A Neuroscience Major Learns about Consulting

Jamaal Spence, COL ’24, Rosedale, NY

I’m confident that Penn students have heard the phrase “consulting” mentioned more times around campus than they can possibly count. Each fall, recruiting season rallies students from a variety of majors, challenging them to apply their critical thinking skills as they work through case studies for several big-name consulting firms. As a neuroscience major, I had never possessed a concrete understanding of the work that consultants do, let alone the appeal of the industry. This summer however, I had an amazing opportunity to enter the field as an Executive Assessment intern for AIIR Consulting (AIIR). My experience with AIIR has helped me to grow my understanding of what consulting has to offer, and I am grateful to Penn Career Services for making this possible.

I first discovered AIIR when I attended a talk organized by the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative’s Student Society here at Penn. The representatives from AIIR Consulting made it clear that in order to continue evolving as a global leadership consultancy, it was critical that the company integrate psychological findings and new technological advancements to their business model. Drawn to the business’ internship by this commitment to innovation, my experience on the Executive Assessment team has placed me on the forefront of this change. As one of AIIR’s various service lines, Executive Assessment seeks to utilize psychometric insights and analysis of workplace behavior to identify the ideal leaders for a company culture. In the absence of this work, companies are more prone to selecting their leaders using biased metrics, such as manager feedback, charisma, and language. Executive Assessment encourages companies to disregard some of these external qualities, which would normally bias selections against diverse candidates who might be less outgoing and could have language barriers within the company. While on the Executive Assessment team, I was given the chance to gather and study the data that goes into pinpointing the right candidates for a position.

During the first weeks of my internship, I delved into the psychometric tests that AIIR uses to make these conclusions, including the Hogan Assessment suite and their personalized 360-degree assessment tool. I had no knowledge of either of these services prior to this summer, meaning that it took me a while to become certified in analyzing both tools. Nonetheless, the team that I worked alongside was very supportive, helping me to process all the material given to me. It was not long before they began working with me to design deliverables for client calls and strengthen the foundations needed to analyze behavioral data on my own. I had often thought that consulting came with a lot of individual work and obligations, many of which I dreaded would be unreasonably demanding. My positive experience with AIIR helped to show me that it is possible for consultancies to combine a strong sense of collaboration with a desire for interns to build personal skillsets.

One of the other highlights of working with AIIR during this summer was that I was able to meet a bunch of brilliant leaders on their internal team. Several members of the AIIR team work in-person from their office just outside of Philadelphia, and without the opportunity for summer funding from Penn Career Services, I would not have been able to finance the costs of living in the area throughout my internship. It is rare that companies offer students the chance to meet with important stakeholders at their business, let alone attend frequent meetings with those same individuals. Being able to learn from the members of the AIIR team was an experience that I will never forget.

Prior to this summer, I don’t think that I would have considered a career in consulting as something that I could see for myself. Through the help of Career Services and AIIR Consulting, I am proud to say that my mind has been opened to the possibility.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services