Guest Post by Jen Shih, writer for TBBC
April 2016: The excitement is palpable as the three co-founders sat around the table and planned out their first session as part of the inaugural Tufts Advisory Partners (TAP), a pro bono consulting group made up of Boston-area graduate students and postdocs. Alexandra Taracanova, Michaela Tolman, and Ji-Yong Kang were meeting to plan out their first engagement, or client relationship. They had selected a team of consultants, and now it was time to get to work. Tufts was about to be put on the map as an institution with high interests and talents for consulting and business development.
TAP was largely inspired by the sudden explosion in interest for the Case Study Group at Tufts. Students at Tufts, as well as institutions in the area, were becoming aware that career choice options were growing, make it an ideal time for TAP to emerge. Realizing the unmet need for hands-on opportunities in life sciences consulting, the founders of TAP got together in January 2016 and came up with a solution. TAP provides strategy services to biotechnology companies to develop their business. In working with a potential client, TAP will consult on how to set up the business, help them expand, or provide market research and due diligence. What makes this new consulting group unique is the ability to build an organization from the ground up, recruit clients, make their own rules, and pick projects to work on–in other words, they are essentially a fully functioning, autonomous firm that will provide a real product that will impact the biotechnology market. However, another integral goal in creating TAP was to connect enthusiastic and committed grad students and postdocs with the opportunity to use their talents.
For their first engagement, TAP selected a mid-sized medical devices company from several options. They planned to spend six weeks on the engagement, working with two teams. Of the three partners, Ms. Taracanova would work primarily with the client, and Ms. Tolman and Ms. Kang would each lead one of the teams as an engagement manager. Before the engagement began, and even before they could release the identity of the client, the eagerness and enthusiasm from the TAP partners was obvious. In particular, Ms. Taracanova was excited by the prospect of teamwork in the engagement teams and “seeing the two teams work together and move forward to deliver the end product.”
The team members for this first engagement hailed from three institutions: Tufts University, Boston University, and Harvard University. Throughout the engagement, team members collected information from key opinion leaders, analyzed the data, and presented recommendations on business strategy for the company. Both teams worked to develop market entry strategies for one of the company’s assets. As the members were from different institutions and departments, there was ample opportunity to network and get to know other students and postdocs who were interested in the consulting field. However, after completion of the engagement, it was clear that the team members first and foremost gained a valuable and rewarding experience. Christina Hao, a team member from Boston University, said of her experience: “I worked with TAP for six intense weeks on a consulting project, where I was able to gain hands on experience with solving business problems in a hypothesis-driven, structured manner, as well as honing my presentation and leadership skills. The level of teamwork was incredible, and the engagement manager was very professional and genuinely cared about our learning goals. TAP is hands down the most enriching, rigorous and fulfilling business experience I have experienced so far as a graduate student.” What was perhaps key to the consultants who participated in this engagement was the learning experience, and Michael Pereira, from Tufts University, reports that “as a first-time consultant, TAP exceeded all of my expectations. I learned more about the consulting profession in those six weeks than any number of books or classes could possibly teach me. It is an absolute must for anyone seeking a career in life sciences consulting!”
The team members were not the only people who had positive reviews for the first TAP engagement; the client, now revealed to be SteadMed Medical, also had encouraging comments. The CEO disclosed that “[he] was very pleased with the personal engagement and passion the entire team embraced throughout the project. The final report was clear, concise and supported with facts and data. [They were] excited to execute on the recommendations made.” The marketing manager of the company describes the TAP engagement with the following: “The quick uptake of our industry, its challenges, and our visions were outstanding. From the first week, we felt there was a deep understanding of how to take our questions and deliver them back with tangible perceptions and directions for us to move forward. At the next given opportunity, we will engage with TAP again to leverage their passion, knowledge, and ability to deliver promising direction with a message tailored to a market we thought only we knew so well.”
With the first engagement behind them and with success, no less, the TAP team is looking forward. They are looking to begin a second engagement in August, and to build upon this first experience to improve, further engage, and delve deeper. With the growing interest in life science consulting, they should have no problem recruiting more team members who are interested in venture capital, life science investing, and the life science business in general. And if the initial reviews are any hint to the future, the next client they select from their list of options will benefit enormously as well.
Applications for TAP’s second engagement open August 1st, 2016. If you are interested in applying or have a business that would benefit from TAP’s services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.