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The Consultant Is In

UVA business grad Daniel Stern works as consultant for a sales and marketing firm in suburban Washington, D.C. Here's a typical day

It seems like everyone is a "consultant" these days—including me. After graduating in 2004 with degrees in finance and management from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, I began working for MarketBridge, in Bethesda, Md. Though the firm has just under 100 employees, it works with Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), IBM (IBM), Merck (MRK), and MasterCard (MA). MarketBridge helps companies design, build, and manage marketing through sales processes that leverage traditional brand marketing and field sales channels with greater online, call center, and database resources.

As a consultant, I generally complete tasks in three categories: analytical (analyzing and synthesizing data), communication (participating in conference calls, writing and presenting key findings), and people management (managing a workstream and/or other junior team members, and managing a client or team of clients).

This is a typical day:

6:30 a.m.—Up and to the gym for an early morning Spin class.

8:00 a.m.—Short walk to the Red Line Metro train at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. (where I live). It's a 15-minute ride to Bethesda.

8:28 a.m.—I boot up my laptop at my cube to begin the day's work. While it's loading, I get water from the kitchen, say "good morning" to a few colleagues, and feed my fish, Scratch (he's a Beta).

8:43 a.m.—An instant message comes in from my manager. We have a client fire drill for our 10 a.m. conference call. He needs me to get him a few key PowerPoint slides by 9:40 a.m. (currently, I'm staffed on a sales strategy project for a Fortune 500 computer hardware/software company).

9:38 a.m.—I send the slides to my manager and check my e-mail quickly.

9:58 a.m.—I dial into the conference call. Three other MarketBridge colleagues and our client team in New York are also on the call. Today's discussion focuses on ironing out the strategic recommendations MarketBridge has developed over the last several weeks. My role on the call is to listen, take notes, and answer questions pertaining to the slides I've developed.

11:08 a.m.—Back to my cube for e-mail and voicemail catch-up.

11:26 a.m.—I complete my expenses from my last two business trips. This requires collecting receipts, printing out credit-card statements, filling out an expense form, and submitting everything to our finance team.

11:57 a.m.—I grab my lunch out of the fridge in the kitchen and head to this month's internal "brown-bag" session, where a team presents processes and findings of current projects to the firm.

1:00 p.m.—I head into a two-hour internal project team meeting to discuss the next stage of our project.

3:00 p.m.—After a long meeting, I need to get up and walk around. I go into the concourse of the building for an iced tea and a pack of gum.

3:15 p.m.—A bit of free time. I catch up on e-mail and check box scores at

3:30 p.m.—I just received new data from the client directly pertaining to my workstream. I read everything, take notes, catalog data, and update our master PowerPoint deck from earlier in to include the revisions.

4:30 p.m.—It's time to completely switch gears and focus on undergraduate recruiting. Because MarketBridge is small, there are tons of opportunities to get involved with tasks outside of typical consulting-project work. Today, I'm sitting down with our director of training, development, & recruiting to discuss 2007 internship-recruiting efforts.

6:00 p.m.—The day is winding down and people are packing up. All that's left for me is to return a few phone calls, print out a few documents for my manager, and check e-mail.

6:15 p.m.—Pile into a car with fellow MarketBridgers (who are also on the company's summer softball team) and go to happy hour at a nearby bar. Being on the team is a great way to get to know colleagues and have fun outside of the office. We're pretty low key (we never practice) and just try to have a good laugh.

8:00 p.m.—I pick up dinner on the ride home from happy hour. I try my best to cook as much as possible, but on a day like today, a sandwich from Potbelly is much easier. And for five bucks, you can't beat it.

8:30 p.m.—I scarf down the sandwich while I enjoy TiVo.

9:30 p.m.—I check my e-mail one last time and finish up a few small work tasks.

10:00 p.m.—Instead of reading before bed, I prefer to write. I spend 20 minutes looking at articles about tennis and then write an entry for my blog, No Man's Land. It's a daily blog about tennis where I write about all aspects of the game. Tennis has been a part of my life since I can remember, and this is a great way for me to continue to be involved in the sport.

11:15 p.m.—Shower, bed, repeat!

Even though it isn't essential to working at MarketBridge, I believe that my degree from McIntire gave me an excellent starting point to understanding consulting and a strong skill base to succeed (see, 9/7/06, "UVA Moves B-Schoolers Out of the Nest"). Basic mechanics such as data analysis and structured business communication are a key part of my everyday work. Being comfortable in these areas made life a lot easier when I started this job.

Like I said before, MarketBridge recruits at universities for new business-analyst hires. That's how I ended up here. I had heard of the company through other students, submitted my résumé and cover letter online, was chosen for an interview, and then went through three rounds of interviews before being offered the job. It certainly wasn't an easy process, but the fact that MarketBridge came to me took the hardest part out.

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