My Team Consulting Project Experience: Calah McQuarters

Calah McQuarters, MBA/MPP '24

September 12, 2023

Calah McQuartersIn the words of gold medal winning, 2023 100-meter dash World Champion Sha’Carri Richardson, “I’m not back, I’m better.”

Why am I not back? Well, I never left. That’s right! While my colleagues in the fellow Masters programs at Heller were away working internships, visiting friends and family, and enjoying the warm summer air, my fellow MBA classmates and I were locked away on campus taking courses and looking longingly out of every window. I’m kidding. Well, kind of. Social Impact MBA students were on campus this summer taking classes. But this semester wasn’t like any normal semester. Why? Team Consulting Projects.

What are the Team Consulting Projects? Well, in short, they are the capstone project for the MBA program. During the 4-month project, students self-select into groups of 3-5 and provide consultative services to a mission driven organization using the skills, tools, and frameworks learned over the course of the MBA program. This work culminates in August via a 45 minute presentation and paper along with any additional deliverables agreed upon by the team and their client. 

Sounds like a lot, huh? Well, it was. And I’m here to tell you all about it. 

The TCP process started in December. Now, if you’re like me, you may be doing the math and thinking “December to August is 8 months. She said the project was only 4 months…?” Well, yes. The bulk of the work happened in a 4-month period, but there was a good amount of preparation as well!

Our instructors held information sessions in December to introduce us to the TCP process and share important future deadlines. They then shared project proposals from interested organizations in late February in preparation for the TCP fair. The virtual fair, held in March, featured over 20 organizations interested in having a group of Heller students work on a specific challenge within their respective organization. Each attendee gave a short presentation of their organization and project before separating into breakout rooms for students to ask more questions about projects they were interested in. After the fair, students had about a month and a half to choose a team and a project. My class, being the organizers we are, held additional meetings (with food of course) to talk more about who was interested in which projects and discuss individual approaches to the challenges. (Shoutout to my classmate and friend Ashley for being our spreadsheet and organization queen during this time!)

Now that I’ve told you a little about the logistics of the beginning of TCP, I want to talk about how this part process went for me!

To be transparent, it didn’t unfold the way I expected. 

I was excited to see so many proposals for prospective projects, but that excitement quickly turned into more of an overwhelmed feeling. While I consider myself to be a pretty decisive person, I also consider myself a very passionate person about probably one too many things in the world. And with such a wide variety of projects, I found myself being torn between issues I care very deeply about. I mean how do you decide between creating solutions for affordable housing, pay equity, or education access. Doesn’t sound so straightforward, does it?

Well, things were further complicated when I realized I wouldn’t have enough team members to select the project I felt most inspired by. I tried. Truly. You should have seen my campaign speech. But with so many great options, there were quite a few projects that only had one or two devoted champions who eventually had to compromise and move on to another project. This was my story. Now let me pause and say, though I and some of my peers may not have been able to go with our first preference, I can say without a doubt that each group loved their project and put in countless hours to deliver a great product for the client. It was just a lesson learned! You may not always get the project or task you want, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other wonderful alternatives that may inspire you in new ways. This was also my story. 

In my search for a new project, I considered two factors: what I wanted to gain and my future team. I knew I wanted a project that would speak to my career goals and I knew I wanted to work with new people! I didn’t want to select a project based on ease (not that ANY of them would have been particularly easy!) or just be with friends. I wanted a challenge, and boy did I get one!

My ultimate choice was a project centered on addressing the lack of affordable housing in New Bedford, Massachusetts. And when I finally settled on this project, I actually joined a team that was already formed (with 3 out of 4 of the members being people I hadn’t worked with before!). Fortunately, they welcomed me with open arms! And after accomplishing our first goal: picking a team name, we became the HOMIES. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of this TCP journey where I’ll chat more about the challenges the HOMIES faced and how we successfully completed our project.