GMSC SERIES: Laurie Manning – GMSC Boot Camp

Each spring semester 42 full-time Goizueta Business School students participate in the Management Practice elective, Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy (GMSC). GMSC pairs student teams with corporate clients to solve pressing business challenges.  The course culminates in a case competition judged by marketing and consulting leaders from across the country. The course is taught by Dr. Reshma H. Shah, Assistant Professor in the area of Marketing. This is the first post in a series about the experiential learning experience at Goizueta from Laurie Manning’s perspective about conducting research and collecting data.

The Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy (GMSC) class is one of the many reasons that I chose to attend Emory Goizueta Business School. I was impressed with its 20 year history and the prominent companies that have participated in the program in the past, such as The Coca-Cola Company and Delta Airlines. I knew that this course would help me transition into a marketing career post business school. Before attending business school, I was working in federal IT consulting in the D.C. area. I also have a marketing management degree, but I have no relevant commercial marketing work experience, so GMSC is the perfect hands on experience to fill that gap.

During first semester and especially before registration for second semester, I heard the rumors about GMSC that it is the equivalent of two classes, it is a full time job, and it will be your “life” for the semester. Despite these comments, I was excited about the opportunity to work with a client on a real marketing problem. I knew that all of the hard work would pay off. I am a strong believer in the staying “you only get out of something what you put into it”. Alumni rave about the course. Alumni in the marketing field stress that it is a must take, and how instrumental it has been in their post-MBA careers.

After registering for the course, students are invited to client night where the GMSC 2015 companies are revealed. Each of the participating clients presented on their company and the business problem that they are looking for the GMSC teams to solve, then they gave us an opportunity to get our questions answered. Following this event, we filled out a survey about our project preferences and eagerly waited for team formation.  The GMSC team used a scavenger hunt to announce the teams. In my opinion, the GMSC leadership team did a great job of matching each student with one of their top two choices and formed diverse teams based on professional background and intended post-MBA career paths.

The first step in the detailed GMSC process was the boot camp held before second semester. GMSC boot camp is an intense two-day event packed with workshops, team meetings, and guest speakers. Having to be back on campus before all of our classmates was not something to brag about, but it was an extremely useful exercise. This activity was vital in setting the foundation for each of the six teams moving forward. My team used this time to understand what each member wanted out of the course, and the roles that would help each of us achieve our goals. GMSC gives all team members the opportunity to take on one or two lead roles on the project, and challenges students to take on tasks outside of their comfort zone. Some of the lead roles are Team Lead, Quantitative Lead, and Presentation Lead. For my team, I am the Paper Lead, Secondary Research Lead, Backup Team Lead, and Backup Client Liaison. There are 11 lead roles in total, some of the other roles include Quantitative Lead, Presentation Lead, and Financial Analysis Lead.

One of my favorite sessions during boot camp was led by a Goizueta GMSC alum, Lynne Sengall. She spoke to us about structured problem solving and consulting
best practices from her personal experiences at Accenture. Another helpful session was with Professor Topping, on managing team dynamics and how important that will be for our projects (especially because of the limited three month time frame to come up with recommendations.) The culmination of the boot camp was the trivia
bowl on the last day. We are divided up into spirit teams, each team has a member from each client team. We were tasked with answering questions from our client
project proposals. We had a great time with the game, everyone was extremely engaged, and there were definitely some heated moments.

The first month of the course is overwhelming because we are trying to understand the GMSC consulting process, get used to turning in three to four deliverable-s every week, learn a new team, determine your company’s key problem, and decide how to go about attacking the issue. It has been extremely important to keep our client in the loop so that we can stay on the same page about the problem definition, and the steps required to develop a compelling
recommendation. Nailing down the key question took multiple in-person meetings as well as phone conversation with our key client’s points of contact. Once we had that established we moved to the “issue tree” which has been the heaviest load so far. I can’t even count how many iterations my team has gone through on our issue
tree. Some versions changed wording and semantics while others were huge overhauls. To add to that, most students are in their heavy internship recruiting process during this time of the process. In my team, we have established a norm that team members will take on extra work loads to cover for those that have networking events and interviews. Those that are available take responsibility for the deliverable-s that are due that week with the understanding that the others will take on more work after they accept an internship offer.

As the Secondary Research Lead, I had the task of pulling together our plan for conducting research to achieve our end goal. The next step in the process will be researching and collecting data through surveys, focus groups, in depth interviews, and library/internet searches. I am excited about continuing the process and building on the knowledge that I gained in my first semester at Goizueta, and applying it to a real business scenario.

More about the author: Laurie Manning is originally from Greensboro, N.C. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Marketing Management and a Global Business Minor in 2010. After college, Laurie moved to the D.C. area to work for an IT federal contracting company, SRA International. There she performed multiple functions, including business development, proposal development, and project execution. Currently Laurie is concentrating on brand management at Goizueta and will be interning at Starbucks in Seattle this summer in a marketing role.