Welcome to the Real World

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by TUSHAR DWIVEDI

In high school, Junior year is often regarded as the most challenging, as course rigor ramps to a significant level and students begin prepping for College applications. The “seriousness” of extracurricular activities, leadership positions, and awards start to matter, as students look out to the “real world” and realize that high school is about to come to an end.

Junior year at Harvard can oftentimes be much the same, depending on one’s interests. As the first semester of the second half of college approaches, for some, the reality of the “real world” post-graduation strikes once again, with the stakes seeming just as high as those in High School. Many of the same factors that one looks for when choosing a college appear when searching for a role outside of school: learning opportunity, personal growth, earnings potential, prestige, culture, competition, personal satisfaction, etc. Unlike the college application process, however, there are few step-by-step guides or walkthroughs on finding one’s fit.

Consulting, a popular choice on campus, draws individuals of all concentrations, including those who have had an interest in the field since high school, to those just discovering it as recruiting approached.  Fall of Junior year, therefore, transforms into a whirlwind of both interviewing and simultaneous self-discovery. The Independent speaks with Paul Nebres, a Junior at Harvard and Case Team Leader at CBE (Harvard Undergraduate Consulting on Business and Environment), on how his experience with an undergraduate organization shaped his perception of consulting as a potential career.

Indy: Paul, could you talk a little bit about CBE as a whole, and why a student would join an undergraduate consulting club?

PN: So CBE was founded in 2008, working on cases across technology, life sciences, and sustainability. That means working with companies in areas like water management, pharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence, and more – companies that are really changing the subsectors in which they play. We’ve completed more than 50 of these cases, and as CBE continues to grow, we expect to extend even deeper within our core fields of interest. And that’s the exact reason why students come to CBE. Our clients are companies that we look up to as being considered revolutionary in their space. The chance to play a key role in that process is what drives students to organizations such as CBE.

Indy: Across Harvard’s campus then, what sort of backgrounds or skillsets do students usually come to CBE with? Are they already well-versed in consulting or are they brand new to the industry?

PN: CBE is definitely one of the more diverse groups on campus in terms of concentration and personal interest, especially with our three different areas of focus. We’ve had students come in who already have experience at major consulting firms while also bringing in analysts excited to start learning about the industry.  While we don’t require students to enter in with a consulting background, there are a few key tenets we look for amongst students, which we believe are representative of most consulting firms out of college. The largest of these is a strong interest in problem solving and a commitment to impact consulting. As a consultant, our foremost job is to not only solve, but oftentimes to determine the challenges a company is facing before attempting to solve them. As such, an interest in thinking deeply about complex issues and doing the necessary research to support conclusions is absolutely critical. On the other hand, the desire to get deeply involved with a company and drive a company’s outcome is something that’s also important.

CBE, along with HCCG and several other organizations on campus provide students with the opportunity to get an inside look into “the real world,” a rare and oftentimes invaluable opportunity for  those looking ahead to Junior Fall.