Neeley & Associates Consulting Part III: Future Opportunities

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Students pursuing their TCU MBA are eligible to apply for the Neeley & Associates Consulting program. Neeley & Associates Consulting is uniquely designed to give students the opportunity to gain professional consulting experience. Students in the midst of a career change are able to fine-tune the skills pertinent to their new career path.

As part of Neeley & Associates Consulting, TCU MBA students provide consulting services and create value-added business solutions for leading national companies such as Bell Helicopter, Oncor, Sabre Holdings, Frito-Lay, Alcon, Lockheed Martin, Nike, Pepsico and more.

Each of these clients pays for the services provided by Neeley & Associates Consulting, setting students up for a true consultant-client relationship. In addition to their studies, students must provide their time and attention to the project as if it were their job.

In their first year, students work in teams to provide consulting services to clients. Second-year students serve as principals, identifying project opportunities, working with managers to scope the project and serving as team lead for first-year students.

Principals Jason Danforth and Jenna Pieschel explain why they believe Neeley & Associates Consulting has put them a step ahead of the game as they near graduation.

Leadership and Management

Students come into the Neeley & Associates Consulting program with an average of five years professional experience. Throughout the course of their Neeley & Associates Consulting projects, they are able to gain additional experience and hone their leadership, management and consulting skills in an authentic corporate environment. 

Each student works as a member of a team to complete a project for their designated company. In these groups, students are able to excel in various ways. For example, Danforth took on the role of project manager, setting agendas and tracking deliverables for Smith & Nephew Biotherapeutics.

Students also learn the importance of delegating. “As a manager, you can’t do everything 100 percent,” says Danforth. “You need to be a good delegator and master one part, rather than trying to master every part of a project. Know where to focus your efforts and count on your team to do the rest.”

Now serving as principal on a project with first-year students, Danforth has taken the leadership skills he learned last year and put them to work guiding first-year students toward success.

Pieschel, who serves as principal on two projects, mastered the skill of multitasking. “If you can get through your first year, you can get through anything,” she says.

First-year students have to learn to balance their studies with a project that should be treated “as a job,” says Pieschel. In management positions, leaders are often forced to juggle various relationships and projects at one time, something Neeley & Associates Consulting participants experience before graduation.

Tips for Future Neeley & Associates Consulting Students

To students considering the Neeley & Associates Consulting program or those beginning their first year, Danforth and Pieschel offer this advice:

1. Get started early. Don’t wait to start working on your team’s project. The sooner you get started, the more time you’ll have to get to know the company and its needs to determine a strategy. The sooner you “get in the groove,” the less overwhelmed you’ll be down the road, says Danforth.

2. Communicate clearly. Communication is key in establishing and maintaining relationships with the client. Clarity in communication ensures realistic expectations are set for both the client and the other members of the team. In addition to consultant-client communication, clear communication is also essential among team members. Danforth learned first hand the importance of regular face-to-face meetings with members to ensure the team is on the same page. Don’t rely purely on email to communicate with team members.

3. Treat it like a job. Neeley & Associates Consulting projects are learning opportunities for students, but these projects also provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to make connections with executives from leading brands. Many students have earned internships or full-time positions through the relationships they build as part of Neeley & Associates Consulting.

4. Prepare. Don’t show up to a team meeting unprepared. A few minutes of preparation can save hours of time, says Danforth. One team member should be responsible for setting meeting agendas and facilitating the meeting.

Goals for the Future

The experience gained by Neeley & Associates Consulting students with leading national companies puts them ahead of MBAs at other schools, whose experience may be limited to the classroom or projects without potential for practical application. The opportunity to practice project management and refine leadership skills in a corporate setting is something truly unique to TCU MBA students.

Both Danforth and Pieschel have jobs lined up come graduation. Danforth as an executive pastor at WellSpring Church in North Richland Hills; and Pieschel as a project manager for Sabre Holdings.
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