Internship mileage may vary; the benefits do not

Andrés Gvirtz ’18 hit the (long) road this summer for Boston Consulting Group
October 10, 2016

At the end of a summer-long internship with The Boston Consulting Group, Andrés Gvirtz ’18 found himself with a dilemma: He didn’t have anything to wear.

The economics and psychology major started and ended his week in Munich, Germany, traveling to Dusseldorf and Hamburg in between, and was headed to a two-week behavioral economics conference in the Swiss Alps courtesy of the German National Academic Foundation.

“I had to go to home to Heidelberg to get more clothes,” he says. “The most casual thing I had was a two-piece suit and that would look strange in the middle of the mountains.”

With an abundance of energy, Gvirtz crisscrossed Germany as a visiting associate for The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm, racking up more than 30,000 frequent flier miles this summer alone while problem-solving for some of the company’s billion-dollar-revenue clients.

But his work inspired only enthusiasm, not exhaustion. He thrived on quick thinking, the fast-paced environment, collaboration with colleagues and learning about the consulting industry. The long hours spent examining, strategizing and analyzing didn’t feel like work to him.

“You’re under time pressure, but it’s relaxed between the team members,” he says. You always have dinner together, and it’s very nice talking to people coming from so many different backgrounds.”

In fact, working with fellow associates and making connections with other BCG employees across the globe is the aspect Gvirtz liked most about the super-selective internship (BCG is said to accept fewer than 3 percent of those who apply). He regularly interacted with senior colleagues in New York and Mumbai, all of whom always had time to answer his questions.

Gvirtz (pictured) applied to BCG and was invited to interview. He discussed the opportunity with Clark Board of Trustees member Wolfgang Hammes, M.B.A. ’89, who previously worked for a BCG competitor and who encouraged him to pursue the internship. During the day-long process, he sat for an aptitude test, during which he used data to decipher key messages under time constraints, and then two case interviews where he had to infer, estimate and make quick recommendations on how to problem solve, decipher market readiness of a product and increase business process efficiency using sample scenarios, illustrating the thought process he used to arrive at his answers. Each piece of the interview tested actual skills he would later use while working with clients from a variety of industries.

“As you get into the work, that kind of thinking becomes very natural to you,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what kind of [issue] people ask you [about], you have the thought process you need to use to get there.”

Gvirtz blended his majors and skills throughout the BCG internship, working for the first part of the summer on a task force and the second part with a team in a client’s finance department. He says his thinking was economics driven, but the tools he used were more from psychology. He credits his class and research assistant work with his adviser, psychology Prof. Andrew Stewart (his economics adviser is Prof. Marc Rockmore), with helping him breakdown complex tasks, calling it the “perfect preparation.”

“I implemented statistics to figure out some common problems,” he says. “For example, [we asked] departments in one company how they saw their performance and how they viewed another area’s performance. Each department identified problems, but every single department said [the problems] weren’t in their department. That’s where statistical surveys and measures come in handy.”

For the first three weeks of his task force work, Gvirtz developed an Excel-based tool that BCG continues to use.

“You always work as a team, but normally you have a focus based on your skill set and, from my work with Professor Stewart, I concentrated on statistics,” he says. Team members don’t have to be skilled at statistics if they use the tool, just skilled at analyzing the results, Gvirtz notes.

After data and statistical analysis, his team would present its findings to the company and then gather more information through employee interviews. Gvirtz saw inefficiencies created by “siloed thinking,” or having one department be concerned only with its own objectives rather than company-wide goals.

“It’s a prime example where we can help identify which areas need to be improved,” he says. “Then the case team can brainstorm over the root causes and tackle them with the help of the company.”

For Gvirtz, the teams’ strengths come from diversity of interests. BCG purposefully groups employees with various academic backgrounds and skill sets. He says it’s similar to learning at a liberal arts university, like Clark.

“People usually specialize in a field during their undergraduate studies, so you’d think a firm like BCG would be all management majors and M.B.A.’s,” he says. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I worked with an engineer, a mathematician and there was a philosophy major on another team.”

Though his work was data-driven, Gvirtz used clear, concise communication with colleagues and clients, especially when the feedback was critical.

“You [need] to think of the implications of every single word and the connotations it has,” he says.

Now back on campus, Gvirtz is still running at full speed, although it’s fewer miles between clients. Besides his classes, he works for Clark’s Strategic Analytics and Institutional Research Office and he’s continuing research in Stewart’s lab, examining survey results and writing an article about prejudice in Germany related to the recent influx of Syrian refugees.

He’s also the treasurer of Clark’s Undergraduate Student Council, responsible for approving the budgets of more than 100 clubs and organizations seeking university funding. This year, he used prior internship experience at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to automate the budgeting process while providing personalized feedback.

After Clark, he’s considering pursuing a doctorate that combines both psychology and economics.

While Gvirtz hasn’t done a formal LEEP project, he connects much of his internship and research experience to the LEEP experiential learning concept, something he discovered when he arrived at Clark as a first-year student.

“So I took a class and then did a research seminar, which I would say is taking [learning] to a higher level, and then I applied what I learned and used it,” he says. “I can now do something I wouldn’t have been able to do before and that goes beyond being able to write a paper, hand it in and call it finished. Learning doesn’t change your worldview if you don’t apply it.”