Avant Garde Advisory: Management Consulting by the students of today for the graduates of tomorrow

By AnnMaree Murray

When looking to develop a competitive graduate program why not consult your target market? One company decided to do just that, engaging a team of Bachelor of Commerce students for a 12-week consulting project.

Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) is a global communications network – the third largest in the world. With demand for their services increasing, they saw the need to hire recent graduates even though they did not yet have a formal recruitment program in place.

Recognising a need to develop an attractive and effective graduate program, DAN signed on third-year Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) students Kyle Bennetto, Julia Holme, Shenghao Leong, Emma Poole and James Zhao, who formed the Avant Garde Advisory (AGA) group, to tackle DAN's challenge, under the subject Management Consulting.

THE PROJECT

The project aim was to design a competitive graduate program that will attract and develop a highly skilled and cross-functional workforce, one that is adaptable and in synergy with DAN’s business model.

Design a graduate program that you would want to be a part of. Avant Garde Advisory Group, Project Proposal

After defining the project aims and scope, the AGA team outlined their plan and timelines before conducting primary and secondary research. With a predominantly qualitative approach, they interviewed DAN staff from across all levels, including current graduates. Quantitative data was also collated from internal and external sources.

The team analysed the data and produced a comprehensive written report that detailed their findings and outlined a series of recommendations. The students proposed five general initiatives for immediate implementation as well as programs for future consideration by DAN.  Using the insight that comes from being members of their own target audience, they were able to tailor the program to attract and retain the best graduate talent.

The project culminated in a formal presentation to DAN, an experience Holme describes as “one of the most terrifying and exciting things I have done at Uni”. Having a supportive team and an understanding client helped.  “I am very proud of our work over the 12-week semester, and the presentation became a celebration of our work”, Holme said.

Avant Garde Advisory group members
The Avant Garde Advisory team with their Dentsu Aegis Network Mentors

The Subject

Management Consulting Subject Director Paul Wiseman provides coaching and mentoring to the student groups throughout the projects they undertake, and says “one of the joys of teaching a work-integrated subject is witnessing the personal development that students gain through this industry experience.”

Students who undertake Management Consulting work intensively in small groups throughout the semester, developing their teamwork skills and forming valuable networks. For AGA, this was no different, and the friendships made along the way were a highlight for Shenghao Leong. “Beginning as a team of complete strangers and ending with project recommendations that have potential corporate impact, as well as a new group of friends? That is priceless.”

Our student teams bring fresh perspectives, creative thinking, and a rigorous approach to industry research. Our expectation is that they produce results that add real value to the client organisation. Paul Wiseman, Management Consulting Subject Director, Semester 1

Management Consulting can also benefit students by helping to shape career direction, as Kyle Bennetto discovered. “I believe the subject helped refine and place emphasis on what I want from a future career. By being placed in an organisation that is fully functioning around you, you begin to pick up on qualities and experiences that you want going forward” Bennetto says.

James Zhao agrees that there is much to be gained by taking a subject that is outside of the traditional classroom setting. “Real life experiences are extremely hard to obtain, yet they are crucial for a valuable head start in any career. I have always wanted to know how it feels to work in a real business environment, and being able to put all the theory that I’ve learnt into practice – and it looks good on my resume."

From the client Dentsu Aegis Network:

Luke Speers, Human Resources Director

We feel very fortunate to have some of the brightest student minds in the country working with our elite talent base. Understanding millennials is a challenge and opportunity for any organisation and this project provided another data point to make Dentsu Aegis Network an amazing place to work.

Isabel Peh, HR Operations and Projects Manager ANZ

It was a wonderful experience hosting the students from the University of Melbourne – Emma, James, Julia, Kyle and Sheng. We found their energy and positivity to be simply infectious and looked forward to the days when they would be in the office. They were each unique in their thought process and we thoroughly enjoyed mentoring and working with them throughout the project. Needless to say, we were impressed with the calibre of the recommendations put forward in their final presentation and report.

Management Consulting is a work-integrated subject in the Bachelor of Commerce that gives students the opportunity to undertake a real client-specified business project of strategic importance.

Find out more about the Bachelor of Commerce

If your organisation is interested in becoming a Management Consulting client please contact Tracey Skordos, Industry Consultant at fbe-industryprograms@unimelb.edu.au