  • At the end of the case you must deliver the recommendation, followed by risks and next steps in under a minute. You’ll typically hear the prompt say: “The CEO has just entered the room, what is your recommendation?” If you have been taking physical (or mental notes) throughout the case, this should be a breeze. But you must be concise, the CEO doesn’t have a lot of time!

These are more of the technical skills you need to master. Here are some soft skills:

  • When the interviewer points out that you made a mistake, always acknowledge it. This is an opportunity to show your character.
  • Always lead the case and offer suggestions as to what you think you should do next. Whether it be a candidate-led or interviewer-led case, it’s always better to demonstrate initiative.
  • When given an exhibit, always ask for a moment before you dive head first into to interpreting it.
  • Given a long math problem, always ask for a minute to solve the problem because the last thing you want to do is lose the interviewer in your calculations.
  • Always check in with the interviewer to see if they’re following especially when you’re walking them through your thinking process.
  • When asked to brainstorm, don’t give a laundry list. Structure your answer by categories/themes and then begin listing.

rubiks-cube-removebg-previewThe consulting case is like a rubik’s cube – it’s essentially a puzzle but the answers lie within it. You start out with some relevant information which represents the specific color that you’re trying to get on that side. The rest of the case has to do with you getting as close to getting all of the colors on one side. 

Ursula:

It may not necessarily be a lesson, but I definitely learned the power of being able to attack a problem and needing only a paper and pen to do so. There is something so incredible about relying on your own problem solving abilities in order to achieve something. Learning just that was enough to get me onboard in learning how to case. Johnny touches on many important learning points, so as to not duplicate, here are some additional…

  • Learning how to ask good questions. When you are given so little time, you learn to prioritize what information is critical to drawing conclusions within the case. Be clear with your questions and make sure they they are exhaustive and not redundant. 
  • Learning how to think extremely generally and very specifically at the same time. Casing is all about learning what is important, what is relevant, and what is additional peripheral information. Your casing framework will help you in your discovery, but the wrong framework can lead you astray. Choose wisely!
  • Being able to overcome nerves and anxiety in order to think clearly. Casing in front of a professional- or even a friend- can be very nerve racking! With enough practice and a little bit of courage, you can make it through! When the time comes for your interview, just remember that your brain is a muscle that has muscle memory too! If you get nervous, rely on your hard work and preparation to get you through it.

Why do you think case prep is valuable for future consultants to learn?

Johnny:

It’s important to learn how to apply business concepts and how they play a role in real scenarios. It’s equally important to learn to ask the right questions when you’re in the field solving them as a professional. We can’t ask every question, and through case prep, we learn to prioritize good vs better questions. Future consultants must also learn how to communicate their thought process to the interviewer. Clients won’t accept your recommendations just because you say so – your credibility is paramount to the project and future clients referrals. 

Ursula:

In my work, I find that it’s important to look at problems holistically, then break them down, and, finally, tackle the most critical issues, which will hopefully have a trickle down effect in solving some of the smaller ones. This applies to every type of consulting- it’s essentially what consulting is! Casing allows you to adopt the mindset of always asking questions to search for the root of the problem which will lead to developing recommendations and solutions. It might be on a very small scale, but there is something to be said for someone’s ability to ace a case! Those skills apply in many different settings. 

What is the best piece(s) of advice someone has given you around case prep?

Johnny:

  • You’re droning on for too long
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a moment
  • You weren’t walking me through your math
  • Talk slower

Ursula:

There will be a moment when you realize that you are ready. You’ll just feel it. When starting out, I thought that this would never be the case, but trust the process. Your time will come! Someone admitting to me that failure is part of the process of casing and that going through casing exercises is just awkward were also two extremely valuable statements made to me by case prep alumni. Sometimes outlining the basics can be incredibly reassuring.

You got this!


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My Retail Predictions for 2021 (Part II)

My retail rundown.

Part two, here we go! Last Friday we talked about experiential moving online, video tutorials, brick and mortar closures, supporting small business, and the end of scheduled collection releases. This week, I am bringing you five more retail predictions to look out for in 2021! A few parting words- make sure to support local businesses, research the companies that you buy your products from, and be bold with your purchases! That feather dress and glittery bowtie is all you!

Online Retail Consulting 

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Because we aren’t able to have in-person shopping consultations, these experiences are moving online to help shoppers get that personal touch from the comfort of their own homes. The well-known Korean skincare company innisfree is one retailer that offers free one-on-one skincare consultations with one of their Korean skincare experts. I foresee many businesses providing similar services in the future, whether it be personal shopping consultations or virtual product walk-throughs. These virtual experiences are being explored now for definite utilization in the future. 

Global Online Discovery and Purchasing

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 3.13.02 PMAs a result of more people shopping online than in store, consumers will have a greater likelihood of discovering international brands with an e-commerce presence than ever before. Popular brands such as Australian e-commerce swimsuit retailer TRIANGL and France’s first online-only retailer Sézane, allow you to import the fashions and trends you love from across the globe. Opportunities to purchase clothing from niche retailers abroad has also allowed for less regionalization and more globalization when it comes to fashion, yet another example of how our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. 

 

Blurred Lines Between Social Media and Buying 

Instagram has done it with their shopping feature, Pinterest has done the same with the way in which you can purchase items tagged in photos, so what’s next? Shopping and media often go hand-in-hand, which is why it is my opinion that other platforms such as TikTok and Youtube- who knows maybe even Twitter- will soon be integrating certain buying features in their technology. When Gen Z-ers see something that they really like, they instantly need to know where to find it and how to buy it. Keeping this in mind, in addition to the fact that social media platforms thrive on ad revenue, it’s hard to see how this won’t be the future. 

Increased Reliance on Consumer Reviews

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Lately, I’ve seen an increase reliance on consumer reviews, reviews done by unbiased third parties such as Consumer Reports, or even unpaid promotions by social media influencers for customers to get a better idea of what they are purchasing. Buying a product, testing it out, and then having to return it can be a big hassle for some, who often buy online just to reduce said hassle. These hyper specific reviews and comments can be an extreme benefit to companies too, who have a loyal and engaged following that is willing to evangelize to others of their excitement for products. Glossier is one company that has thrived because of its consumer reviews and has a detailed approach as to how they capture review data that is worth taking a look at if you, yourself are looking to sell products online.  

Sustainable, Ethical, and Value Driven Brands

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Although this trend has been coming down the pipeline for some time now, ethical and value driven brands will never go out of style in the U.S., as sustainability and the environment have become an increasing concern within the fashion industry. Brands such as Everlane, Parade, and Biossance have all sought a niche place within their market on the basis of being more sustainable than their competitors. Sustainability reports are even becoming more popular for brands to disclose, a write up on their sustainability efforts and performance. Companies that are reporting on this are only putting more pressure on others to conform to higher ethical and environmental standards. Let’s keep it up retail!

My Retail Predictions for 2021 (Part I)

My retail rundown.

Retail is an ever-changing game. One day, critics say that shopping malls are dead, the next they are saying that in-person shopping experiences are paramount of importance, the next that consignment is the new method of purchase. There are a million opinions about what the future of retail will look like. This year, I thought I would take a stab at some trends that I see blossoming over the course of this year. Don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter that comes out every Sunday to stay updated for when Part II comes out next week!

Experiential Moving Online

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I think that everyone would agree that shopping is meant to be all about the experience. Touching the clothes, wearing the clothes, interacting with the sales people, and purchasing the items- maybe even doing a little twirl in the dressing room? But, when company’s retail storefronts are forced to close down, much of the experience that consumers get purchasing, has gone away. Consequently, companies have been striving to find innovative methods to recreate unique experiences for customers. Some ways that retailers have started to do so is through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. AR is one compelling way that furniture retailer Wayfair, for example, has been engaging it customers through almost exclusive e-commerce selling. Through AR, Wayfair app users have been able to see what Wayfair items would look like in their house, whether it be couches, rugs, or anything in between. This is a truly innovative solution that the company is exploring in order to further engage the consumer and allow them to explore different opportunities with the touch of a button. It also allows purchasers to feel more comfortable with their buying decisions, given that they have already had the opportunity to “try out” the items in their own home. Similarly, AR and VR company Obsess has been building these tech experiences for companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Christian Dior, Coach, Ulta Beauty, and Ralph Lauren. Obsess has created virtual stores and buying experiences for 5 years, increasing the return on investment for retail stores by setting up a virtual sales channel. This is truly the wave of the future.

Product Pages with Videos and Tutorials

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As a result of in-person buying being put on hold due to the pandemic, more companies have and will start incorporating videos reviews and tutorials into their product pages in order for the consumer to get a better idea of what they are purchasing. Because buyers aren’t able to touch, try on, and experience products in stores, online retailers should be more motivated to put up dynamic content in order to best inform the consumer on the products they are interested in. ASOS does a good job of including videos of models in the clothing that they sell, giving the consumer a better idea of the fit, movement, and texture of the clothing- aspects that they might not be able to detect from just a photo. Beauty products are especially difficult for consumers to buy online because they tend to require testing within the consumer journey. Customers buying an eyeshadow, for instance, in stores, would often be able to test a sample to examine many aspects of the product- texture, color, contrast with skin tone, and scent. Understanding this obstacle, Sephora has begun to incorporate short videos and tutorials into their product pages, such as this one, which showcases what the product looks like on a range of skin tones as well as a brief glimpse of how the application works. The more information that buyers have, the more equipped to make a purchase. Dynamic content remains king. 

Brick and Mortar Closures, Except for Big Box

Café Congreso in the Phillipines - inspired by Wes Anderson films

This comes as a shock to no one, but it appears that more brick and mortar closures are in the cards for small to medium size businesses. The return on your investment for retail storefronts, especially during the pandemic, have become smaller and smaller, as consumers have found online shopping more popular and safe than venturing into brick and mortar shops. E-commerce companies, who can leverage online marketing to their advantage, can see profits well above their counterparts, who are spending thousands of dollars on shops to gain recognition and hopefully pull some passersby in off the street. I can definitely foresee popular online retailers opening up shop in the future, but only after having establishing intense brand loyalty and a steady stream of sales. I also imagine pop up stores becoming more popular, as retailers are able to test the market on whether or not there is a consistent customer base in a specific location as a proof of concept.

The End of Scheduled Collection Releases

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There was once a time, long, long ago, when designers showed their latest collections during Fashion Week. Due to the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, many designers have had to reschedule or even cancel shows. However, this has allowed for fashion houses to reevaluate their participation in such prescribed events. Michael Kors even moved his Spring 2021 presentation from September to October 15th in 2020. “I have for a long time thought that the fashion calendar needs to change,” he said in a statement. “It’s exciting for me to see the open dialogue within the fashion community about the calendar—from Giorgio Armani to Dries Van Noten to Gucci to YSL to major retailers around the globe—about ways in which we can slow down the process and improve the way we work,” Kors comments. The pandemic has allowed for designers to rethink many aspects of tradition within the industry, set seasons being one that has created more cohesion for some and stress for others. In the future, I see designers favoring their own pace over industry convention. 

Supporting Small Business 

Why Kamala Harris's Outfit Made a Striking Statement at the InaugurationSmall business owners will continue to challenge major players in the retail space this year, including everyone from trendy Esty candle and acrylic coaster makers to young, emerging fashion designers. We saw it at the presidential inauguration and will be seeing it a lot more in 2021. Vice President Kamala Harris chose to wear a purple coat and dress designed by up and coming African American designer Christopher John Rogers, a Louisiana native. Similarly, First Lady Jill Biden wore a blue ensemble by emerging designer Alexandra O’Neill, who is originally from rural Colorado. Although outfits worn during this prestigious event are traditionally made by U.S. companies, both women went out of their way this year to support individuals lesser known in the industry.

Likewise, there has been a continual push for consumers to eat and shop more locally, supporting businesses that have been hit hard due to the pandemic. Buying from American owned businesses has also become a priority in attempting to boost the local economy as opposed to purchasing products from abroad. This movement has shown a heavy spotlight on new faces within the industry- a true breath of fresh air. I have also witnessed social media, such as TikTok, play a large role in increasing exposure for small businesses, like instant acrylic nail company Klaw Beauty, sustainable clothing company STAN, and candle company ember candles, to name a few.

The way that we shop in 2021 is shifting and I hope and pray it is here to stay!


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