Impact Connections: LIFT Consultant Interview with Dean Lawler
by Sandi S. Ruddick
This month I had the honor to sit down and chat with LIFT Scholarship recipient Dean Lawler.
Dean is a junior from Grapevine, Texas pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Finance with a minor in Management Sciences and Information Systems at McCombs. He is passionate about management consulting and has experience in consulting, entrepreneurship, finance, and operations. He has worked in both a start-up organization and the professional services industry. At UT, Dean has been active in organizations such as Longhorn Impact Fellowship at Texas McCombs (LIFT), 180 Degrees Consulting, Phi Chi Theta (PCT), Target Your Future (TYF), and University Finance Association (UFA). He has been active in volunteering and has been chosen for several impressive internships, including PWC, Campus Crates, and now Bain & Co. Dean is also a recipient of the Spring 2021 LIFT Scholarship.
Sandi: Good afternoon, Dean! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about your experiences as a student consultant with LIFT.
Dean: You’re very welcome!
Sandi: I see from your bio that you are studying Finance, with a minor in Management Sciences and Information Systems. How are you hoping to combine those in your future career goals?
Dean: My future career goal right outside of college is to go into consulting — that’s what I’m on the path to do right now. Those three fields together are a really good combination for me, because the Finance major gives me a good, solid analytical background that I can build off of; my MIS minor gives me that introduction to technology; and then entrepreneurship is really one of my biggest passions, and it’s where I get to express my creativity. Eventually, past consulting, is the goal to go full-fledged into entrepreneurship. But, of course, that’s everyone’s dream!
Sandi: Tell me about your journey to LIFT: how did you hear about the program? What made you want to be a consultant?
Dean: I’m in McCombs, so the BBA newsletter is how I first came across LIFT. But my interest with nonprofit consulting kind of started the summer before. I interned with PWC as a consultant; luckily enough, the project was for a non-profit organization, and that’s how I got my intro to non-profit work and consulting. When I got back to campus, I was looking for more opportunities — that’s when I came across the opportunity for LIFT in the newsletter. I thought the opportunity was great, and the clients were amazing. My internship with PWC had been shortened due to COVID, so I thought that LIFT would be a great avenue to build on that experience to continue my passion to work with non-profits.
Sandi: Would you describe for us your work in the impact space: your fellowship work in LIFT; other areas or opportunities?
Dean: Sure! Working for the client in LIFT was a great experience — I got to experience impact work as the pandemic was happening, and our project was kind of built around this. One, how do we become more financially sustainable in the future — because, with the pandemic, they couldn’t do as many in-person fundraising events. And then also we help them transition those in-person events to the online platform that they had already started building, which was super innovative. I got to learn firsthand issues — like how hard it is to fundraise as a nonprofit and how the money is not always there; you can go to equity routes, etc. With the online platform that we were working on, we got to see our recommendations actually get implemented. It was just a super gratifying experience, and it honestly solidified my passion for consulting and my passion to work with impact. In addition to LIFT, I worked with 180 Degrees Consulting here on campus and, last year, I did a project with a local non-profit — evaluating where they were in the pandemic and how to move forward. This semester, I am actually working with a food truck here in Austin — a fan favorite here in Austin. Although it’s not a non-profit, it’s still impact within my community, so I’m super excited for that. Also, being in LIFT was a great network-builder; I have been able to maintain those relationships I made with our client in LIFT, and they have helped me with several letters of recommendation already.
Sandi: What did you like about your experience with LIFT? What do you think it taught you and/or how did it contribute to your view of sustainability in the business world?
Dean: First off, the LIFT program is amazing: the infrastructure built around it, the meetings we had with the LIFT program managers, and the actual consultants they brought in to talk to us for one session. It was just great because they were there to support us through our projects with the clients, but then also support us outside of those projects with our careers and passion for sustainability. Of course, they also offered the opportunity to work with these non-profit clients who were well-vetted; talking to other LIFT participants, they all loved their clients. Here at UT, it’s one of — if not THE — best consulting experiences you can get because of the infrastructure that SII builds around it. Consulting is my passion; when I logged onto our client’s website and saw some of the things we recommended on there, I just lit up like a light bulb. I shared it with my friends and parents; I was like, “Look — I actually made something that made a difference!” It also taught me how to work in a virtual environment, especially with the client. That was actually a big selling point that led to a project lead position for me with another organization. Working with our client through LIFT opened my eyes to other avenues of sustainability and made me excited to go into consulting with a viewpoint on impact and sustainability and find opportunities to pursue that within different industries.
Sandi: You have been selected to serve as an Associate Consultant Intern with Bain & Company out of Dallas, Texas. I understand that this is providing you the opportunity to pursue your passion in management consulting. Can you tell us a little about it?
Dean: Yes, that will be my next position coming up this summer — it will be super exciting. It’s definitely a great opportunity for me to pursue consulting and sustainability. I’m from Dallas, so Bain offers the opportunity to do sustainability and impact consulting within my own community — this is something I’m grateful for and excited about. During my interviews for the position, I was in the midst of the LIFT program, so I was able to talk about those experiences; I think it really helped me in the interviews for the position.
Sandi: Congratulations on being a recipient of the Spring 2021 LIFT Scholarship! In what ways do you feel this will help you reach your educational goals?
Dean: Thank you very much! It’s an honor to receive it, and I’m very thankful. As far as helping with educational goals, whenever you get a scholarship, that definitely helps lift some amount of financial pressure off your shoulders. It’s a great opportunity and helps me to focus on my education and my grades — especially with my internship coming up. On my application, I also wrote about something that I am working toward right now: democratizing multiple income streams. This is something new that I’m researching a lot. When talking with my parents and other family members, I realized that this is a hard thing to grasp if you haven’t grown up in wealth. I thought it was interesting that it’s usually associated with the top 1%, but anyone can build them if given the knowledge and opportunity. I would like to do a deep dive on this and see if I can actually make an impact; I’m grateful that this scholarship can open up some time for me to do so.
Sandi: What are your future goals, and how might they offer you the opportunity to contribute to social, environmental, or governance impact?
Dean: As I mentioned before, Bain offers a lot of local community impact work, which is something I’m super excited for. And although big consulting companies often work with giant corporations that may not have local community impact, you can still drive the impact and big decisions through that consulting work. Even past consulting, I’m hoping to find the impact or sustainability industry I’m super interested in and really start to drive impact there, whether it’s through entrepreneurship or through a corporation.
Sandi: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Dean: I would just like to share that if you’ve seen the LIFT program or thought about joining it, I would apply — it’s a great opportunity! The infrastructure that SII has for LIFT makes it a great experience, even if you don’t have consulting experience on your resume. I truly believe that even if you don’t plan to go into consulting, the impact work is super meaningful to both you and the community, and it also builds your experience.
This interview has been edited in context and length for clarity and brevity.