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Alumnus gives students consulting tips

Chris Bierly, vice president of Bain & Company and 1986 University alumnus, spoke to students enrolled in "Strategic Management Consulting," COMM 460a, Friday about what they could expect from the consulting field.

Boston-based Bain & Company is one of the world's leading global strategy consulting firms.

Bierly told students he recognizes that management consulting is an ambiguous term and he defined it simply as one company giving advice to another company.

"There are two parts to management consulting -- the first is expertise providers who take information from company to company and the second, strategy consulting, helps top management in companies decide where they would like their companies to go and designs initiatives to help companies get from point A to point B," he said.

Bain & Company now employs more people with bachelor's degrees than MBA's. About 60 percent of its employees have a liberal arts degree, 20 percent have a business degree and the others have various degrees.

Martha Stack, a 1996 alumna who graduated with a degree in Russian and foreign affairs, now is working as a consultant for Bain & Company and said the University has a niche with her company.

"Bain hires as many people from U. Va. as [they do from] Harvard," Stack said.

"As a consultant, I work on a team of six to eight people and help companies to answer questions such as, how can I grow or how can I double my company?" she said.

Bierly noted that his company looks for bright individuals who like to solve abstract problems when it searches for potential employees.

The students he spoke to all are enrolled in "Strategic Management Consulting," a new Commerce School course which teaches more about the environment and practices of strategic consulting firms like Bain & Company. Taught by Commerce School Prof. Elizabeth K. Thurston, the course emphasizes strategic consulting and planning and is restricted to four-year Commerce students concentrating in management.

Thurston said the class is designed to integrate four principles: consulting tools, the engagement life cycle, behavioral skills and the consulting career.

Students in the class said it has taught them skills they can apply in several situations.

"This class teaches you how to apply strategic thinking to any course in life because you have problems everywhere," fourth-year Commerce student Alec Henry said.

"It touches on new topics through experimentation," Henry said.

"Professor Thurston's class teaches to work smart, not hard," said fourth-year Commerce student Shirley Ching.

"It helps to prepare us for the real world and teaches what to expect," fourth-year Commerce student Shea Pearon said.

Bierly visited the University both to speak to Thurston's class and for recruiting.

Bain & Company will return in January to begin recruiting third-year students from all majors for summer internships.


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