Henrik Tienhaara from Finland, completed his MBA in Business Management (renamed MSc International Leadership and Management in 2020) in 2018 and during his course, took on a Business Consultancy in Practice project for a local Scottish food producers. 

Your Project Brief

Tell use a bit more about your BCiP project

I was asked to research the future of supply chains in the UK and produce a set of recommendations for my client about what adjustments they should make to revamp their own business supply chain in order to prepare for future changes (for example, cost cutting, remodelling, etc)

I discussed and set the project together with my contact within the company who signed off my proposal. The project took about 7-8 months to complete then I wrote my reflective piece at the end. 

What were your biggest highlights whilst working on the project?

There were many high points for me. Firstly, actually working in a real workplace situation for a real company, allowing me to link industry experience with my academic knowledge.

The academic literature is still quite vague when it comes to very specific industry supply chains so it was fun to broaden my knowledge and hone down into one area (fast moving consumer goods)

I also really enjoyed interviewing people as part of my research and comparing my own findings with theirs.

Did you feel like you were getting a real workplace experience?

Yes, it definitely felt like I was involved in a workplace, being at the office every day and travelling back in the evening. I was really involved as part of their team, both professionally and socially like you would be in a real work-place. I also helped on a bigger consultancy project that was already going on at the company – helping them with forming a narrative and collecting the data.

We had a few social outings and they held a lunch for me when I left which was really nice. I have stayed in touch.

What were the main challenges of the project?

I suffered quite a bit from "scope creep" – when you have an idea and a set of aims and objectives that are quite wide, then gradually the scope of your project gets bigger and bigger and expands too much – and I think it happened to me. 

Towards the end of my project, I wasn't sure how to take a step back and start to narrow down and focus my findings. I should have been more aligned with the people I was working with, in terms of where to stop the project, the parameters.

My research ended up coming to 40,000 words and trying to synopsise it was really hard. The academic side of me made me want to constantly justify and explain all my research, whereas in fact, the client trusted my instinct.

I am also quite a perfectionist, so I ran out of time a bit, I could maybe have done a better job at summarizing and making my work more concise.

What have you learned most from doing this project (personally and professionally)?

I gained some learning working on the BCiP project. It made me very self-aware about how I am as a worker: I am very detail-oriented, and find it a struggle still to delegate work or focus on the bigger picture things. I know I am quite a perfectionist which can consume a lot of time and energy, which can be fine in an academic environment, but not so much in a work environment, when time is money and you are in a wider team.

I guess I became aware that I am very individualistic performer, it's something I'm working on and being aware of it is helpful, and that really became apparent during work on the BCiP.

Did working on the BCiP project help you decide on a future career path?

My BCiP academic project was supply chain-related and my current job is supply chain-related so I guess, yes - I definitely chose a job path that was a continuation. Whereas when I was doing the BCiP project I was approaching everything from a very academic point of view and having to "learn" the workplace and practical side, I am now immersed in a work environment that is very different, thinking about KPIs, lead times, safety stocks, production capacities - all things that didn't really affect me during my course. 

However the skills that I did learn by doing the BCiP: Thinking critically, digging deeper and analysing information, not taking things I am presented with at face value, all those skills still very much apply to my work environment, so I feel I have successfully married the academic and practical, work-based knowledge in my current job.

I’ve travelled quite a bit now, I started in Ireland, then I went to the Netherlands then the US, so I see myself working here for a couple more years, get a managerial job and move up the ladder. Then probably move back to Europe. I’m still ambitious, but I still want to move.

What advice would you share with anyone thinking about applying for this PG course?

I highly recommend doing a BCiP project instead of a dissertation, especially if you already did a dissertation at undergraduate level. The BCiP is a very different challenge and allows you to combine your academic and research skills with practical experience. You'll gain a lot more transferrable skills, even if your project work is not directly relevant or related to the career path you end up on.

Working in a company or workplace means you have to change your framework and mindset. It’s challenging, but worth the challenge.

In terms of advice, I suggest reaching out to potential project clients as early as possible, you want to give yourself the most time possible to find a good project. Start using calendars, or maybe get a good project planning software on your computer. Be aligned with your project contact as much as possible, even if they don’t understand the academic side of what you are working on, good communication can only help you and help manage their expectations and allow them to support you better.

What support did you have during the project?

I had access to a Personal Academic Tutor on the QMU side, the course leaders of course, but also I had great support from my client contact, we had regular check-ins and chats on progress and where I needed help or information.

The way you want to formalize the project for the business is very much up to you. For the reflective piece it’s good to have a good structure, so reaching out to other academics is key to help with that.

Get a lot of second opinions.

"There is really good support available at QMU, and lecturers were really available - one thing I learnt throughout placement and academic studies was - ask for help, it’s a strength, not a weakness!"
Henrik Tienhaara

[Story published in July 2021]