MBA Internship Insight - Porsche Consulting

Originally from the Netherlands, I graduated university with a degree in Aerospace Engineering before moving onto roles as a Structural Engineer in the Aerospace industry in the UK, France and ultimately Germany. Prior to my MBA, my days were spent managing feasibility studies to reduce the cost of aircraft for Premium Aerotec. I came to CEIBS to expand my career horizons in light of the enormous growth potential for the high-tech industry in China. Given the competitive nature of finding the right MBA internship, I wanted to share my experience of both landing the role and also my key learnings from my internship at Porsche Consulting in Germany.

Applying for the right internship

I wanted an internship at Porsche Consulting for many reasons. First and foremost, it would be the perfect opportunity to combine my past experience with newly-developed skills in an exciting, high-performance setting. Porsche Consulting began in 1994 after the auto company successfully restructured its operations in the wake of a crisis, and decided to share the expertise it developed with other companies. I thought I could leverage my engineering background in Germany to efficiently join a team at Porsche Consulting working on any operational, production or product development assignment. This would allow me to focus on the non-technical aspects of the consultancy work.

Preparing for the interview

Like any other top consultancy company, Porsche Consulting carefully selects its internship candidates. For me this meant that the internship started before I even applied. I researched typical consultancy interview questions online, talked to CEIBS classmates with consultancy experience, participated in MBA competitions, and practiced the dreaded case interview. Having read several horror stories online, I knew I had to prepare well. Thankfully, CEIBS provides excellent consultancy workshops, and I would recommend everyone pay close attention to CEIBS Associate Professor of Management Dr. Daniel Han Ming Chng’s workshop series as it provides a complete overview of management consulting; he provides a strong toolkit which can be used throughout the MBA. Besides the workshops, consultants from McKinsey and Bain were invited by the CEIBS Career Development Centre (CDC) to visit our Shanghai campus, which proved a great opportunity for me to ask a few detailed questions regarding the interview process. Another invaluable resource is speaking to your peers about your background. My fellow MBAs Victor Tobio, Gary Ng and Sai Somala were able to provide honest and frank feedback about the strength of my profile and helped me practice for the interview. 

Jumping into my first project

My first project at Porsche Consulting was in the automotive industry, where our goal was to improve the budget planning and controlling for new product development. By the time I joined, the analysis phase of the project had already finished and consultants were working on detailing the recommendations and implementation. Each consultant on the team had a separate work stream and I was there to support where needed. Of course, like most interns I spent a significant part of my time preparing PowerPoint slides for the consultants. It may sound like an unimportant job, but I quickly realized that this is in fact a skill which should not be undervalued. The slides are presented to the client and need to communicate the right message in the right way. This is only possible if you truly understand the point that needs to come across and can effectively communicate it – a basic skill that is useful for many business situations.

I felt that the project went well but I was not fully satisfied with the client interaction, as from my perspective my soft skills needed more attention. At times I found it challenging to find the right way to approach and emphasize key issues with the client (I had worked with clients before but not as a consultant). These kinds of meetings definitely need to be prepared for well in advance. More sensitive topics – especially those that the client knows but does not want to hear – should be addressed politely but clearly. As a consultant you are expected to take ownership and you are responsible for anything that potentially delays the project.

Approaching the second project

I believe that actively tracking your performance and looking for areas to improve can make all the difference. Only in this way can you learn and grow effectively. Thus I decided that I had to strengthen my interaction with the client for my second assignment, which was to improve the maintenance processes of a railway company. This project had just started, and we had to analyze the company and its way of working. Since most trains are used during the day, they are maintained at night. For us, this meant working from early morning until around 2 am in order to understand and map the processes of the client. Near the end of the project my hair was growing longer and my project lead mentioned that I was starting to look like Rambo . . . The name stuck and from then on I was known as the PowerPoint slides Rambo.

This brings me to an important point: the great atmosphere at Porsche. I enjoyed many activities together with colleagues outside of our daily work; sports, steak dinners, and bowling, just to name a few. They were a lot of fun and created a strong spirit within the staff, and made the internship even more enjoyable.

Signing off with clarity on my future

In my feedback meeting at the end of the internship I wanted to thank my lead for his support and show what I have learned. I thought the best way to demonstrate this would be to use what I had learned to present my key takeaways. Both project leads gave similar feedback; sketch before you draw in PowerPoint, it’s better to complete 80% now than 100% never, define a hypothesis and test it, and use storytelling to communicate your messages. Thus I created a short hand-drawn presentation at 80% quality in which I told my story: what I learned during my journey from MBA student to PowerPoint slide Rambo.

At the end of the second project when everyone knew it was my last day onsite, our client thanked me for a good job in front of the entire team and indicated that he would like to see me in his office again in the future. It was a great sign of appreciation and made me feel that I had successfully completed my second project. I knew then that I have what it takes for a career in consultancy.

So much can be done in only half a year. I remember a friend that joined Booz Allen a while ago telling me that your rate of development in consultancy is almost twice that of any other job. At Porsche Consulting, this is definitely true.