Community News

A.T. Kearney Student Lab turns 10

Dec. 21, 2017

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the A.T. Kearney Student Lab at CMU, a partnership between Carnegie Mellon University and the management consulting agency A.T. Kearney. The lab pairs sponsoring companies with Tepper School students enrolled in the Strategic Management of the Enterprise capstone course, as well as Heinz College and undergraduate students, to address real-world business problems.

For her capstone project completed this past fall, MBA student Susan Clark worked with the Campbell Soup Company. “My project involved using teamwork to solve a sophisticated supply chain management issue Campbell has been facing,” Clark said. “This project gave me invaluable experience in project management and allowed me to deliver a working solution to a real client.”

Student groups gave their final presentations to client companies at the Tepper School on Friday, Dec. 8 as part of the closing activities of the student lab. In addition to Campbell Soup, this year’s course included projects from ABB, Albertsons, Ameriprise, Chico’s, Glacier National Park, GlaxoSmithKline, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, PNC, PPG, Sensei Labs, Siemens and WESCO, on topics that tested students’ analytical and communications skills.

Yihao Yang, undergraduate mathematical sciences and business administration senior, worked with Janssen on a project predicting clinical trial times. “It has been fantastic to have the experience of working on a project involving a client,” Yang said. “In particular, it has taught me soft skills like communication and project management. You have to make the client happy and deliver satisfaction at every stage of the project.”

Joseph Raudabaugh, a partner at A.T. Kearney, launched the student lab at the Tepper School in 2007. A key component of the partnership has been the Strategic Management of the Enterprise course, which Sunder Kekre, Vasantro Dempo Professor, professor of operations management, has co-taught all 10 years with Heinz College faculty member Tiong Kiong Lim, teaching professor of finance and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University Australia.

“Many clients have been pleasantly surprised with the breakthrough thinking exhibited by the student teams and novel approaches to solve their complex problems,” Kekre said. “It is a win-win situation for all involved — the students get to harness creatively the techniques and tools we teach in the classroom and the managers get to work with these young minds. This is experiential learning at its best.”

When the program launched, one of the first companies to sign on was GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. “The student lab has always been a valuable environment for GSK to identify fresh thinking and creative problem-solving to our real-life business challenges,” Jissan Cherian, the company’s marketing director for Consumer Healthcare North America, said. “We have seen the program deliver high-quality students with a maturity and appreciation for diving into business projects which are complex, multi-functional and representative of post-graduate work.”

As part of the two-day event, student and corporate participants were invited to a cocktail reception in the Posner Center to celebrate the completion of the student lab. During the event, Raudabaugh recounted the history of the A.T. Kearney partnership. Over the past 10 years, he said, the program at Carnegie Mellon had involved 941 students and 51 client organizations. In that time, A.T. Kearney has expanded the Student Labs program at 11 other schools worldwide.

“This was only possible due to volunteerism — 200-plus client organizations, 1,000 client executives, staff and A.T. Kearney colleagues, and the faculty that believe in and are willing to passionately support experiential learning,” Raudabaugh said. “Only with faculty willing to invest at an exceptional level is it possible to bring experiential learning to the students.” Kekre is now co-teaching the Strategic Management of the Enterprise course at the Tepper School with Sham Kekre, Distinguished Service Professor of Operations Management, and Lim remains heavily involved in administering the program.

Siemens has taken part in all 10 years of the student lab. “There is a community aspect for me personally, being able to give my time and expertise with the hope that the students will do well in their careers,” said Raj Khoshoo, senior vice president of portfolio management at Siemens.

The Siemens student group was called “Platform Redefined.” According to Khoshoo, the project focused on measuring the impact of disruptive companies in order to build a framework that can evaluate digital business opportunities. “First, we are looking for new sets of eyes and new brains to look at problems differently. Second, we are looking for simpler solutions to complex problems. Our projects are not data-driven, so the students are actually collecting the data, analyzing it, learning it and reasoning around it.”

Sunder Kekre said, “The students get to experience firsthand the joys as well as the agony of tackling unstructured problems, sifting through mountain of data, considering the interests of multiple stakeholders and then making a convincing case to the client for implementation.”

“We engaged with CMU graduate students in the ATK lab to address customer pain points for our business customers,” Seema Batra, senior vice president and director of Customer Experience at PNC, said. “The students delivered us a dynamic dashboard tool that will provide us with timely insights and recommendations to improve the customer experience. I was very impressed with the knowledge and skill the students showed with the technology and data.”

On Thursday, students had the opportunity to workshop their presentations with client representatives. The students involved with “Project Sunbound” — a project focused on analyzing and optimizing visitor traffic at Glacier National Park — ran through a summary of their findings with Eric Smith and Margaret Notley of GNP, along with Raudabaugh. The advisers offered feedback on the way the students framed their data in order to build a more persuasive presentation.

“Working with A.T. Kearney and Glacier National Park has been a cornerstone of my MBA experience,” said MBA student Camden Cornwell. “I have loved camping and backpacking since childhood. The opportunity to serve Glacier National Park with skills I have honed here at Tepper has been a deeply rewarding experience.”

Raudabaugh shared that he is retiring from A.T. Kearney and that A.T. Kearney partners Mark Clouse and Ben Smith, MSIA ’93, would take over leadership of the Carnegie Mellon student lab. “Tonight, we also look forward to the next generation,” he said.