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The Level5 Internship Experience: <br/>What’s it really like?

Employee Interview - Level5 Interns

The Level5 Internship Experience:
What’s it really like?

Ever wondered what it’s like to intern at Level5? We sat down with this year’s summer interns, Robert DiMarco, Bashaar Hassan, Annie Liu and Cameron Tao to get their take on what the experience is like!

Please tell us a bit about yourselves!

Annie: My name is Annie. I study at the University of Western Ontario. I did my first two years in psychology and now I’m going into my fourth year at Ivey School of Business.

Bashaar: My name is Bashaar, I’m going into my fourth year of Rotman Commerce at the University of Toronto and I’m specializing in finance and economics.

Robert: My name is Robert, and I’m going into my fourth year at Western University in the Ivey Business School. What drove me to Level5 was the opportunity to work across industries and across different types of companies.

Cameron: My name is Cameron. I am headed into my fourth year of the Commerce program at Queens University. I wanted to explore the world of strategy consulting this summer, and so far, it’s been an incredible experience.

How did you hear about the Level5 internship and what attracted you to pursue this opportunity?

Cameron: I first came across Level5 as a delegate at the Queen’s Commerce Corporate Competition at the Smith School of Business, where I was able to get a taste of the firm’s amazing culture. I later attended a Level5 information session where I was further captivated by the type of work that Level5 engages in.

Rob: Coming off of two summer internships working remotely in one of the Canadian banks, I wanted to get a contrasting experience working in a smaller-knit community. I saw Level5 as a unique opportunity to really interact with the people, especially in a project oriented-role like management consulting. I also valued the firm’s openness in having more junior consultants work directly with partners to learn from their wealth of experience while also having my input valued.

Bashaar: We have this annual consulting conference at our university that was hosted virtually during COVID. I was going through the agenda list and I saw Level5’s name. My first reaction was, wow, that’s a really cool name for a firm! Through my past work experiences, I realized that demand generation, brand strategy, and developing a loyal customer base are really difficult, but also of huge value. So, when I came across the Level5 recruiting team at a consulting training program we have at the university, I jumped on the opportunity. I loved every second of the recruiting process. Even just meeting people at the firm, gave me a gut feeling that this would be a good place to be.

Annie: I discovered Level5 when the founder Dave Kincaid came to speak at a consulting conference run by Western student clubs. Later at that conference, the attendees went into breakout rooms and met representatives of different firms. What intrigued me about Level5 was how their representative spoke about the firm’s culture. A few months after the conference, I attended Level5’s recruiting information session and reached out to several consultants who all reiterated Level5’s amazing culture, which I think is pretty rare, so that’s what enticed me to apply.

What has your internship experience been like so far?

Rob: Having the opportunity to work in-person after two virtual internships have been extremely rewarding. Being able to hop in a breakout room with coworkers to brainstorm for a few hours and discuss our approach to a project is something that is really beneficial. I appreciate the action-led activities as a driver to be in the office, whether it’s office-wide breakfasts and lunches, staying after work with colleagues to go out downtown, or having client presentations on-site. On one occasion I was able to go to the client site, and that completely surpassed my expectations, that was exactly something that I wanted to do.

Cameron: I like that we have flexibility over whether we want to work at home or be in the office. Being in has been great in terms of working with project teams, meeting other people at the firm, and building deeper relationships. Also, the multi-project staffing model has allowed me to experience two different industries I have not worked in previously which has been a great learning opportunity and introduction to consulting.

Bashaar: We have a virtual hybrid setup, but the onboarding process was in-person, which was really nice. All the interns came in on our first day and went through the administrative piece of being at the firm, how to report time sheets, where to get your HR stuff, all those things. The harder onboarding definitely was once you got on your project teams. Team members booked time with us to ensure that we were comfortable and knew where we were going for the next couple of weeks. Consulting is very different from being a student. You have a lot of time to practice when you’re a student, and you can get away with cutting corners. Not so much with a full-time job. I think the team recognizes that you are an intern, but they want to push your limits in a very supportive environment.

Annie: It has been a lot of new experiences and learning as you go. There was no bureaucratic training and because everyone trusts you to produce impactful work, you feel like you work adds value. You are given the opportunity to figure things out, learn from the process, ask for help when you need it, and help is always provided when you do. While there was a learning curve, it was a very worthwhile internship experience.

What have been some of the highlights of your internship experience?

Rob: Last week, after working for nearly three months on a project doing research and understanding a new industry from scratch, we were finally able to present the initial presentation deck to the client. I didn’t think that as an intern, I’d have the opportunity to present directly to the client, but because of my effort to work towards that final deliverable, the team felt confident having me present part of the work. Being able to present, hearing the client’s positive feedback and getting kudos from Level5 teammates was an amazing experience.

Cameron: One major highlight of my experience is my autonomy in my role. Here at Level5, I feel the field is open for me to play in. I’ve been able to shape my own experiences and truly have ownership over the work. Another highlight is that I’ve been able to develop meaningful connections with my colleagues over the course of only four months. Whether it’s been through project work, office events, or even just sitting in the vicinity of other Level5ers, I have appreciated the opportunity to interact with and develop relationships with colleagues at Level5.

Bashaar: One project I have been working on since I joined Level5 culminated with us presenting to the client in person at their office. This was the top floor office of one of the buildings in the Financial District. It overlooked the water. It was a really fancy office, and we were in their boardroom. Even before the client meeting, we went to breakfast with the whole team. That was a really cool experience that you wouldn’t expect as an intern. The fun thing about Level5 is that even as an intern, you’re not on the sidelines.

There have been lots of little moments along the way that put a smile on my face, just with the work in and of itself. I got to bring in a lot of skill sets to the job that I did think I’d be using here, which was nice to see. In the office, we are all very collaborative, but we poke fun at each other a lot, which is really good too.

Annie: Something that I’ve been really grateful for is working in the office amidst such a great culture. Even if the office is only half full, there are people around you and you get to have those hallway conversations. I found myself enjoying the collaborative nature of the job with people physically beside me. Brainstorming is never the same over a Zoom or Teams meeting. Whether it was getting to know the people I sit beside, grabbing coffee or getting ice cream, getting to know the Level5 community beyond life at work has been a highlight.

Have you experienced any rude awakenings or reality checks about the consulting world?

Bashaar: I will say that when you’re a student you hear about consulting, it’s all painted as being very glamourous. You’re always at the airport or doing client meetings, going to client sites, and all of that. That might be true in other firms, but I think that underplays the amount of hard work, it really is. There were challenges that I faced as an individual, just managing myself, which I didn’t think I would have coming in. At school, our program is very technically heavy and we’re used to finding the right answer, but when you come to the workplace, there’s a lot of ambiguity. You’re working in grays a lot more, so just trying to be able to manage that was a lot harder than I expected it to be.

Annie: I had done a lot of research on what consulting is and so that helped me set expectations on what kind of job I was getting into. All the traditional rumours relating to consulting about the work hours, different schedules every day and PowerPoint decks are definitely true to an extent. One unexpected realization, however, was learning how much of the job is understanding the motivations of each person on the client team. Understanding the roles of not only the project sponsor, but all members of the client team and how the project relates to each of them differently is something I had not considered before this experience. It put into perspective the saying that consulting is a people business, and after this summer, I have never agreed more.

Rob: One thing that surprised me was how often we go into problems without having to be an expert. Instead, I found in consulting, it comes down to how well you ask the right questions and pulls the right information out of other people, whether that’s the customers you’re interviewing, the client, or just people in the industry. That was a reality check for me as someone new to consulting, understanding that in the field it’s not necessarily how much you know, but how you use your skill-set to draw from the experiences of others to drive a final project, or key insights. It’s something that I can continuously strive to get better at doing.

Cameron: I’ve learned to acknowledge that at Level5, you come in as an advisor and not an expert in a given industry. The client isn’t hiring you just to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong, and provide a recommendation. Rather, they hire Level5 to come in, work with them collaboratively, and be their strategic advisors. So, you’re leveraging the client’s industry expertise and Level5’s consulting expertise, to work collaboratively and derive solutions.

With this experience under your belt, how are you feeling about management consulting? How has the experience impacted your career goals?

Annie: I was interested in the industry for very typical reasons – I wanted to be exposed to different industries, learn about different business issues, and engage in critical thinking every day. Working at Level5 this summer gave me all that and more, given the emphasis on culture and internal initiatives. It is a role I didn’t realize I would enjoy as much as I did, and I will definitely continue in consulting for the near future. Beyond the industry, I think my experience is a testament to the awesome internship program that Level5 has created. Overall, I’ve liked my time here, I like what I’ve learned about consulting, and I’m excited to see what’s to come.

Bashaar: I do want to stay in consulting. My backup plan would probably be to pursue an industry role. Coming out of a commerce degree, you realize that in recruiting, you’re not selling your skills; you’re selling yourself. I think that the more you interact with clients, and the more you interact with Level5 teams, you realize that success is not just about being a really hard worker, but also being able to work well with other people. That is something that is going to be valuable wherever you go. Now, the reason I want to stay in consulting is that I want to continue growing and polishing that part of myself. If I don’t end up in consulting, I won’t regret it because Level5 has already given me so much exposure and a really good network to build with the team here.

Cameron: I came into this summer wanting to test out the world of strategy consulting and decide whether or not it was something that I wanted to pursue post-graduation. Thus far, it has exceeded my expectations. I have been able to do meaningful work alongside incredible people and have confirmed my interest in consulting. Beyond the realm of consulting, this internship has also helped me to develop numerous skills that will be applicable wherever I may find myself in the future.

Rob: Part of the reason I wanted to go into consulting was that I wanted to be exposed to industries that I didn’t even know existed. My underlying goal is to eventually go into education or teaching. The breadth of experiences across industries I can relate to will help me become an educator, a professor, or in another context, where I can share my knowledge with others. Post-graduation, I definitely want to develop a career as a management consultant. It’s fast-paced, and you can dive into entirely new industries, get really deep into them for a number of months, switch to something completely different, and have your world and perceptions turned upside down. The opportunity to manage teams as you progress in consulting is just as important as the work itself, and that’s another skill-set that I really want to develop. I want to get better not only managing projects, but also managing people and understanding how interactions differ across relationships with clients and teammates. Hopefully, a foundation in consulting will equip me to pursue a role with a teaching capacity later in life, maybe even in the world of management consulting.

Any advice for aspiring Level5 interns?

Rob: This internship is great for someone who wants to get pushed out of their comfort zone. You’re going to get thrown into the deep end, and you’re going have to learn how to tread water as you go, but there’ll be a team around you with a life jacket to support you. Level5 is an organization that hires interns for the responsibility of actually driving results, so expect to be on projects within your first week. From there, it’s really learning by doing, so if you are not sure what you want to do with your future, it’s a great summer internship because you’ll get exposed not only to different projects and different types of industries but also to different types of work. One project might be developing an organization’s brand strategy, another might be an internal restructuring, and another might be a transformation project.

In university, especially since my business program started in my third year, I didn’t know about all these different types of industries and how the different functions within a business translate to the world of consulting. Being able to get this breadth and depth of experience in such a short timeline was extremely valuable. At the end of the summer, you can say you were accountable, you had autonomy, and you can look back and say, “I played a part in delivering value for leading executives at an organization,” an experience I think is very special.

Cameron: Level5’s internship program is a great opportunity for two groups of people in particular: those interested in strategy consulting and want to explore it, and those who know they want to pursue strategy consulting and gain hands-on experience. Over the course of four months, you are immersed in the world of strategy consulting and are able to make an impact not only on the firm itself, but also on clients.

Annie: I’d recommend this internship to anyone who is even remotely interested in what consultants do. I think the firm not only provides an awesome learning experience professionally, but it understands the human aspect of the job. This includes providing opportunities for colleagues to get to know each other beyond work, such as redefining “sick days” as “wellness days”.

For aspiring Level5 interns, I have a few pieces of advice. One is to make sure you do your research. Ask yourself questions like, “What problems are you really looking to solve?” and “What kind of lifestyle do you imagine for yourself during an internship or a full-time job?” There’s a wide variety of industries and service offerings that Level5 works on, but the firm has successfully built its name on a couple of key areas. So, if you’re passionate about solving or understanding those problems, that obviously checks the box. Take the time to understand what you’re applying for, why it’s different than everything out there, and most importantly, why it’s right for you!

Bashaar: The kind of person who’s going to get the most out of this internship is someone who’s coming here for more than just resume building. The firm isn’t going to spoon-feed you things, if you want more, you can put up your hand and they’ll give it to you, they’ll support you. If you come in saying, “I just have to get through these four months and then I’ll worry about recruiting next year,” you’re wasting your summer. Whereas if you come in with, “I want to learn how to do brand strategy work, I want to learn how to do all this work that the firm has developed in-house,” and you want to learn how to be in front of clients, work well with teammates and work with people from different backgrounds, it will be a good fit. Here, you have opportunities to pull someone away for a coffee and learn from their experiences or even go to the partners and say, “Hey, I’m interested in this particular area and space.” If you are very clear in your head on, “This is what I want to learn, and this is how I want to grow,” Level5 will be the best place for it.



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