Petr Lizner graduated from the Rotterdam School of Management two years ago. A year later, he joined PwC where he works in the area of management consulting focused on customer, operations and strategy. Along with Dalibor Hála and other colleagues from PwC, he also started teaching the Growth Strategy course at the Prague University of Economics and Business. After his first lecture of the semester, where more students were present than those who had initially signed up, we discussed his teaching methods.
Petr, how did you manage to have more students attend your course than initially planned?
I think what attracts students to this course is the added value in the form of communicating with people who are truly a part of the business and understand what is really happening in the market at that right moment. We try to pass on to our students a real-world experience supported both from a practical and a theoretical side. Our course is taken mainly by students who are about to complete their master’s degree and in the coming months will be actively searching for jobs. As a result, they are eager to gain a practical insight and see if consulting is something they really want to pursue in the future.
Practical skills must be very important in your discipline...
That’s true. We try to offer our students the authentic experience of what it’s like to work in consulting. They get an assignment – a simulation of a real-life project which they work on for the entire semester, based on realistic current problem which a potential client might be looking to solve. They start with a proposal, i.e. the document where we explain to clients what work we will be doing, how long it will take, and so on. Then they take part in several steering committees. The first one involves market research, the second one is about seeking opportunities on the market. It is then concluded with a final presentation where they summarize their key findings. Throughout the entire assignment we are role-playing a an actual engagement, meaning the students are playing consultants and we are acting as the client. The feedback/response we’ve received is that the opportunity to try a consultant’s job and to get feedback is very interesting for students. We provide them feedback not only focusing on their work, but also on how they behave as consultants in a professional setting. Such as how they respond to tough questions and difficult discussions during the role play or how they digest complex problems into easy to understand slides for the client.
Are you aware of the fact that PwC Czech Republic has over fifty colleagues who are active in the academic world? You can meet them at ten universities in Czech Republic. In order to link their work at PwC to students better, we hold the regular Teachers Club.
Which aspects of a consultant’s job should students learn during the semester with you?
Probably the most important thing which students can learn during this course is the ability to synthesise complex problems to their most simple elements and then present it in a clear and convincing way. One of the most important characteristics of a consultant is the ability to take a very complex concept and present it to the client understandably and with ease. At the same time, I make sure that our students become familiarised with the ways of professional work with clients. For example, the way they set expectations, communicate information and structure their presentations. The thing is, although you have a lot of presentations in most courses at the university, from my own experience, you hardly obtain any feedback from the lecturers on how you actually come across during the presentation. Focus tends to be solely on the content, so we try to turn this around.
Which parts of a consultant’s job do you have no time to pass onto your students?
We have no time to pass onto them the experience of building a relationship with a client. They don’t have the possibility to try what it’s like when one project is followed by another or when you find yourself juggling several projects at once.
Besides talking about your course, let’s mention that it hasn’t been that long since you completed the studies yourself. Would you say you were a hard-working student?
Yes and no. I worked hard when I had to, but I didn’t when it wasn’t that necessary. I focused on what needed to be done. I didn’t bother doing things where there was no potential.
What do you do in order to attract students to your course?
Even though we are consultants and we like hearing our own voice, we believe interaction is what’s important when learning. We try to discuss all kinds of issues and our classes are more like workshops rather than lectures. By participating in those discussions, students can learn best about the part of a consultant’s job they are most interested in.
Which students is your course designed for?
The course is designed for students of CEMS Masters in International Management, but even students from other fields at the Prague University of Economics and Business can register. Most students are from the international programme, but it’s not mandatory.
Can students take you by surprise?
Yes, we’ve seen some very interesting ideas from them. We don’t underestimate our students and assign to them real projects. We often learn new perspectives and fresh ideas from our students. I guess that combining our perspective with theirs is beneficial to all of us.
Even Petr Lizner can take you by surprise. What’s there to find out about him? Petr joined PwC in September 2019. So far, he has participated in teaching in two semesters at the Prague University of Economics and Business; this semester is his third one. He is definitely not scared of challenges and not only with respect to his clients, who are mostly from the financial sector. He has lived in seven countries around the world so far. He speaks four languages, his fifth one is Italian. He is a graduate of the Rotterdam School of Management. During his university studies, he pursued a professional RYA Yachtmaster sailing license and earned some extra money as a yacht captain. During four summer seasons, he gained over 25 weeks of experience from the waters of Croatia, Greece, and Spain. Moreover, he runs at least one half-marathon every year. He has run over 10 of them and he looks forward to the next one in Dubrovnik in April 2021.