Consultant training booming at Boom Lab

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 30, 2012 - 2:00 PM

Fast-growing Boom Lab trains millennials, who often face workplace stereotypes, for corporate consulting and possible leadership roles.

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Charlie Anderson, managing partner of Boom Lab (left), Laura Kelly (middle), managing partner at Keyot; and Anjie Cayot, managing partner/ceo, Keyot at their Oakdale MN office on December 20, 2012.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

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Big companies that have cut back on hiring and training young talent may run short on future leaders. Recent college graduates may be undervalued and stuck in dead-end jobs.

Boom Lab, a small but rapidly growing Minneapolis consulting firm, says it can help solve both problems by giving recent graduates training and mentoring in technical and soft skills that will help them launch careers as consultants working in, or with, large corporations.

That training can help recent graduates, members of the so-called millennial generation, typically in their 20s, take on corporate consulting projects that usually would require three to five years of experience. Boom Lab's clients -- midsize and Fortune 500 clients in consumer products, retail, financial services and manufacturing -- get smart, eager talent at a lower cost than midcareer or senior-level consultants.

"We started building this to get corporate America and the consulting industry back to a point where it understood how to leverage junior talent," said Jim Kelly, a Boom Lab co-founder. 

Said Boom Lab's Laura Kelly: "In effect, we're all building our own path to retirement because these young people will take over for us and lead our world going forward."

Boom Lab's consultants range from new graduates to people with up to five years of work experience. A rigorous hiring process involves 12 hours' worth of interviews, including a half-day group interview in which eight to 10 candidates work on a simulated client project.

A two-week boot camp covers communication and other workplace skills and technical aspects of consulting. The consultants -- referred to as "Boom Lab-ers" -- then typically join corporate teams as business analysts or project coordinators. They return to Boom Lab for 200 hours of additional training and mentoring during their first year.

The consultants are employees of Boom Lab and receive pay and benefits from Boom Lab, which generates revenue from fees from corporate clients.

Boom Lab has nearly 50 consultants working at client companies, a number expected to grow to 100 to 125 consultants by the end of 2013 with increasing demand from clients, Jim Kelly said. Revenue is rising quickly, as well, from $1.2 million in 2011 to $3.3 million this year and $6.3 million projected next year.

Recruiting takes place on several campuses, including the University of Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Bethel University, the University of St. Thomas, the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, St. Olaf College and Gustavus Adolphus College. "We're hiring as many people on campus as most of the Fortune 500 in these types of roles," Jim Kelly said.

A good deal of training and mentorship also takes place with Boom Lab clients, in part to counter the stereotypes about millennials, said Charlie Anderson, Boom Lab managing partner and co-founder. While the junior consultants are highly tech savvy, the ones Boom Lab hires are less interested in texting and tweeting than they are in establishing a career.

"Far too many people are afraid of this new generation," Anderson said. "We help them understand with these high-performing people who finish their work a lot faster and handle so much more than you expect them to."

Boom Lab was launched in 2009 as a subsidiary of Three Bridge Solutions, a tech-consulting firm founded by Jim Kelly, who is that company's CEO. Consultant Andrew Von Eschen, who joined Boom Lab after graduating from the University of Minnesota, now is doing business intelligence analysis at a management-consulting firm.

"I liked the concept of mentorship," Von Eschen said. "A lot of the other firms I'd been talking too, it didn't seem like that was the focal point of their practice, helping you improve your skills.''

Mandy Spiess, senior director of delivery assurance at MoneyGram International, said bringing in five Boom Lab consultants has helped her maximize her budget while still getting sharp young consultants.

"They've become integral to the organization because they've allowed us to maximize the efficiency that we're getting out of our senior project managers," said Spiess. "At the same time, we're getting some amazing ideas and input because they're so accustomed to thinking outside the box.''

The expert says: Jack Militello, management professor and director of the health care MBA program at the University of St. Thomas' Opus College of Business, applauded Boom Lab for taking up the cause of millennials who are seeking corporate consulting roles.

"It's about time that businesses started touting this generation and have people of my generation not be afraid of or confused by behavior patterns that are different," he said.

Boom Lab's extensive training and mentoring of its young consultants could be a differentiator in what can be a crowded market, Militello said.

"This is where their competitive advantage might be, in providing that sort of connection," Militello said.

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.

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  • BOOM LAB

    Sunday December 30, 2012

    Business: Consulting firm offers recent college graduates training and mentoring in technical and soft skills needed to launch careers as consultants (business analysts, project coordinators) working in or with large...

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