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Valerie Aguiar

Degree:

MBA

Location:

Canada

Industry:

Fast Moving Consumer Goods

Year:

2018-19

By Valerie Aguiar

3 things I learned interning at a purpose consultancy

3 things I learned interning at a purpose consultancy

In all honesty, I never thought I’d work at a consultancy. I tend to be more of an introvert, and while I’ve worked in sales and marketing (and loved it), I shied away from consulting because I believed it was “for extroverts”. Well, that’s not true at all (see this Fast Company article if you don’t believe me).

During the MBA, I volunteered to organise the Oxford Mars Responsible Business Forum. Through this event, an opportunity came up to intern at a purpose consultancy called REVOLT, in a role split between strategy research and client-facing work. REVOLT uses branding to change the world, so I jumped at the chance to try out consulting. Surprisingly, I’ve found client-facing work to be the most rewarding. So, here’s what I’ve learned about it:

You don’t have to have all of the answers. In the past, to manage any anxiousness about meetings or presentations, I would often over-prepare. For example, if I was presenting, I’d draft questions people might ask and even practice answering them. Oddly, I hated the feeling of anticipation before a presentation, but found presenting itself to be energising. While over-preparing helped build my confidence, it still left me feeling anxious during ad-hoc meetings or presentations.

Interning at REVOLT helped me to get comfortable with this. While I did my part to prepare for client meetings, the nature of our work made it impossible to have all the answers. In any one week, I’d be working on a different part of the client’s business or focusing on a different global issue. I started to connect my past experience to current projects and realised that sharing these broader experiences was far more useful than narrow expertise. You don’t need to know all the answers because your point of difference is your past experience.

Find what works for you. In a new role, it takes time for people to learn how you work and for you to understand how your team works. I’m learning that it’s equally important to ask for what you need to do your best work. For example, I tend to ask a lot of questions because I like understanding the context and bigger picture. Early in my career, I was hesitant to ask because I thought it would be disruptive, but I learned that there’s no harm in asking if you’ve put in the effort to find the answer and still need help. At REVOLT, my manager actually asked me about my work style and what role I wanted to play in meetings. This helped me to comfortably build my capabilities in a new role. For example, I participated in the first workshop to meet the client and understand the process, then I led a second workshop later on. You’re going to spend the majority of your adult life working, so you might as well get comfortable asking for what you need early on.

Your perspective matters. An internship is really what you make of it. During my undergraduate degree, I was hesitant to share my opinions because I thought that “I’m just the intern”. Years later, interning as a graduate student, I’ve learned that this self-imposed limit is completely false. Companies hire interns because they’re looking for new talent and because they want people with diverse experiences. At REVOLT, I found that people were especially interested in hearing a new perspective or getting feedback on client work. One easy way to do this is by sharing 15 things you learned or noticed about the organisation after your first 15 days. It’s an idea that a mentor of mine shared with me a few years ago, and I’ve used it ever since! During this internship, I shared a list of observations and ideas with the team, which was helpful in shaping some of their new hire policies as well as a diversity and inclusion strategy.

Image: Richard Johanson, Valerie Aguiar, and Bruno Roche during the Oxford Mars Responsible Business Forum 2019

 The Oxford MBA created a unique opportunity for me to become an intern (again) and test out something completely new. It’s been nice to get back into the workplace and to put my MBA into practice. I’ve found that the curriculum at Saïd Business School gave me a structured approach to tackling problems as well as the confidence to jump into new topics. As I end my internship, I’m excited to continue my career in marketing while exploring the role purpose should play in Consumer Goods.

Have a question about interning at REVOLT or the Oxford MBA? Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

The REVOLT team hard at work

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