Analytics only get you so far

The last time we spoke, I was wrapping up my first week of my summer internship. Now, I’m wrapping up my summer. Crazy.

Reminder: I spent my summer working for a social impact consulting firm. My project was focused on developing impact metrics to drive change for a business development program working with necessity-driven, micro-entrepreneurs. Think incubator and accelerator, but for people who have been/are homeless, immigrants, low-income, etc. and are trying to start a sole proprietorship or main-street business so they can make a living wage.

This summer, I conducted over 45 interviews and developed over 110 impact metrics, resulting in formalized intake and impact assessment processes.

I’m going to say something a little controversial, though: Tepper’s analytics didn’t come in handy this summer. I benefited most from my one-on-one coaching with Accelerate, network of peers, and Managing People & Teams course.

Let me clarify

For my summer project, I developed an impact assessment inspired by a poverty index and a human development index. Though fascinating, not exactly tough math (it’s all addition).

I have an engineering background, a Six Sigma – Green Belt certification, and a year of GMAT prep under my belt. Sure, I still can’t hot-key my way through a spreadsheet, but I can hold my own in a data analytics battle.

This time a year ago, I was starting at Tepper with a fair amount of technical expertise, a helluva lot of creativity, and a notion that I knew a thing or two about social skills. Turns out, I had a lot to learn about organizations.

Sage advice

Last April, I *nearly* broke down crying in a meeting with my Accelerate coach because I was frustrated with a handful of tough conversations I’d recently had with peers. Her advice? Seek out opportunities where I needed to do more of the listening than the talking. Find people who are good at asking questions and reflect on how they carry on conversations.

Literally five minutes out the door, I ran into a classmate who I admire for his ability to ask critical questions in a way that’s thought-provoking and not at all condemning. We chatted for a bit, I listened to the way he asked open-ended questions, and thirty minutes later we moved on with our days. Except I walked away with a tactical plan for better conversations.


Most of my job this summer was extracting information about my client so I could give the best recommendation possible. I spent about 9 out of the 10 weeks asking open-ended questions in the same way my classmate does. There were a number of tough conversations, but they all worked themselves out when I realized I was asserting my answer rather than asking questions.

I worked with an extremely diverse group of people. We’re talking gender, racial, political, socio-economic, education… the whole gamut. Developing the impact assessment meant understanding what motivates them, where their differences and similarities lie, and what about my client attracted them to the organization. All the meanwhile being conscientious that any changes I made to the organization needed to have buy-in before I proceeded. The course I most referenced this summer was Managing People & Teams.

I also frequently reached out to a handful of my Tepper entrepreneur friends for guidance. They’re an amazing group. 13/10 would recommend picking their crazy smart brains sometime.

Moral of the story

The truth is, you could put together the greatest business analysis ever, but without buy-in it’ll gather pixelated dust in someone’s Google Drive. So often I hear people belittle certain management skills saying they’re “soft” or “social,” as opposed to “technical.” I’d like to push back on that perception, arguing that these skills are more advanced and technical.

I’m not saying you should streamline your schedule at Tepper to all org behavior courses or that data analytics courses aren’t worth your time. I’m saying the greatest resources you have are the people supporting you…

…and it wouldn’t hurt you to take an org behavior course before you head out to your internship.

Sarah Holmes | MBA 2019
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1 reply
  1. Taya Cohen
    Taya Cohen says:

    Thanks for the shout out on the Managing People & Teams course Sarah! So delighted to hear you found it valuable during your internship!


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