Adi Reddi reflects on her internship with consultancy Elixirr

29 September 2017 Consultancy.uk

Adi Reddi recently completed a two-month internship with Elixirr. What started as a placement in Dallas and Philadelphia, soon developed into a cross-border adventure. Reddi reflects on her time at the management consultancy and what she learned from the experience.

Dallas, Philadelphia and London. Not many people can say that they completed a two-month internship in all of these cities. I still can’t believe I was able to do this. Elixirr, a fast-growing consultancy firm, gave me the opportunity to not only travel to these cities, but also observe, first-hand, how consultants interact with and provide the best value for their clients.

People ask me “How did you get into Elixirr?”. Like many juniors, I was looking for a summer internship to top off my collegiate career experience before applying for full-time work. I took the initiative to do some research into the best management consulting firms, specifically those embracing innovation and forward-thinking. After finding Elixirr, several interviews followed with both the UK and US teams, and the rest was history. I was delighted to join the firm as their first US intern.

You probably think I joined Elixirr just to have an internship, but it was so much more. Before I joined, I took the usual steps of researching the firm and its employees, and noted a unique aspect about the organisation: from publishing articles about industry disruption, to The Pitch and podcasts discussing FinTech in Africa, Elixirr cares about and supports the individuality and entrepreneurship within each employee. This resonated very well with me!

Working at Elixirr

For the first six weeks, I worked in Dallas and Philadelphia on the Digital Studio project for a large corporate insurance company that’s undergoing a massive digital transformation. We were asked to develop the blueprint design for a digital innovation factory and operating model where employees will work cross-functionally in an agile manner to rapidly produce “market-ready” minimal viable products (MVPs) and services through rapid prototyping and customer testing iterations. Our mission was to help the client design and implement a much more customer-centric, collaborative and agile approach to their product development lifecycle.

The Challenger Consultancy - Elixirr

I worked as an Analyst on the team, alongside a Consultant, Manager, Principal, and two Partners. Every step of the way, I was given guidance on my work and advice on what consulting life has to offer. The important part of this experience was that I was constantly encouraged to ask for help and provide my ideas and inputs during project calls and meetings. My ideas were given the chance for consideration. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t challenging. However, I felt it was completely worth it. I was fully immersed in what it’s like to be a management consultant right there on the client site.

Most mornings started with one hour individual interview sessions with each of the 28 key Digital Studio stakeholders, who were client executives ranging from Vice Presidents to C-level leaders. The importance of having the one-on-one sessions was to build support, drive alignment, and involve every one of the key stakeholders in making this project happen. No small feat! We used their feedback to create a final proposal of how we would approach and build the Digital Studio as we moved into phase two.

Walking the talk

Here is where I saw Elixirr walk the talk. We showed our client that we’re open-minded, flexible, and willing to continuously adapt and pivot the plan as we gained more insights into the organisation and their objectives, and the project evolved. The first few days I was asked to print business objectives and design hypotheses on large posters to hang in the conference room, which we named the ‘Digital Garage’. We wrote on these posters as the plan continued evolving, leaving room for adjustments on each hypothesis for the stakeholders to provide their inputs. We openly encouraged strong collaboration with the client team from day one.

Judgement day was July 26th; the day we planned and executed a workshop involving all interviewed stakeholders to review the first draft of our proposed blueprint design. The workshop included activities and exercises for the stakeholders to decide how certain capabilities would be followed through. I was fortunate enough to be assigned the task of researching possible physical locations for the Digital Studio. It was one of my biggest responsibilities and, of course, I felt the pressure. Location was vital, so I needed to make sure my data was 100% correct. It was a great experience overall!

Philadelphia and London

London calling

After delivering our proposal by the end of the third week in Philly, I took the initiative to see if I could go to the London office or work on any ongoing projects elsewhere. Fortunately, I was offered the opportunity to head over to London for two weeks where I completed my internship. This gave me the unique experience of exploring not only two cities, but two working environments. An experience I greatly enjoyed and benefitted from!

One of the great aspects of the Elixirr London office was that everybody works in an open plan environment where individuals can sit where they please. Partners sat amongst Managers and graduates, showing that hierarchy should never hinder collaboration. I was given the opportunity to get involved in video editing and publishing which, after being guided through the process, allowed me to learn these previously unexplored areas. I also collaborated with the marketing and HR teams to understand and define what unique tactics would optimise the search for the best collegiate candidates at career fairs, a task I could greatly relate to and immerse myself in. The best part about working these projects was that I was helping Elixirr expand into different industries, including in the US.

And of course, we always made time to get a drink and socialise together as a team. Discussions did not always revolve around the project, and we loved to celebrate even the smallest victories… such as a successful deliverable or milestone achievement. The London culture fascinated me more, since co-workers took pleasure in grabbing a swift drink after work and catching up outside of the office. During my penultimate day, the firm arranged goodbye drinks at a nearby bar for an employee who was leaving. Instead of a simple goodbye, the firm took pride in her work and supported her professional endeavours. Even former employees came to celebrate while reconnecting with current employees. Such relationships showed that work life did not have to consume one’s personal life, and that Elixirr employees, past, present and future remain close-knit.

While understanding what a “challenger consultancy” does, I also challenged my own capabilities during my eight-week internship journey. Every day was a test of what knowledge I was gaining and how I could optimise my analytical skills. I’ll be honest and say that there was no one harder on me than myself during the process, because I wanted to ensure I was creating value for the firm. But I was wisely told that “it’s not about what you know, it’s about what you learn”. I was incredibly lucky to witness what the consulting life entails at each professional level. Nobody asked me to bring them coffee or arrange their personal errands. Elixirr gave me the respect to understand that my position as an intern meant a true learning experience, something I will value for a lifetime.

Related: An interview with Matilda Malmgren (Consultant at Wavestone UK).

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