This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah Valley University Professional-in-Residence (professor) Jim Mortensen has only been in academia for a few years. But, his decades-worth experience as a management consultant in far corners of the globe are helping prepare his students to become tomorrow's top advisors for local, national and international clients. Mortensen's expertise in technology, coupled with strategies for management consulting, are an incredible resource his students can take advantage of.
Mortensen's career could be fairly summed up as a trusted strategist to C-level executives who helped many organizations successfully execute against strategy heeding his advice. This is precisely what his students are learning to do, thanks to a teaching philosophy that mirrors his professional consulting approach: to put himself in his client's shoes.
Students in Mortensen's classes are handed real-world problems to solve, with actual companies. This is an expansion of UVU's "engaged learning" approach which places emphasis on out of class learning to best prepare students for the real world. "Companies want to hire people with actual experience," says Mortensen. "All too often students graduate book-smart from a university, but not prepared to do a job. That's a big difference to consider for students looking to launch a career."
In his Management Consulting class, students have helped solve dozens of challenges being faced by actual companies, ranging from logistics and distribution to manufacturing. In one case, students analyzed how to optimize the supply chain of a company who previously ceased manufacturing due to supply chain issues. Using the students' analysis, the company laid the groundwork for implementing an ERP system (Enterprise Resource Planning ) which would smooth out supply problems, prevent further shut downs, and increase sales.
An unmistakable thread of technology and data can be found in both Mortensen's career and his classes. The combination of tech and data has changed business significantly and will continue for years to come. "Technology has dramatically increased the speed and pace of business," says Mortensen. "And as a result, people will need to find new ways to increase their own effectiveness and efficiency using data to help make better decisions."
"For example, I tell my students to think 'what is it that the client is actually trying to accomplish,' because
clients often get enamored with solutions but haven't thought through how the results align with their strategy. That is the situation our students will be armed to solve."
Mortensen's other advice to new and hopeful graduates is to "identify the roles and organizations you want to join. Then, do your research to best understand what an employer's pain point is and highlight your skills towards that solution." He emphasizes the need to use a dedicated resume for each prospective job, but is quick to point out it "is almost always networking that ultimately lands a job." Even as an introvert, Mortensen being a self-described one, says it's crucial to network.
Mortensen spent seven years in the Middle East as a consultant to organizations located halfway around the world. The language and cultural barriers were and are significant. He points to three key takeways from his time overseas that apply to students aiming for a similar path as an international consultant after graduation:
1. Learn to step in your client's role. Many cultures focus on relationships, not the bottom line like in the US. This is where Jim emphasizes how important it is to learn to adapt and build trust, many times out of your comfort zone or even language.
2. Recognize a company's stated objective is often not their actual objective. As a consultant, it's a top priority to be able to learn to understand where a company is coming from. "That's the ultimate test," he says, to becoming a valuable consultant.
3. Relocating to a foreign country has its share of challenges. Mortensen recommends skipping comparisons to your home country and to enjoy a new experience for what it is rather than what it's not for a successful endeavor.
Landing an international gig is not an easy thing, as prospects are "competing against a global workforce, so you must have unique skill sets and talents," advises Mortensen. "Not enough emphasis can also be placed on learning to understand strategy and speak technology - a rare combination sure to open doors."